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Portal to take new offense for test run
Portal's Denzel Washington, center, fights his way through blockers during practice Thursday.

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PORTAL -- With opening night just over two weeks away, it’s time for a dress rehearsal.

            Tonight, Portal packs up and takes its shiny new offense down the road for a scrimmage against Tattnall County at 7 p.m.

            Scrimmages are essential for every team, but tonight’s game is especially important for a Panther squad that is trying to right the ship on a program that has seen the wheels come off in recent years.

            New head coach Cherard Freeman leads the Panthers and has installed a new triple option offense that gets its first test in live action tonight.

            “The biggest thing is to see how we react to playing against another team,” said Freeman. “We’ve been at it for a few weeks, and it can get a little boring hitting on your own people all the time. One of the things we’re working on is being more consistent with our effort. Hopefully, we’ll come out with a lot of intensity.”

            Key to the success of the offense will be junior quarterback Hunter Oglesby. After splitting time behind center last season with Corey Walker -- who serves as the B-back in this season’s offense -- Oglesby will now be depended on to make the reads and bring to life an offense that has lacked punch lately.

            “It’s a lot rougher being the only guy behind center,” said Oglesby. “It’s definitely a lot more running with the option, too. It was tough getting used to it at first, but coach Freeman has really helped, and it’s getting easier now. Hopefully, we’ll be able to use the offense to be a little more effective when we get in the red zone this season.”           “We’re going to go through it all offensively,” said Freeman. “We want to put our quarterback and running backs in a lot of situations and see how they react. We’re looking for good audibles and good reads.”

            For the defense, Freeman and his coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on some new faces.

            The Panther defense has been the strong point over the past three seasons. Last year, Portal was able to put a damper on many of the high-powered offenses in Region 3-A and likely will have to pick up more slack this season until the offense gets on track.

            “We’re going to miss (departed seniors) Theo (Rich) and Jarrell (Robinson),” said defensive lineman Denzell Washington. “But we have new guys that are ready to step up this year. Our philosophy on defense is simple. We don’t want anyone gaining any yards, and that’s the same attitude we have this year.”

            “Facing Tatnall will be a good test for the defense,” said Freeman. “They have a big, fast team. It’s going to be a good chance for us to get some confidence by playing well against a good team.”

            In order to give both teams an equal opportunity to get their work in, tonight’s scrimmage will be scripted. Offensive, defensive, special teams and situational plays will be pre-determined so all aspects of the game can be practiced by both teams.

            Most importantly, tonight will serve as a measuring stick to see how far the Panthers have come over the off season.

            “We want to see a lot of hustle out there,” said West. “This team has struggled, but we’ve also been very close to winning a lot of games over the past few years. That should serve as good motivation to give it a little extra effort. That’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we need in order to improve.”


            Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.