PORTAL - Time is winding down for the Portal Panthers 2015 season. The year started off a little rocky, however, the Panthers have continued to improve as a team despite a 1-7 overall record.
Now, it’s more than just a game on the line as the Panthers suit up to face Jenkins County (2-6, 1-3 Region 3-A) in a sub-region contest Friday night.
Pride is also at stake for this Panthers team that wants to end the season on a high note.
“We certainly wish the record would have been better,” said first-year interim head coach Matt Smith. “We’ve played hard and never quit and we’ve gotten better. We’re not a 1-7 football team. I commend (our players) on their attitude and commitment.”
As the Panthers prepare to pummel the Eagles, here’s a few quick notes on what to look for during today’s game.
What to watch: Triple option
The Panthers need to be careful dealing with the Eagles’ triple option. This season, the Panthers have had a few issues defending the triple option attack.
Coach Smith said it will be important for his team to play a disciplined brand of football Friday night.
“We’ve worked all week long on assignment football. We have to do our job on defense. If everyone sticks to their job then we should be OK,” Smith said.
Who to watch: Huff/Brown
After going through the concussion protocol, Panthers starting quarterback Jake Brown will return to the starting lineup. Fullback Darius Huff, who took over for Brown in his absence, will return to the backfield.
Last week against Savannah Christian, Huff finished the game 7-for-18 passing with 72 passing yards and no interceptions.
Smith said it won’t be scripted in the game plan, but because of Huff’s solid play he will receive some snaps at quarterback.
Limiting turnovers and making solid passes when necessary will be important for Huff and Brown.
Penalties is a key factor in any game, but for Portal it is essential to limit turnovers. As a team, the Panthers aren’t built to overcome long yardage situations due to penalties.
Last week the Panthers drove the ball extremely well, but shot themselves in the proverbial foot by committing costly penalties.
“We’ve focus and we’ve stressed that all year. We would drive the ball and get a holding call or jump offsides,” Smith said. “We’ve gotten a lot better, but we’re not really ready to overcome a 2-and-15 situation.”
The Panthers can’t afford mistakes against Jenkins County. If Portal continues to drive the ball well and avoids penalties on offensive drives, the team can likely walk away with a “W” in the win column.
“On offense, we’ve been fairly successful against teams that have a good defense, but we’ve struggled to finish drives. If we play with the same attitude and intensity we should be successful,” Smith said.