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Portal visits McIntosh County Academy

    Two weeks ago, Portal finally got over the hump.
    After squandering leads in consecutive contest, the Panthers finally kept their foot on the gas and finished a game to record their first win of the season.
    Armed with that confidence and momentum, Portal charged into last week’s game against Savannah Country Day, only to be sent home with a 43-7 defeat.
    “That was just a tough game,” Portal coach Matt Smith said. “They’re a really good team. We knew there were areas where we would really struggle to compete with them.
    “But the disappointing thing was how we started. We could have competed better. We shot ourselves in the foot a few times early in the game and spotted them a big lead. From there, it’s always going to be a struggle against a team with their talent.”
Tonight offers another chance for the Panthers (1-4) to get their second win, but they’ll have to pack their bags and travel to do so. Portal heads to the coast to take on McIntosh County Academy, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Darien.
It has been a while since the state playoffs have been on Portal’s mind, but the postseason - or the possible absence of one for the 1-3 Buccaneers - is a question that will hang in the balance for the home team tonight.
Last season saw McIntosh County Academy notch an 8-2 regular season. From there, the Bucs won a pair of state playoff games before avenging a regular season loss against Clinch County in the state semifinals. MCA reached its first state championship game in the school’s 37-year history, but didn’t bring home the title as it fell to Macon County.
Spirits should have been high in hopes of a repeat performance this season, but offseason turmoil led to the departure of head coach Robby Robinson. Now under the leadership of Terel Toomer, the Buccaneers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and their lone victory of the season has come at the hands of still-winless Brantley County.
“They’ve lost a few, but they’re still a team loaded with talent and athletes,” Smith said. “At times, they just haven’t clicked.”
A quick-strike offense that won’t hesitate to throw the ball frequently on screens that make the defense cover plenty of ground is a main concern of the Panthers.
While Portal has its own claim to talented skill players and overall athletes, the arrival of the second half of the season brings about the constant concern of the Panthers’ stamina. In a high school with just over 200 students, Portal sports nearly one-third of its male students on the football roster - yet that seemingly impressive stat only amounts to a little over 30 players each season.
“It’s always a challenge,” Smith said. “We’re doing ok in terms of injuries, but we still have five or six freshmen that we have to put up against juniors and seniors. It’s going to be crucial for us to control the ball and the pace of the game. We can’t afford to use all of our energy chasing their offense around.”