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Portal year ends with win over Toombs

Box Score
TCHS    0    0    0    0 —  0
PHS    0    7    7    6 — 20

Second Quarter
PHS Kirkland 70-yard fumble return (Aubrey kick) 9:05
Third Quarter
PHS White 27 run (Aubrey kick) 6:46
Fourth Quarter
PHS Moore 55-yard INT return (kick blocked) 1:24

    TCHS    PHS
First Downs    10    7
Total Yards    193    104
Rushes-Yards    45-160    35-97
Passing    33    7
Comp-Att-Int    3-8-4    2-7-0
Turnovers    7    3
Penalties-Yards    4-40    5-40

RUSHING_TCHS, Smith 22-160. PHS, White 6-31, 1 TD
PASSING_TCHS McBride 3-6, 33 yards. PHS, Budgett 1-4, 7 yards
RECEIVING_TCHS, Jones 1-17. PHS, Williams, 1-7

PORTAL - If the waiting is the hardest part, the Portal Panthers have done the easy part.

The Panthers forced seven turnovers, scoring touchdowns on two of them, to defeat Toombs County 20-0 Friday night in the regular season finale for both teams.

The win gives the Panthers an outside chance of clinching a postseason spot in Class A, which uses a Power Poll and not region records, to seed teams for the 16-team playoff. Portal (3-7, 0-6 in 3-A) came into Friday's game 26th in the poll, but a win over a AAA school like Toombs County (2-8, 0-6 in 1-AAA) gives the Panthers bonus points. That, combined with the records of their opponents and other factors, go in to determining the final position.

"We took care of our part and gave ourselves a chance," Panther Head Coach Jon Willoughby said following the win. "I'm going to burn up a calculator battery this weekend trying to figure out where we'll end up."

The final Power Poll will be released Tuesday morning, and then there's a window for teams to appeal the results.

Charveil McNeal led the way defensively with Portal collecting three interceptions, including two in the end zone, to put an end to any Bulldog threats.

Midway through the second quarter with the game scoreless, Bulldogs running back Javon Edwards fumbled, and the Panthers' Chase Kirkland scooped up the loose ball and returned it 70 yards for the score. Kicker Jordan Aubrey's extra point made it 7-0.

The Panthers' offense struggled to move the ball against the larger Bulldog defense for much of the first half as they were only able to generate 18 yards of offense and two first downs. However, the defense was able to keep Portal ahead by forcing four turnovers in the first half.

After Toombs County fumbled on its opening possession of the second half, Portal was finally able to sustain a drive and capped off a long drive with a 27-yard touchdown run from Ryan White. Aubrey's point after made it 14-0.

White was in the game because of an injury to starting fullback Darius Huff. On the Panthers' first offensive play, Huff took a handoff up the middle for 10 yards, but injured his ankle. He couldn't put any pressure on his foot as he was helped off the field and eventually taken by ambulance to the hospital.

Following the game, Willoughby told his team Huff was being taken to Savannah for surgery.

"To see him break his ankle broke my heart," Willoughby said. "He's going to be OK and people recover from that kind of injury, but he was going to be a big part of our offense tonight."

Portal capped off the scoring on, what else, a defensive score on the Bulldogs' seventh turnover. This time, it was a 55-yard interception return by D'von Moore.

Offensively, the Panthers had trouble moving the ball consistently and actually had three turnovers of their own. They were held to under 100 yards rushing as well.

"I'm so proud of all these guys," Willoughby said. "This is a step in the right direction for this program. Hopefully we can find our way into the playoffs."