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Portal's Thomas ready to tackle all challenges
Portal linebacker Trent Thomas, top, tackles Southeast Bulloch's Cole Carter, bottom right, and Michael Davis during the Panthers' 2013 season opener last August.

    PORTAL — The 2013 football season began with Trent Thomas trying to make a name for himself with his new Portal Panther teammates.
    By the time the games were through, Thomas had grabbed onto plenty of attention — as well as any ball carrier that came within an arm’s reach.
    Thomas hit the ground running for Portal. In the Panthers’ first game, the middle linebacker totaled 20 tackles in a 0-0 tie against cross-county rival Southeast Bulloch. He finished the year with 128 tackles to finish in the top-5 throughout all classifications in Georgia.
    Now the unquestioned leader of the Panther defense, Thomas is determined to help the team improve its record in his final season.
    “It’s going to be a challenge,” Thomas said. “There are a lot of good teams that we have to play each week. We all just need to be ready to play our best each game.”
    For most portal starters, playing their best means playing well on both sides of the ball.
    With current roster numbers hovering around 30 — and with many freshmen and new players trying to get up to speed — experienced starters such as Thomas need to be ready to contribute on nearly every play.
    In Thomas’ case, that means a chance to score some points for Portal, rather than preventing opponents from finding the scoreboard. Thomas will see time in the Panthers’ new Wing-T offensive scheme. While he’s excited to play both sides of the ball, hitting is where the heart is.
    “I’m going to have fun running the ball and blocking,” Thomas said. “But I think I like hitting and playing defense the most. It’s great to get big hits and see teams have to send two or three guys to try and block me.”
    With all that will be asked of Thomas and his fellow Panthers, the preseason becomes even more important.
    Along with learning multiple positions and assignments  on both sides of the line of scrimmage, players will have to be prepared for the endurance test of playing iron man football.
    “Running in the summer isn’t always fun, but that’s what we have to do if we want to win,” Thomas said. “I’ve been playing basketball during the summer, but (new Portal coach Jon) Willoughby told me what he expects and I’ve been doing all of the work.”
    Thomas will get his first chance to add to his tackle total Aug. 29 as the Panthers host Josey in their season opener.
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.