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Powerful Calvary Day visits Portal

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Calvary Day (6-0, 2-0) at Portal (2-4, 0-2)
7:30 p.m., Today
Portal Athletic Complex

Game Plan
    IGNORE THE RANKINGS: There’s no denying it. Calvary Day is the best team that the Panthers have run up against this season. Portal won’t be bigger, faster or stronger than the Cavaliers at most positions. Instead, the Panthers will have to play smart and take every advantage they can.
    JUST KEEP CHURNING: The best way to hang with the high-powered Calvary offense is to keep it off the field. Portal’s attack doesn’t feature a ton of big plays, but that could work to its advantage. The Panthers will be much better served to simply grind things out a few yards at a time. Moving the chains will shorten the game and keep the Cavs’ offense from getting into a rhythm.
    COVER ALL YOUR BASES: Calvary’s potent offense doesn’t come from one incredible threat, but from a sound system and plenty of capable skill position players. Panther defenders will have a tall task in accounting for everyone lined up in the Cavaliers’ backfield, as well as all receivers that will stretch the field.

    PORTAL — There certainly isn’t any rest for the weary.
    The Portal Panthers have dropped their last four games after a promising 2-0 start. If they want to reverse that trend, a huge upset will be in order as Calvary Day — ranked No. 2 in the Class A power poll — comes to town tonight.
    The Cavaliers (6-0, 2-0 Region 3-A) have never been very kind to Portal (2-4, 0-2). In 15 all-time meetings, the Cavs have won 11 and are currently riding a five-game winning streak.
    Calvary doesn’t intend to put a stop to that trend tonight as the Cavs boast an offense that averages nearly 40 points per game. Standing in that offensive unit’s way will be a Portal squad that hasn’t held a lead since the beginning of September.
    “We know that we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us,” Portal assistant coach Robert Brown said. “But it’s been a normal week for us. We know that we have to execute if we want to win, no matter who we’re playing.”
    While stopping Calvary is quite the chore, the Portal defense has put up a better fight than previous scores might indicate.
    Turnovers and special teams have given the Panthers a short field to defend on too many occasions. If Portal can’t turn that around, it could be in for a tough night.
    “We’ve made some mistakes that have hurt us,” Brown said. “That’s something that we can’t keep doing. A team like Calvary is going to take advantage if you do that.”
    Offensively, the Panthers have been consistent – if not overly brilliant.
    Riding a steady running game and a passing game that can provide a spark from time to time, the Panthers have put up modest numbers in both wins and losses and were able to break out for 34 points in a win over Treutlen.
     Malik Williams and Evan Street have been able to keep the chains moving at times and will be vital to any attempted upset by the Panthers.
    “Turnovers and field position are big factors,” Brown said. “We can’t afford to give the ball away and it will be important for us to run our offense well and keep (Calvary’s offense) off the field.”
    Calvary quarterback Salvador Calderon has only put the ball in the air 60 times this season, but he’s been devastatingly efficient, connecting on two-thirds of his passes for 478 yards and eight touchdowns.
    The Cavs’ running game is just as potent as A.J. Keene leads a backfield with three rushers who have already notched more than 250 yards.
    If the Panthers are still entertaining thoughts of making the postseason, there isn’t much more slack left in the rope. Portal is already on the outside, looking in as it pertains to the Class A power poll. Another loss could mean that the Panthers need to win out in order to get to the playoffs.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-4908.