By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Willoughby no longer head coach at Portal

    Former Portal Panthers head football coach Jon Willoughby will no longer be on the sidelines for the 2015-2016 season after being relieved of his coaching duties Monday morning.
    Willoughby, along with the school’s assistant principal and athletic director Penny Oglesby, confirmed Tuesday that the Panthers’ head coach would not be returning for his second season—just three days before the team’s scrimmage against Southeast Bulloch.
    “At this time coach Willoughby has been replaced with interim coach Matt Smith. He will act as the Panthers head coach at this time for Portal High School,” Oglesby said Tuesday afternoon. “The decision was confirmed Monday, August 17. Due to privacy issues, I will not discuss the matters that led to this decision.”
    Oglesby said the departure of Willoughby as the Panthers head coach will have no bearing on his teaching responsibilities within Bulloch County.
    “He is a contracted educator and, of course, academics are always priority. Athletics and other events are secondary. He has a secured teaching position with Bulloch County schools,” Oglesby said.
    Willoughby declined to give comment on the matter.
    In his first season with the Panthers, Willoughby finished the year 3-7.
    Smith, who has 18 years of coaching experience, said getting the call to be the newest head coach was a bit of a surprise but he welcomes the challenge.
    “It was a bit of a surprise, but you have to step up. The boys are the most important thing and someone has to come and be in charge and make sure the program is still going,” Smith said. “They worked hard and had a good preseason so far. They earned it. They deserve to have a good year.”
    Smith said he wants to focus on his team competing and playing hard every game.
    “There’s always something we can do to get better,” said the Statesboro High School graduate and now Portal football head coach. “We have to learn how to compete and play hard every snap. Talent wise, we’re as good as most teams, but we have to learn how to mature as a team.”
    The Panthers have a scrimmage game against SEB this Friday, then Portal will play in its regular-season opener on the road against Josey Friday, Aug. 28.
    In the past five seasons, the Panthers have a combined record of 17-42.
    A little bit of nerves will be coursing through Smith before the start of the first game, he said, but it’s a moment he has waited for.
    “There’s a lot of nerves because you kind of get in the routine of doing your job, but that all changed quickly,” Smith said. “We have a great staff and we want this team to be successful.”
    Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.