By Curtis Martin
The Portland Panthers return to region play for four of their final regular season contests beginning with a battle at White House Heritage this Friday. The Patriots, winless in five games, lost 21 players from last year’s 4-6 squad that defeated the Panthers 21-14 in week four.
Coach Hunter Hicks, a key member of the 2000 Portland state championship team, does return a lot of experience in the backfield, but is young along the offensive and defensive fronts.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us defensively,” PHS coach Greg Cavanah explained about the all-important contest. “They have experience in the backfield. They are young up front, but very aggressive and big on the defensive front.”
The Patriots opened the season with a 25-13 loss to West Creek and fell to Fairview 42-7 in week two. Springfield dealt White House Heritage a 33-2 setback on Sept. 1 and the Patriots narrowly lost a 28-26 decision to Macon County two weeks ago.
Last Friday, the Patriots were defeated by Greenbrier 39-21.
In 2016, the Panthers fell to the Patriots 21-14 despite gaining 204 yards. The Patriots had 300 total yards of offense as Gunter threw for a scoring strike in completing four of eight for 75 yards.
“It’s a big region game for both teams,” Cavanah said. “We have to play smarter football. We have had botched snaps and penalties in our games and more importantly, we need to score.”