The Portland Panthers welcome in Region 6-5A foe Hillwood, Friday, August 25 at Edgar Johnson Stadium where they will try and secure their first victory of the young 2017 season.
Last week did not go well for Portland, falling 21-0 at Warren East, but on the same hand Hillwood dropped their opener to Columbia 40-0 so both teams are eager to taste victory.
The Hilltoppers come in with experience at the quarterback position as well as skill players on the outside. Returning All-Region quarterback Hale Page comes off a 2,000 yard 17 touchdown season and looks to duplicate more of the same this year. Kyle Carder, Cydney Williams, James Galloway, and TJ Spain will see game action in the backfield and on the outside; alongside their role in the secondary.
"Hillwood is fast, and they do a good job of getting leverage on you and beating you to the outside," Portland head coach Greg Cavanah said when asked about the Panthers week 2 matchup. "From the little film I saw it looks like they make mistakes, so if we can force them into those same mistakes and capitalize then I think we stand a good chance."
The Panthers will need more consistency from the boys up front. Four times the Panthers entered the red zone in week 1 and all four times the offense walked away empty. A lot of that blame can be put on the offense but I think the skill players deserve their fair share of criticism. When given breaks in the game the Panthers must seize those opportunities.
Defensively the Panthers seem to be okay minus the three mistakes make on Friday night against the Rebels. It is the offense that has Cavanah scratching his head.
"The thing that bothers me most is we haven't scored," he said. "We didn't score in the jamboree, we didn't score in Hartsville, and we didn't score last night. The thing is we've worked on more offense than we have defense up until this point."
If the Panthers have any hopes of winning Friday night they are going to have to score multiple times. Whether through the air, on the ground, on defense or special teams, the purple and white need to cross the pylon somehow someway.
Though this non-region game can be looked at as one the Panthers don't necessarily need to win due to non-affected region standings, I would argue the Panthers need this game for momentum and confidence as they prepare for a tough Region 5-4A schedule.
Until I see some evidence this offense is moving in the right direction it will be tough for me to choose the Panthers as winners. The lack of efficiency has me worried and that's just one reason I'm going with the visiting Hilltoppers in this one.
Hillwood 28, Portland 14