GREENBRIER – There was nothing extraordinary about Portland’s 31-7 win over Greenbrier Friday night.
The Panthers used a methodical offense and a stingy defense to control all four quarters and improve to 3-1 (2-0 in Region 5-4A).
As usual, senior quarterback Caleb Mandrell was the star. He ran for 127 yards and a touchdown and finished 7-of-9 passing for 101 yards and a score. The three-year starter looked comfortable taking the ball himself or distributing it to his playmakers.
“I thought we came out focused and did a good job of running our offense,” said Portland coach Greg Cavanah. “That’s what you get from a three-year starter.”
Greenbrier coach John Elmore acknowledged that game-planning for Mandrell was difficult. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder brings a unique combination of size and speed not typically found in high school QBs.
“He runs the ball well, but he throws the ball well, too,” Elmore saidl. “When we brought the pass rush, he was able to step up in the pocket, and if something opened up, he was able to break free and get downfield.”
But Mandrell didn’t do it alone. Devyn Fuqua ran for two touchdowns and finished with 95 yards on 11 carries. Darius Bell caught five passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, which came on a back-shoulder throw from Mandrell in the first quarter. Cade Box chipped in 63 yards on six carries.
“A lot of players like keying in on me, so giving it to the backs just opens it up a lot more,” Mandrell said. “You can’t really game plan for all of the backs at one time.”
The Panthers totaled 427 yards of offense, 20 first downs and committed just one turnover. The Bobcats managed 239 total yards and 12 first downs.
Aside from the four combined touchdowns by Fuqua and Mandrell, senior kicker Jovie Lugo nailed a 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Greenbrier was without starting quarterback Tristan Leopold, who was serving a one-game suspension after being ejected from the Bobcats’ 45-7 loss at Creek Wood Sept. 6. Leopold was limited by a concussion and sickness during the first two weeks of the season.
That has allowed Brogan Harden an opportunity to play sooner than expected. The sophomore QB completed 11 of his 19 pass attempts for 163 yards against the Panthers. Ryan Lanius led the Bobcats with five catches for 82 yards.
“I’m very proud of Brogan,” Elmore said. “(It’s great) to have a sophomore step up like that. He was able to deliver some good balls.”
However, Greenbrier couldn’t accomplish much against Portland’s stout run defense. The Bobcats finished with just 76 rushing yards, 50 of which came from senior Reagan Conquest. Greenbrier scored its lone touchdown on a 10-yard run from Izik Rector with 5:55 remaining.
Greenbrier fell to 0-4 ahead of its date with a much-improved White House Heritage (3-1) on Friday. Elmore said the Bobcat coaches are trying to keep things positive.
“No one is happy with 0-4,” Elmore said. “But we’ll come back Monday ready to go to work. We try to stay as positive (as possible). We’re going to push them and try to get better. That’s all we can do.”
The story is much different for Portland. The Panthers are currently in first place in Region 5-4A with a 2-0 record. However, there isn’t much separation between Portland, Creek Wood, Springfield, White House and White House Heritage for now.
“In our region, I think a lot of us are equal in terms of athletes and numbers of kids,” Cavanah said. “Any given night, anybody could beat anybody.”
Portland (2-2) is set to travel to West Creek for a non-region game Friday. Cavanah said the Panthers aren’t going to let their early-season success go to their heads.
“I’ve been pleased with the effort thus far,” he said. “I want to continue to work, and I want the kids to take each game one-by-one. And we’ll see what happens.”