Chris Brooks/For the Times Macon County junior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons carries the football upfield during Friday evening’s game against Portland. Gammons passed for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 21-12 victory.

Chris Brooks/For the Times

Macon County junior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons carries the football upfield during Friday evening’s game against Portland. Gammons passed for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 21-12 victory.

Comparing the records of the Macon County High and Portland High football teams might have led some to believe that Friday evening's non-region contest wasn't going to be close.

Early on, that was true.

The Tigers raced out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and let their defense handle the rest in a 21-12 victory over the visiting Panthers at Pat Parker Memorial Field.

Portland entered the game with a 6-1 record after an emotional victory over rival White House the week before, but the Panthers were quickly hit with Macon County's flying start. The Tigers (3-4) scored on their first three possessions, largely through the passing game.

Junior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons completed his first six passes and had 153 yards on those first three series, including a pair of touchdowns.

"Early, we wanted to try and give him some confidence," Macon County head coach Kyle Shoulders said. "We wanted him to make some passes that were secure throws, some easy throws to give him some confidence early. Later on in the half, we started throwing some deep balls. Man, he threw them on the money."

Gammons rebounded after a couple of tough weeks from a turnover standpoint and finished with nine completions on 13 attempts. One of those was a 52-yard strike to senior Noah Likens that set up his second touchdown pass, a 13-yarder to senior wide receiver Chris Oliver early in the second quarter.

"Before the game, I felt really good," Gammons said. "That first completion's always a confidence-booster."

Oliver added, "(Gammons is) learning, and that's what we need right now, someone who can learn and not just someone who - if we need a big play - can run it. He can do both. He can run it and throw it."

Gammons hit junior Isaac Belton for an 11-yard touchdown that put Macon County up by a 14-0 margin late in the first quarter.

"The last couple of weeks, the first quarter we've had a lot of positive drives and gotten deep on a couple of good opponents," Shoulders said. "Tonight, we were able to finish those drives and continued to answer."

Portland went three and out on its first two series and only managed three first downs in the first half.

"Our defense was unbelievable," Shoulders said. "Because of our defense, we were allowed to stay in our game plan and kill the clock, because they were making stops. And they were making stops on short fields."

The Tigers largely bottled up Portland junior quarterback Kaleb Mandrell in the first half, though the senior did his part to try and bring the Panthers (6-2) back in the second half. Both Mandrell and senior Josh Dutcher scored on 3-yard touchdown runs to account for all of Portland's scoring.

"We were aware that they were a really good football team," Gammons said. "They beat a really good White House team last week, and they're up there at the top of their region. To beat somebody like that is a great confidence-booster for us going into the rest of the regular season."

Sophomore Ethan Jenkins had the game's first touchdown, a 14-yard run to finish off the opening drive.

"We really just came together on offense," Gammons said. "It seems like we haven't been executing well on offense. Our defense has been making big plays for us, and the offense hadn't been there. Tonight, it all came together."

Macon County's defense also forced three turnovers, all of which were Mandrell fumbles. One of them snuffed out what would have been a 25-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter. Junior Curtis Oliver recovered that fumble, while junior Rodney Tuck and senior Logan Malotte also scooped up loose balls that Mandrell lost in the game.

The win was Macon County's third consecutive triumph against Portland, the second-longest winning streak for the Tigers in the series. Macon County defeated Portland four consecutive times from 1967-70.

"We have to flush this one … we'll celebrate tonight, but we've got to flush it," Oliver said. "Next week, we've got to come practicing even harder."

Next up is a visit from DeKalb County on Friday, a critical Region 3-4A game that will go a long way toward determining the final finishing order in the region. The Tigers could officially clinch a playoff spot with a victory and keep a home playoff game in the first round as a possibility as well.

The Tigers have won the last three meetings against DeKalb County, including a 62-34 victory in Smithville last year.