PORTLAND — Emmanuel Johnson had a pair of lengthy touchdowns and a late interception, and Portland advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 with a 32-19 victory over Macon County at Memorial Field.
Panthers junior Michael Hussey intercepted a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the first half, and he lateraled the ball to Johnson as he was tackled. Johnson ran 79 yards along the home sideline for a touchdown, putting Portland in front to stay.
Then Johnson, a junior, returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, putting Portland ahead 26-13.
Johnson intercepted a pass in the game’s final seconds and returned it 52 yards, but he fumbled at the end of the play. Classmate Lonnie White recovered at the 1. On the next play, Panthers senior fullback Kemper Dixon scored a touchdown on the game’s final snap.
The win propelled Portland (4-6, 2-3 Region 5-4A) into the Class 4A playoffs and kept the Tigers (5-5, 1-4) out.
“To put all that work in in the offseason and in this week, it feels great to prove people wrong,” Johnson said.
Macon County sophomore quarterback Seth Carlisle rushed for a game-high 152 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, while Tigers junior tailback Matt Austin gained 86 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
The Panthers were outgained, 321-252, in total yards.
Portland senior quarterback Ethan Brummett threw an 18-yard touchdown to classmate B.J. Ladd in the first quarter and then scored on a 1-yard sneak later in the quarter following Ladd’s 38-yard reception.
The Panthers play at Kenwood, the Region 6-4A champion, on Friday in the opening round of the playoffs.