Both the Portsmouth Trojans (4-5, 3-3) and the Ironton Tigers (4-5, 3-3) have endured long, grueling seasons.
The similarities for the two schools don’t stop there, however.
Offensively, Ironton is averaging 23 points per game overall. Portsmouth has posted an average of 26 points per game overall this season.
Each team has struggled scoring in losses, too. The Tigers are posting just 10 points per game in their five losses this season, including a 35-0 loss at the hands of Ashland (KY). The Trojans are a bit better in losses, scoring an average of 19 points per game, but Portsmouth was also shutout in a 23-0 loss to Galion.
In wins, though, the offenses have come alive for each school. Ironton’s offense has averaged 35 points per game in their four wins, and the Trojans have posted the same statistic of 35 points per game in their wins.
With that being said, it seems as the key to this contest will be the defensive side of the ball. Ironically, both Portsmouth and Ironton are near mirror images of each other number wise on defense, too.
The Trojans defense has surrendered an overall average of 25 points per game, while the Tigers have allowed 24 points per game in their nine contests this season.
When both teams win, the defenses have again shined. Portsmouth allows only 12 points per game in their victories, while Ironton gave up just 11 points on average in winning efforts. Both teams shutout South Point, as the Tigers knocked off the Pointers 48-0 and the Trojans beat South Point 39-0 last week.
It’s in losses that the defenses have let down. Ironton lets the opponent score 35 a game in their losses, while Portsmouth permits 34 points a game. The Tigers allowed a season high 48 points to Wheelersburg in the opener, while the Trojans let Fairland score 62 on them two weeks ago.
Certainly, both teams challenged themselves in the early part of their schedule. Portsmouth’s out of conference foes are 17-10 this season, while Ironton’s are 22-6. Each have struggled against opponents who have had success this year. The Trojans have beaten zero teams this season with a winning record, while the Tigers have beaten only one (Russell KY in week two).
If the identical numbers aren’t weird enough, consider the fact that both OVC schools have beaten the same conference opponents. Ironton and Portsmouth have both beaten Rock Hill, South Point and Chesapeake on the season.
Last but not least, both Portsmouth and Ironton were expected to compete for a spot in the playoffs. While that is out of reach at this point, all the struggles of what 2017 has brought can be diminished with a win on Friday night for each school.
The Trojans haven’t beaten the Tigers since knocking off Ironton 33-20 in 2013. The Tigers have won three straight over their rival Portsmouth, but the Trojans are hoping to reverse that fortune.
In what has been a season to forget for Ironton, they could try and salvage their season by finishing with a .500 record if they can beat Portsmouth.
For the Tigers, their 27-21 loss to Fairland was the first to a fellow Lawrence County team since 1961. The loss last week for Ironton at Gallia Academy was the first time the Tigers had lost at Gallia since 1984.
It was tough sledding for Ironton in that game, as the Tigers let the Blue Devils rush for 385 yards in the 38-20 defeat.
Ironton won’t get a break on the ground this week, as now the Tigers are faced with the daunting task of containing the tandem of Isaac Kelly and Talyn Parker for the Trojans.
Parker scored four total touchdowns in last week’s rout of South Point, and Kelly has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark in both rushing and passing this year.
The duo will be tough to handle for Ironton, and could be a difference in the game.
Since Parker’s return from injury in week five against Gallia Academy, the Trojans are just 2-3. But, Portsmouth has scored over 30 points in four of those five games.
Considering the recent struggles for the Tigers run defense, the Trojans seem fit to try and take down their bitter rival Ironton.
Kickoff is set for 7 pm on Friday night at Tanks Memorial Stadium in Ironton.
Portsmouth head coach Aaron Duncan was unavailable for comment.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer