CHILLICOTHE – In a fight to determine who would make the Division V, Region 19 tournament final the Portsmouth West Senators fell at the hands of the Johnstown-Monroe Johnnies 35-6 on Friday night.
The Johnnies ran the ball every play on offense, racking up 444 yards on the ground. Johnstown-Monroe also controlled the game on defense, limiting the Senators to just 32 rush yards.
“I want to congratulate Johnstown on the victory,” West head coach Ben Johnson said. “What an outstanding team they have, and they just out executed us.”
“Our guys continued to battle all the way through and played hard. We’ve had an outstanding season. I want to thank our seniors for the hard work and all the efforts they put in, and we’re going to try to focus on the positives and all the good things that happened this year.”
West’s season comes to a close with a 10-2 record in the 2017 campaign, the first time the Senators have reached that feat since 2011.
Entering the game, the Johnnies had won eight straight after beginning their season 1-2. Johnstown-Monroe knocked off Oak Hill 35-0 in the first week of the playoffs, and kept pounding away to best West.
The Senators started the game with the ball, but quickly went three and out on offense. The Johnnies would respond with a 10 play, 71 yard drive capped off by a Bryce Barasch 19 yard touchdown dash.
Barasch finished the game with 257 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
When West took the field for the second possession, they found success through the air. Cody Staggs had a big 23 yard reception to move the ball into Johnstown-Monroe territory, and L.T. Maynard hauled in a 13 yard catch a play later. With a fresh set of downs, though, the Senators stalled out and faced a 4th down and 1.
West elected to go for it on a quarterback sneak attempt, but Dylan Bradford was stopped just inches shy of the chains.
“The way the game was going, we had some good momentum there,” Johnson said. “It looked like we should have been able to pound out that first down, and we had been very successful in those short yardage situations all season long.”
After the turnover on downs, the Johnnies marched back down the field on a 14 play, 92 yard drive that took 7:04 off the clock. Johnstown-Monroe punched the rock in for a score on a Luke Myers one yard run, but the extra point was missed. With 7:38 left before the half, the Senators trailed 13-0.
Back on the field for West, the Senators showed some promise on their third drive picking up a couple first downs. However, they were pushed behind the markers when Bradford was sacked on first down. West was unable to recover, and had to punt the ball away.
The Johnnies jumped on another chance to score on their third drive, and went seven plays for 80 yards and a score on a seven yard running play to Barasch. Johnstown-Monroe added a two-point conversion to go up 21-0 with 1:13 to play when Myers bulldozed his way in for two.
At halftime, the Senators were behind 21-0 and the Johnnies were set to get the ball to start the second half.
Johnstown-Monroe kept their offensive explosiveness on display in the second half, opening up out of the break with a seven play, 65 yard drive where Myers scored his second touchdown from a yard out. The extra point made the score 28-0 in favor of the Johnnies with 8:56 in the third quarter.
West would go three and out, and struggled offensively. The Senators had three drives last for only three offensive plays in the second half.
Again, Johnstown-Monroe came away with points on a six play, 70 yard drive sparked by a 55 yard Barasch run. Myers wrapped up the drive with his third touchdown from a yard out, and the extra point put the Johnnies up 35-0 at the 4:36 mark of the third quarter.
Down but not out just yet, West responded with a quick score of their own when Bradford found Cody Staggs for a 68 yard touchdown through the air. Staggs beat the defender to the ball in the air on a beautiful pass from Bradford, and outran the defense for a long score.
The extra point attempt was blocked, but with 8:39 to play the Senators ended the shutout.
“I thought our defense played a little better in the second half,” Johnson said. “For us to get that score showed that we were still playing hard.”
Bradford finished the game 6-11 passing with 119 yards and 16 rushing yards and a touchdown. Staggs totaled 91 receiving yards on the night.
That touchdown toss from Bradford was the final score of the game, and meant the end of an era on the west side.
For West, the careers of 13 seniors are concluded. Those Senators seniors racked up a 24-19 overall record at West, but will be remembered as only the second group of players in school history to win a home playoff game with their 10-6 win over Martins Ferry in the opening round of the playoffs.
Most notably, though, the seniors for the Senators helped usher in a new regime under head coach Ben Johnson and were able to fulfill his vision of the type of team he wanted West to become this year.
“They’re the first group that’s been with me four years,” Johnson said. “From the very get-go, they bought in to the program and have been great leaders for us. It’s going to be sad to see them go, but certainly they have been a huge part of the building process we’ve gone through the last four years at West.”
“They’re just a fun group to be around. They’re a bunch of hard working kids that set a great example in the weight room and in the offseason. I’m just going to miss everything, the hard work they put in and the leadership they provided.”
The Senators started all seniors on the offensive line and those same players were pivotal on the defensive line as well. Although West loses those linemen, they are excited about the return of several star skill position players like Bradford and running back Garrett Hurd.
“We’re excited about the fact that we have several guys returning next year,” Johnson said. “We’ve got some big shoes to fill certainly, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, but a lot of our skill guys return next year.”
“We’re just going to have to fill in some missing pieces and some guys are going to have to step up.”
Johnstown-Monroe: Bryce Barasch 19 yd run (XP good) 7-0
Johnstown-Monroe: Luke Myers 1 yd run (XP missed) 13-0
Johnstown-Monroe: Bryce Barasch 7 yd run (2 pt good on Myers run) 21-0
Johnstown-Monroe: Luke Myers 1 yd run (XP good) 28-0
Johnstown-Monroe: Luke Myers 1 yd run (XP good) 35-0
Portsmouth West: Dylan Bradford 68 yd pass to Cody Staggs (XP blocked) 35-6
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer