PATASKALA - Beat them at their own game.
Portsmouth has used that strategy in many of their wins this season. On Saturday night, Licking Heights decided to borrow that page from the Trojans' playbook.
Behind a 258-yard performance by quarterback Shawn Smith, the Hornets made Portsmouth's stay in the playoffs a short one, winning 42-34 in a Division IV Regional Quarterfinal matchup.
The Trojans outscored Licking Heights 28-21 in the second half, but some key scores late in the game put the game away.
“We knew that the kids were never going to quit,” said Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford. “The kids never quit and they never have. They are going to fight with the last breath in their body. They are going to fight to win the ball game. We just made so many uncharacteristic mistakes. We have to give credit to Licking Heights. They lined it up and ran it right up the gut on us over and over again. The bottom line is this - you give up 42 points in a playoff game and you probably don't have a real good chance to win it.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Licking Heights got on the board first, with Dan Pennington scoring on a 19-yard run, eluding defenders along the way. The Hornets would add two more scores in the quarter, a 78-yard run by Smith and a 55-yard pass to Lenier Crawford, and went into half time with a 21-6 lead.
Portsmouth would cut the lead to 21-20 heading into the fourth quarter, scoring on a 1-yard plunge by Wes Jordan topped off by a two-point conversion catch by Nate Cadogan, and a 49-yard punt return by Corey Reeves. Licking Heights would score on its next two drives, going up 35-20 and holding on for the win.
Playing in his last game for the red, white and blue, senior quarterback Shane Porter topped the 100-yard mark in passing and rushing on the night. Porter was 12 of 25 passing for 131 yards, adding 101 yards rushing on nine carries, scoring twice.
“He is a great player, there is no question about that,” said Clifford. “He is a great player and a great leader, and I am going to miss him. He has been like my right arm out there and he really came into his own this year.”
Wes Jordan had 34 yards on 10 carries, scoring twice. Malik White added 46 yards on four catches, and had a 79-yard completion to Forrest Johnson to set up a Jordan score in the fourth quarter. Johnson had 130 yards on four catches.
The loss ends the season at 8-3 for the Trojans, but the team finished tops in the SEOAL South Division. Portsmouth loses 15 players to graduation, and while there will be a solid nucleus returning, Clifford would prefer to remember the 2007 season right now.
“I am just going to sit back and savor this one,” he said.
For Licking Heights, Roy Bias led the way with 135 yards on 17 carries, and Dan Pennington had 102 yards on 21 carries. Smith had 100 yards rushing on 11 carries, adding 158 yards passing on 11-of-18 passing.
“Our offensive and defensive lines have really been the heart and soul of our football team this year,” said Hornets coach Darren Waters. “We have a lot of good skill kids on this team that can carry, catch and throw the football, but you really can't get it done unless you have an offensive and defensive line.”
JOSH HICKLE can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241.
Portsmouth 0 6 14 14 - 34
Licking Heights 0 21 0 21 - 42
LH - Pennington 19 run (Crawford kick), 7:23.
LH - Smith 78 run (Crawford kick), 4:18.
P - Porter 41 run (run failed), 2:06.
LH - Crawford 55 pass from Smith (Crawford kick), 52.3.
P - Jordan 1 run (Cadogan pass from Porter), 7:00.
P - Reeves 49 punt return (run failed), 5:15.
LH - Pennington 12 run (Crawford kick), 11:53.
LH - Bias 38 run (Crawford kick), 7:17.
P - Jordan 1 run (Johnson pass from Porter), 6:27.
LH - Bias 24 run (Crawford kick), 2:29.
P - Porter 4 run (pass failed), 1:12.
RUSHING - Portsmouth; Porter 9-101, Jordan 10-34, Reeves 3-7, Bratchett 1-4, Southern 2-(-3), Johnson 1-(-6). Licking Heights; Bias 17-135, Pennington 21-102, Smith 11-100, Crawford 1-15, Domres 1-2, Lawson 1-2, Wamah 1-0.
PASSING - Portsmouth; Porter 12-25-0 131, White 1-1-0 79. Licking Heights; Smith 11-18-0 158.
RECEIVING - Portsmouth; Johnson 4-130, White 4-46, Reeves 4-24, Chandler 1-10. Licking Heights; Crawford 3-79, Forbes 1-35, Grizer 2-19, Domres 2-17, Bias 1-5, Ryan 1-3.
RECORDS - Portsmouth 8-3, Licking Heights 10-1.