For four Portsmouth players, those bonds will continue to the next level.
The Trojan quartet of Corey Reeves, Wes Jordan, Bo Cook and Ray Caldwell will be taking their talents to Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, Ky., next season, signing their letters of intent with the school on Wednesday.
The quartet joins Notre Dame's Craig Williams and Joey Emnett, Ironton's Felipe Beach and West's Austin Seevers, a Morehead State transfer, on the squad.
"They are going to find out that college football, at any level, is considerably more intense and tougher than high school football," said Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford. "But, they are good players and they are mentally tough kids. That is the thing that will make them a success."
The Knights are in their second year of existence, playing a small junior varsity schedule in 2007. This season, Kentucky Christian will move up to a full varsity schedule, and many of the players from southern Ohio could get a chance to start early.
That was one of the reasons both Reeves and Caldwell, who could see time on the offensive side of the ball according to Clifford, are making the trip to Grayson.
"They are just starting their football program, so that will give me a better opportunity to get a starting position and more scholarship money," said Reeves. "It was close to home, and there are a lot of good athletes going there, so I think we will have a pretty good team there next year."
"It is a small school, and a lot of my friends are going, so that makes it better," said Caldwell. "It (having many players from the Portsmouth area) makes it better for us, because we are around each other most of the time and that is where the best football is at, and that's in southern Ohio."
With Reeves and Caldwell possibly getting time on the offensive side of the ball at receiver/running back and on the line, respectively, Cook and Jordan may help anchor the defense. While Cook will be on the line and Jordan as a linebacker, they will have a familiar face to guide them - Dick Tipton, former West coach and current linebackers coach for the Knights.
"It's nice to possibly be able to start your first year of college," said Jordan. "I just wanted to play football. KCU was close to home, and I didn't want to go anywhere really big, so I thought that made it pretty convenient for me."
"I feel good about getting the opportunity, but it all starts in the weight room," said Cook. "Whether it is offensive guard or defensive tackle, I am looking forward to my time at Kentucky Christian. It all started with coach Clifford, coach (Ted) Newsome and getting me how I needed to be. I worked hard in the weight room and listened to them, and this is where I'm at."
While the transition to the college ranks will be immediate, Clifford is confident his players will be up to the challenge. Plus, the close proximity will give him plenty of opportunities to see his players develop.
"They are tough kids," he said. "They played hard, they practiced hard and lifted hard. Everything they did, they did with 100 percent commitment to it. And if they go down there to this school and they commit themselves to KCU like they did to PHS, KCU is going to have four fine football players on their hands, because those guys can play."
JOSH HICKLE can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241.