Earlier this season, round one of the “Battle for Portsmouth” went decidedly to the Portsmouth Warriors. In Saturday’s rematch, the Southern Ohio Spartans are seeking revenge.
Saturday marks the final weekend of the regular season in the Blue Collar Football League (BCFL). While both teams have already locked up playoff spots, there will be much more on the line for the Warriors in the season finale.
At 6-2, the Spartans are locked in to the third seed of the BCFL’s Eastern Conference playoffs, meaning Saturday’s game with the Warriors holds no bearing on their postseason position. By contrast, the Warriors need a win to ensure that they’ll clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference and earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“I hope it provides extra motivation, because that home playoff game in the third round is pretty special if we can make it there,” Warriors head coach Jamie Rice said. “That’s a big advantage.”
Though Saturday’s game is meaningless in terms of the standings for Southern Ohio, it’s far from meaningless for the Spartan players. The Spartans have never beaten their cross-town rivals in their three seasons of existence, and are still smarting from a 41-6 beat down at the hands of the Warriors earlier this year.
In that first matchup, the Warriors outgained the Spartans 516 to 119 and limited Southern Ohio to -3 rushing yards throughout the game. This time around, Southern Ohio will be looking for a different result offensively.
“We made some changes and put in some new plays, we are hoping the combination will be the boost that we need … ,” Spartans defensive coordinator Troy Adams said.
Despite rolling through their rivals in their first matchup this year, Rice is hoping his team isn’t too confident heading into this weekend. Though they’ve won their last two games by a combined 83-26, they’ve scored just seven points in the second half in both contests.
“They shouldn’t be riding too high from last week. We really under preformed in that game…Offensively, it was one of the worst games we’ve played this year,” Rice said.
Portsmouth players and coaches alike have identified overconfidence as one of the Warriors’ weaknesses throughout the season.
“You don’t want to get too hyped up or overconfident,” he added. “Hopefully the leaders and the captains of the team will step up.”
The Spartans will be playing their first league game in two weeks, when their game with the Queen City Hitmen was suspended just after halftime due to a lightning storm. The Spartans are hoping that a week off from play in the BCFL will give them an advantage.
Rice believes that they’ll get the Spartans’ best shot this weekend.
“If we expect those guys to roll over, they’re definitely not going to. They’re fighters. They’re a good solid team,” Rice said. “They’ll be giving us their best at home, I’ll promise you that.”
For Southern Ohio, even though its postseason slot is solidified, the Spartans are looking to garner some momentum as the regular season concludes.
“It would be nice if we just came out and jumped all over them,” Adams said. “But I don’t see that happen because they are a very strong football team and we will have to play our best to come out of there with a win.
“I think a win would really boost our team. Our biggest problem right now has been lack of confidence with each other … A big win over a team like the Warriors would boost our confidence level in each other.”
Chris Slone also contributed to this report
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter. Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.