PORTSMOUTH — A blend of experienced players at the varsity level and first-time starters will lead the Portsmouth Trojans on the gridiron this fall.
Coming off a season that produced the program’s first win in the postseason since 2002, fifth-year Portsmouth coach Bruce Kalb says his group is ready to compete at the same level.
“The kids we’ve expected to step up are stepping up, that’s always a good thing. This senior class, this will be their third year of varsity experience,” Kalb said. “We have a junior class that’s right behind them that we were very intentional in getting them reps last year.”
Senior Tyler Duncan will be the Trojans starting quarterback for their ‘22 campaign, taking over for the now graduated Ohio Valley Conference first team QB Drew Roe.
Duncan received reps in several Portsmouth games at the varsity level last year, while also quarterbacking their JV team for nine games.
“Drew’s ability to extend plays made him extremely effective. Tyler’s ability to get rid of the ball quick makes him effective in a different way. Here’s a young man whose dad has been our offensive coordinator and head coach at one point — he’s a coach’s kid,” Kalb said, of Duncan. “To say he understands the game of football, that’s an understatement. It’s something he’s lived his entire life. He sees things like we see things and that’s a huge advantage.”
The skill positions is where Portsmouth returns the most experience.
The team’s leading receiver the last two years in Reade Pendleton (Sr.), senior running back Beau Hammond, and tight end Jayden Duncan lead a group that were major contributors in their offense with Roe under center.
Devon Lattimore, a junior who caught a touchdown pass from Duncan in their postseason game at Ironton in October, also figures to be a big target for the first-year starter.
“Reade has been our leading receiver the past two seasons, no reason why he shouldn’t be that again this year. He’s a kid that’s dynamic when you get the ball in his hands in space — both sides of the ball,” Kalb said. “When teams focus on him, that opens up opportunities for someone like Jayden Duncan. We needed four or five yards, we get the ball to him. And you’ll see him moving around this year. Devon Lattimore made a tremendous impact for us late in the season and will likely be starting on both sides of the ball.”
Portsmouth graduated three of their five starters from their ‘21 offensive line, but return junior Leo Poxes and seniors Amari Harmon and Caden Scott up front.
“We graduated three seniors from the line, but we bring back Poxes and Amari Harmon. We’re looking forward to having a healthy Caden Scott back this year after an injury. He was probably our best pass blocker two seasons ago during his sophomore year,” Kalb said. “Some competition at the three spots that remain.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Portsmouth’s returnees begin with their linebackers — including seniors in Hammond, Pendleton, and Brenden Truitt.
“Returning guys are three of our four linebackers: Brenden Truitt, Beau Hammond, and Reade Pendleton. We also have the supporting cast of guys that filled in late in the season like Devon Lattimore who we expect to play corner,” Kalb said. “Nolan Heiland has been taking a lot of reps at corner in the offseason after coming from Notre Dame. Ethan Scott a junior and sophomore Chase Heiland been taking reps at the safety position. Having both outside linebackers returning is a god-send. Graduating all four defensive lineman, that’s a position we’re filling by committee. We have TJ Debord and Nathaniel Berry we expect some good things out of.”
Portsmouth opens their ‘22 season at Valley — the first time the program will make the trip to Lucasville for their season opener since 2018.
They’ll host Portsmouth West in week two before traveling to Spring Valley (W.Va.) in week three — before jumping into their OVC schedule.
The Trojans posted a 4-2 record in conference games last fall — and were a contender for the league championship up until the final week of the regular season.
“We’ve had some great battles and that’s what I love about our conference. I personally love the conference, we have some good matchups and I’m looking forward to that again this year,” Kalb said. “Ironton’s probably the favorite considering they’ve won the league the last few years. We gave them some tough games in both games last year, we left it all on the field.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved