PORTSMOUTH — Apparently, Al Oliver is headed over to the West side of Portsmouth.
No, not really, and not THAT Al Oliver of course— but seriously, an Al Oliver bobblehead trophy is adorning the Senators’ football trophy case as of today.
With already an impactful U.S. Route 52 rivalry in place, the Portsmouth Trojans and West Senators spiced it up a notch on Friday night, as the schools introduced a traveling trophy between them —as it’s accurately initiated as an “Al Oliver bobblehead”.
That said, the Senators exacted a measure of revenge in more ways than one —and as a result took the trophy back to West Portsmouth, thanks to a decisive 34-7 non-league victory inside sparkling Trojan Coliseum.
West went deep on the Trojans early, soon established its physicality on both sides of the ball, ran almost at will against Portsmouth, and finally salted the outcome with a late third-quarter scoring march — which covered 66 yards and 11 plays and made it 34-7 by canto’s end.
Just how important, already, was West’s win?
West coach Todd Gilliland discussed earlier in the week the significant gap between 1-1 and 0-2.
“This was a huge game for us tonight, and honestly, pretty much a must-win for us. Just for that confidence and to carry momentum for the rest of the season, because we have some big games coming up, we needed this one,” admitted Gilliland. “The biggest thing we wanted to focus on was playing physical. We were able to establish that early on, even out of our spread sets. Being physical up front, being physical running the ball, we wore them down as the game went along. We hit them with a couple big passes right off the bat, and them having to honor that more, it helped our run game.”
Both clubs are now 1-1, as the Trojans triumphed by the same score last season —taking full advantage of five Senator turnovers, in a game played in the humidity at Northwest High School.
This time, the Senators —sans turnovers —flipped the script, and statistically dominated another Ohio Valley Conference school, as last week West fell at Fairland 14-13 in the opener.
The win was also the third consecutive for the Senators at Portsmouth, as West won there in 2018 — and again two years ago amid the coronavirus-impacted campaign.
Against these Trojans, the Senators scored the game’s opening 26 points, then immediately answered Portsmouth’s scoring series with one of their own —and one which consumed the third-quarter clock from the 7:04 juncture to only 48 seconds remained.
Ryan Sissel — the all-Southeast District Division V first-team running back a year ago — rushed for 109 yards on 16 carries, converted both of West’s two-point conversion runs, and even caught two of quarterback Mitchell Irwin’s eight completions for 16 yards.
The fellow senior Irwin, all in the opening half, completed 8-of-11 passes for 177 yards —including three to Jeffery Bishop for 112, none bigger than his 57-yard in-stride bomb down the left hashmark on a deep seam route.
That was, in fact, on the game’s third play —as Irwin operated in the pocket, and found Bishop beating his defender by a couple of steps.
The athletic Bishop, after Cole Tipton on the opening snap made a 32-yard reception to put West into Trojan territory, made the touchdown grab —getting the Senators on the board only a minute and nine seconds in, and stunning the Trojan defense which had just recorded a 16-yard Senator loss on the play in between those Irwin completions.
The Trojans then drove 10 plays in a matter of almost five minutes to the West 27, but senior signal-caller Tyler Duncan —on the eighth passing play of the possession — scrambled, was hurried, and threw an incomplete pass for a turnover on downs.
The Senators scored again nine plays later, as Sissel’s back-to-back pickups gained 30 yards to the Trojan 30-yard-line —before Bishop caught a 23-yard pass, but fumbled into the end zone.
No worries for West however, as Alex Blevins chased down the loose football —and recovered to make it 12-0, with Sissel running in his first two-point conversion try.
That was with two minutes and 22 seconds to play in the first quarter, as the next pair of Portsmouth possessions spanned five plays apiece around another 11-play West series and its only punt —as disaster struck Duncan and the Trojans once again.
With four minutes remaining in the second stanza, a low snap forced a punting Duncan to field the ball at his feet and escape Senator onrushers —but he was tackled at the Trojan 10, and already facing a 14-0 deficit.
Two plays and 52 tics later, Bishop was in the end zone again —this time on a seven-yard end around run.
“When you’re playing hard, physical and fast, you’re able to make breaks for yourselves. Breaks don’t just happen. You’re doing something right to make them happen,” said Gilliland. “That (Portsmouth poor punt snap) was really a key play in the game. That 14-0 lead wasn’t comfortable at the time. By getting those two more scores before half, that stretched it a little bit more.”
That made it 20-0, but West wasn’t done having everything go right —and the Trojans weren’t finished having everything go wrong.
“We didn’t want to find ourselves caught and playing from behind. They had a good gameplan to get us to chase them, went deep on us a couple times, we got behind, and trying to play catch-up a little bit got us out of our gameplan,” said PHS coach Bruce Kalb. “We felt if we could give Tyler (Duncan) time to throw, we’d be able to stay in our gameplan which was to keep it (passing attack) short. They did a good job of keeping us from getting behind them downfield, combined that with pressure up front, and we got out of our gameplan pretty quick. And against a good team, you can’t make mistakes. Too many times, first half especially, we found ourselves making crucial mistakes.”
Early, and often, did things go against the Trojans.
The next Portsmouth possession resulted in a three-and-out series, and this time Duncan did get the punt off —but he skyballed it off his foot for 13 yards, and the Senators took over at the Trojan 48.
Six plays later, and bolstered by Bishop making a 32-yard reception to the Trojans’ five-yard-line, West was in the end zone again —this time on an Irwin sneak with 32 seconds remaining.
That made it 26-0, as the Senators outgained the Trojans 233-59 for the entire first half.
West was 10 better in first downs (22-12), ran 13 more plays from scrimmage (57-44), outrushed Portsmouth by a whopping 168-19, and outgained the hosts 345-199.
“We weren’t as physical last week as we could have been or needed to be. Almost like we were thinking too much and not just playing football. This week, it was getting back to playing old-school power football. Just letting the guys do their jobs and they felt very comfortable doing that,” said Gilliland. “Come out and be physical, and they did a good job.”
Sissel split his carries to nine in the first half (60 yards) and seven in the second (49 yards), as the final Senator scoring march saw him have gainers of 12, 13, nine and eight —before Hayden Lore scored the touchdown from four yards out.
Sissel’s second successful two-point run made it 34-7 —the final from a year ago, and a complete about-face.
West’s final possession spanned 15 rushes and exactly 13 minutes and almost the entire fourth quarter — from the one-minute mark of the third until the one-minute point in the fourth.
Mason Parker picked up 30 yards in nine carries, as back-to-back Portsmouth encroachment penalties on fourth down kept the drive alive.
Duncan did complete 19-of-29 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown —a 10-yarder to Reade Pendleton to complete a 10-play, 60-yard, four-minute and 50-second scoring series to start the third frame.
Pendleton picked up the receiving workload with 11 catches for 145 yards —seven in the second half after Duncan was intercepted on the final first-half play by Bishop, and the Trojans’ talented junior Devon Lattimore landed awkwardly and was injured.
Lattimore left the game in obvious pain, and didn’t return —and his status may be doubtful for this Friday night’s non-leaguer at Spring Valley (W. Va.).
“This will be a tough atmosphere and a tough test to see where our program is at, given the history of that program (Spring Valley),” said Kalb.
Meanwhile, the Senators —for the first time in 13 consecutive contests — will host a game at the refurbished “Rock”, as the West High facility underwent a makeover last summer, and installed a brand-spanking new FieldTurf surface.
West will host Adena, as part of four home dates in a row.
“It’s going to feel weird at first almost, but it’s so exciting, the kids are excited for it,” said Gilliland. “We’ve been practicing there all year, but to have home games again, it’s going to be so nice. The kids can relax and know that they are home and we’re on our own turf. We’re proud of it and ready to be out there in front of the home crowd.”
And, the eyes of Al Oliver, at least an encased bobblehead, will be watching from the West side as well.
* * *
West 14 12 8 0 —34
Portsmouth 0 0 7 0 —7
W — Jeffery Bishop, 57-yard pass from Mitchell Irwin (kick failed), 10:51, 1st (6-0 W)
W — Alex Blevins, fumble recovery in end zone (Ryan Sissel run), 2:22, 1st (14-0 W)
W — Jeffery Bishop, 7-yard run (run failed), 3:08, 2nd (20-0 W)
W — Mitchell Irwin, 1-yard run (pass failed), :32, 2nd (26-0 W)
P — Reade Pendleton, 10-yard pass from Tyler Duncan (Zach Roth kick), 7:10, 3rd (26-7 W)
W —Hayden Lore, 4-yard run (Ryan Sissel run), :48, 3rd (34-7 W)
First downs 22 12
Scrimmage plays 57 44
Rushes-yards 46-168 15-19
Passing yards 177 180
Total yards 345 199
Cmp-Att-Int. 8-11-0 19-29-1
Fumbles-lost 3-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 10-90 6-59
Punts-Ave. 1-35 2-26.5
RUSHING —West: Ryan Sissel 16-109, Mitchell Irwin 10-14 TD, Mason Parker 9-30, Cole Windsor 4-10, Jeffery Bishop 2-10 TD, Brandon Barfield 2-6, Hayden Lore 2-5 TD, Team 1-(-16); Portsmouth: Beau Hammond 10-37, Tyler Duncan 5-(-18)
PASSING — West: Mitchell Irwin 8-11-0-177 TD; Portsmouth: Tyler Duncan 19-29-1-180 TD
RECEIVING —West: Jeffery Bishop 3-112 TD, Cole Tipton 2-44, Ryan Sissel 2-16, Trevor Fike 1-5; Portsmouth: Reade Pendleton 11-145 TD, Jayden Duncan 3-20, Devon Lattimore 3-9, Beau Hammond 2-6
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved