PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth Trojans are indeed trying their hardest to develop their young — and inexperienced — defensive and offensive lines.
This week, literally and figuratively, the Trojans are throwing themselves to the feet of the Wolves.
The Spring Valley Timberwolves of West Virginia that is.
That’s because Portsmouth, playing talented and highly-touted and larger-school Spring Valley on a one-year contractual basis, travels across the Ohio River and into the natural-grass Wolves’ Den — as the young Trojans try to avoid falling for the second consecutive Friday night.
After opening at Valley with a 42-28 triumph, Portsmouth was on the wrong end of the West Senators’ physicality —with West storming out to a 26-0 halftime advantage, en route to a 34-7 runaway win in Trojan Coliseum.
It indeed doesn’t get the least bit easier on Friday, but rather will be more difficult —given the Timberwolves’ talent, size, speed, and strength, and the fact that Portsmouth probably plays this game minus some inside and outside weapons.
But the Trojans —an overwhelming underdog according to some observers —try for the upset, as kickoff inside the Wolves’ Den is set for 7 p.m.
For fifth-year PHS coach Bruce Kalb, he is counting on his seniors to lead this bounce-back effort —and the upset bid.
The game itself is a one-year deal, which Kalb explained —as the Trojans travel an estimated 50 minutes to suburban Huntington as opposed to an over three-hour northward trek to say Saint Clairsville.
Last season, the Trojans hosted Cincinnati Deer Park to start September football, but the return trip to Cincinnati this season fell through —thus leaving the week-three hole in the PHS schedule.
Kalb continued that it was “late in the year” when this happened, and “that left us looking for a game without a whole lot of options.”
“Historically, since I’ve been the head coach, we’ve played them (Timberwolves) in junior varsity and I think we played them about 20 years ago at the varsity level,” said Kalb. “Historically, they are a very physical team, so we know we have to get our kids ready for this. We have a good group of seniors that I have no doubt will help us regroup and lead us up to Spring Valley. This will be a tough atmosphere and a tough test to see where our program is at, given the history of that program.”
That Timberwolves’ history you ask about?
It’s a tradition-rich one.
Spring Valley has made the large-school Class AAA playoffs in West Virginia for 14 consecutive seasons, and has appeared in the Class AAA state championship tilt for three of the past four years —losing to mighty Martinsburg in each instance.
Brad Dingess, the head coach, has now been at Spring Valley for the past decade-and-a-half.
The Timberwolves have produced several NCAA Division I players in recent seasons, including Owen Porter and Zane Porter at Marshall University; and Doug Nester, Bryce Biggs, Wyatt Milum, Graeson Malashevich and Owen Chafin at West Virginia University.
This year, the Timberwolves are coming off an opening-week win against archrival Huntington High, a 29-28 home escape —thanks to a touchdown and two-point conversion run with only a minute and 46 seconds remaining.
Dalton Fouch, the Wolves’ senior quarterback and all-Mountain State Athletic Conference selection last season, completed a two-point pass to Tate Adkins in the back of the end zone —as Fouch found paydirt prior, on a 10-yard run.
It was a 98-yard scoring drive, as Fouch completed 9-of-16 passes for 170 yards for the game — and carried 14 times for 105 yards.
He threw a 62-yard touchdown pass, and —prior to his 10-yard TD —rushed one in from 40 yards out.
The Highlanders had a chance to win as time expired, but they missed on a 34-yard field-goal attempt.
Some naysayers are suggesting that this week with Portsmouth won’t come down to the final play —or even come close.
The Trojans must play better, and much more physical, than they did against West —as they are adjusting to graduation losses to three of their five starters along the offensive line.
“We’re moving pieces around given graduation losses and already early-season injuries, but we have five or six guys who can definitely play that role,” said Kalb. “It’s just finding the right combinations, the right spots.”
The skilled positions are also of serious concern this week —with widespread speculation that wide receivers Devon Lattimore and Nolan Heiland won’t play because of injuries.
The sophomore Lattimore missed the second half of the West game, as he was injured after falling awkwardly on the final play of the opening half — and did not return for the second.
Between the two, they have combined for 11 receptions with nine by Lattimore —as senior wideout Reade Pendleton picked up the pass-catching slack last week, with 11 receptions for 145 yards and the Trojans’ only touchdown.
If the Trojans don’t block better, then Pendleton, running back Beau Hammond and quarterback Tyler Duncan could unfortunately see a lot of SVHS senior linebacker Cody Shy —a first team Class AAA all-stater last season with 118 total tackles.
But credit goes to Portsmouth putting the Timberwolves on this schedule, so let’s see —undermanned and all —if they have an upset ace in their cards.
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