It has been over 270 days since the last snap of high school football by a local team. The football hiatus ends Thursday evening in Lucasville, Ohio, when the Valley Indians host the Portsmouth Trojans in a non-conference game.
Thursday’s game will be the official kick-off for high school football in the area, just as it has been for the last four seasons.
Historically, the Indians have yet to face defeat at the hands of the Trojans since the opening-schedule series began in 2012. Valley leads 4-0 overall against Portsmouth when opening the season, including a 33-0 victory last year in Portsmouth, Ohio.
The two teams look drastically different than they did last season. Portsmouth will have a lot of new faces in new positions this year, while Valley saw 20 seniors from last year’s team graduate and only return three starters from 2015.
“We know they graduated a lot of kids,” Portsmouth football coach Aaron Duncan said. “I keep hearing everybody saying, ‘well Valley has graduated this and that,’ but my answer to them is yeah, but Darren Crabtree is still standing on the sidelines for Valley.”
To be successful, Duncan said his team will have to perform flawlessly Thursday evening in Lucasville.
“We’re going to have to come out and play a mistake-free game of football,” Duncan said. “We know we’ll have our hands full and our expectations for ourselves is to try to play mistake-free football, control the line of scrimmage and try to block and tackle better.”
On the opposite sideline, Valley football coach Darren Crabtree believes his team will have an opportunity to win against Portsmouth as long as his Indians play a fundamentally sound football game.
“Defensively, we have got to do a great job of tackling and playing some fundamentally sound football,” Crabtree said. “We can’t give up the big play against them. They (Portsmouth) have some really skilled athletes at quarterback and running back. We’ll have to contain those guys.”
Ball security will be a key for the Indians while they are on offense Thursday evening.
“Not turning the ball over and being able to sustain some drives and work in some play-action passes, when we feel like we can and when we get opportunities to score we have to put points on the board,” Crabtree said. “If we can do those things offensively and defensively will give us a chance.”
For the first time since the series began in 2012, Crabtree’s Indians will face a Portsmouth team that will not be more inexperienced than Valley.
“Going into this year, the tables have kind of turned on us,” Crabtree said. “There’s some things we need to work through. We’ve made some mistakes in our scrimmages, but if we can overcome some of our own mistakes, then I think we’ll have a good chance to win.”
Both coaches acknowledged the amount of new faces that will be on the field Thursday.
“They (Valley) have a lot of new faces…but their kids expect to win,” Duncan said. “Those kids have been practicing during playoff season. I know their expectations are high out there, no matter how many kids they graduated last season.”
Crabtree said he has been telling his squad all summer to not worry about the loss of 20 seniors from last season.
“No one is going to worry or care that we had 20 seniors graduate once the game starts,” Crabtree said. “This is a new season and a new year and we have to go out and perform…I know if I was in his (Duncan) shoes, I would be thinking this would be a good year to come out and get Valley at home, but I think our kids will rise up to the challenge and give us an opportunity in the fourth quarter to win it.”
The Trojans will face the Indians at Valley High School in Lucasville, Ohio Thursday evening. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.