When West travels to Portsmouth Friday night, the matchup can be summarized using one word — physicality.
Both teams specialize in running the ball, playing physical defense and dictating the tempo of the game. Both teams also picked up Week 1 victories.
For Portsmouth, a 32-12 victory over the Valley Indians ended a four-game losing skid. The Trojans haven’t started a season 1-0 since 2010, which also happens to be the last time the club was above the .500 mark, after claiming that first victory.
“For our kids to go into Lucasville and to come out in a pretty dominating win over them has build their confidence this week,” Trojans head coach Aaron Duncan said. “It feels good to get that first win. We’ve got to continue to work on somethings and get better, and make some improvements to be able to compete against West, Wheelersburg and the OVC schedule.”
Portsmouth first year quarterback showed off his dual-threat capabilities against the Indians, rushing 10 times for 125 yards while also going 5-for-6 for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Against West, Duncan wants to continue pounding the rock behind an offensive line, which has been touted as the “strength of the team.”
“We need to establish the running game. Right now I feel really good with where we’re at with our offensive line,” Duncan said. “The old cliche is whoever wins the line of scrimmage is going to be on the winning ledger. I think that bodes well at any level and our strength is our offensive line.”
West coach Ben Johnson is also aware of the Trojan running game.
“They’ve been a very physical team and they’ve done a good job running the ball,” Johnson said. “They’re so dangerous at running the ball that they’re effective with play-action passing. We have to be very sound defensively to keep our eight men in the box.
“At the same time, you can’t fall asleep in the back end or they’ll catch you off guard with play action. They have a lot of skilled athletes that can take it to the house on any given play. We’re going to have to be fundamentally sound. We’re going to have to maintain our gap integrity because their athletes are very good at cutting back and finding open space. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
As far as West is concerned, the Senators trailed 14-13 at halftime to Fairland before prevailing 26-20 on the road. Johnson was pleased with his team’s effort in Week 1. After falling behind early due to some new wrinkles the Dragons sprinkled into their game plan, the Senators never panicked.
“I was really proud how our guys fought back,” Johnson said. “They didn’t put their heads down. They kept playing and we pretty much evened it up at halftime. We made some adjustments at halftime and we were able to take control in the third quarter.”
Just like Portsmouth, West quarterback Dylan Bradford made his first-career start.
“I was pleased with our young quarterback in his first start for us,” Johnson said. “He had an excellent game for us. That looks good heading into the future.”
Portsmouth, who was in attendance after beginning their campaign on Thursday last week, also came away impressed.
“Their quarterback likes to get out of the pocket on bootlegs and rollout passes. We’ve got to keep him in the pocket, he throws pretty well on the move,” Duncan said.
Chase Lenogar also caught Portsmouth’s eye as the Trojans are game planning to shut him down with multiple defenders.
“The kid that has stood out to me has been (Lenogar),” Duncan said. “We’ve got to get a population to the football. We’ve got to swarm. An arm tackle or one guy is not going to bring him down. He’s too good of a runner.”
Both coaches agreed that time of possession will play a major factor in Friday’s matchup.
“If either team can limit the number of possessions the other team has, they’re going to up their chances of winning,” Johnson said. “We want to keep the ball out of their hands as much as we can.”
Duncan concurred with Johnson’s assessment.
“They like to run the football and the other night, we threw the football six times out of 50 some plays. It never hurts to control time of possession,” Duncan said.
The other keys for Portsmouth are controlling the line of scrimmage, win the turnover battle and limit mistakes.
As far as West is concerned, the Senators need to limit turnovers and penalties which plagued the team last week. As far as the game plan goes to stopping Portsmouth, it all begins with the run.
“We are going to have to slow down the run because if we don’t stop them, they are just going to do it all night,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to force them into doing somethings they’re not use to doing. And in a close game, sometimes you can tip the tables one way or another with your special teams plays. We’re always going to try to come up with a big play in special teams.”
Special teams has played a part in this series the past two years. West beat Portsmouth 41-39 two years ago after failed PATs hurt the Trojans chances and last year, in a one score game, Portsmouth returned a punt for a touchdown that led to the 18-13 victory over West.
Friday night’s game will kickoff at 7 p.m., at Trojan Coliseum.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.