COAL GROVE, Ohio — Portsmouth went into the intermission tied and feeling good about it’s chances to pull off the victory.
“The first half we made some big plays and going into half, it was 20-20,” Trojans coach Aaron Duncan said. “We felt pretty good. We felt like we were starting to wear on them a little bit. Right before the half, we had a long drive and we thought we were wearing on them. Coal Grove looked like they were worn down a little bit.”
Unfortunately for Portsmouth (4-2, 2-1), the second half went awry as the Coal Grove Hornets scored 20 unanswered points to beat the Trojans 40-20 Friday night.
Coming out of the locker room, Portsmouth came away with a defensive stop on its own 8-yard line to gain the early momentum. However, the Trojans fumbled the ball on their first play of the second half, which gave Coal Grove the advantage after Dylan Malone recovered the loose ball in the endzone.
After the early turnover, the Trojan offense was stymied for the rest of the game.
“We went in and made a couple of adjustments at halftime. We knew this game was going to comedown turnovers and holding onto the ball, and grinding it out and see who wears who out first,” Duncan said. “Offensively, we turned the ball over and we put our defense on the field, backed up.
“We weren’t able to sustain anything offensively in the second half. Coal Grove made some good adjustments on our perimeter run game. We turned the ball over and it put us behind the eight ball. Actually as the game worn on, they wore us out.”
Luke Purdy led the Trojans with 15 rushes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Purdy’s scores came in a first half that was mired with big plays, beginning with a 70-yard touchdown scamper on the first play of the game. However, the early momentum didn’t last for Portsmouth.
After the teams traded a pair of punts, Hornets Jacob Clark took a counter handoff up the middle for 65 yards, which setup a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Kimo Baldwin.
Shortly after, Coal Grove took a 12-6 lead but that lead didn’t last long as Blake Wedebrook made an over the shoulder catch at the 15-yard line and outraced all 11 Hornet players on the 85-yard touchdown return.
With the game tied at 12, Coal Grove went for it on 4th-and-8 at the Portsmouth 35-yard line. Hornets quarterback Matty Cordle found Daniel Rutherford in the endzone for the 35-yard touchdown.
Coal Grove led the rest of the first half until the waning seconds when Purdy found the endzone for the second time in the half. After the two-conversion, the game was deadlocked at 20 apiece.
The touchdown by Portsmouth was the second time on the drive the Trojans found the endzone. However, a 35-yard touchdown pass was called back by holding. After it looked like the Trojans ran out of steam on the drive, facing a 3rd-and-34, a roughing the passer call gave Portsmouth new life and the Trojans took advantage of the situation.
Despite making big plays in the first half, the Trojans lost for the second time on the season. Just like the first loss, Duncan wants to see his team bounce back just like the first time.
“When we lost to Wheelersburg, we licked our wounds and we battled back to win two in a row,” Duncan said. “That’s what we have to do here. We have to get ourselves up off of the mat and comeback to work on Monday, and focus on the things that we need to do to get better. We need to eliminate the penalties and the turnovers, and get ready for Chesapeake next week.”
As far as the Portsmouth-Chesapeake contest that sits on the horizon, Duncan knows the winner will have a leg up on the competition.
“Obviously Chesapeake is a good team and they bring a lot of wins to the table,” Duncan said. “It looks like Ironton is back on top, and then us and Coal Grove and Chesapeake — there are a cluster of one loss teams. It’s still anybody’s ball game as far as winning the conference goes. We’ve just got to get back and regroup, and work to get better.”
Portsmouth —Purdy 70 yd run (Kick no good), 11:43
Coal Grove — Baldwin 1 yd run (Kick no good), 7:16
Coal Grove — Clark 10 yd run (Conversion failed), 2:12
Portsmouth — Wedebrook 85 yd kickoff return (Conversion good), 2:04
Coal Grove —Rutherford 35 yd pass from Cordle (Conversion good), 11:12
Portsmouth — Purdy 6 yd run (Conversion good), :36.2
Coal Grove — Malone 0 yd fumble recovery (Conversion failed), 2:05
Coal Grove — Rutherford 15 yd run (Conversion failed), 10:44
Coal Grove — Clark 3 yd run (Conversion good), 7:41
Rushing — Portsmouth, Purdy 15-106, Parker 13-71, Lansing 4-(-1); Coal Grove, Clark 22-197, Ritherford 8-84. Henry 11-42, Bladwin 10-34, Malone 4-15, Sites 2-15, Cordle 4-3.
Passing — Portsmouth, Purdy 3-6-19; Coal Grove, Cordle 2-9-41
Receiving — Portsmouth, Williams 2-16-0; Coal Grove. Stormes 1-35-1, Harrison 1-6-0
Portsmouth 4-2 (1-1); Coal Grove 4-1 (1-1).
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.