The Portsmouth Trojans have relied on running back Taylyn Parker, quarterback Luke Purdy and the rest of the Trojan playmakers to secure a winning season. However, the unheralded group throughout the season has lined up each week in the trenches.
Portsmouth (6-3, 4-2) has relied on its offensive and defensive line to set the tone each week. As week 10 approaches and the Ironton Fighting Tigers prepare to visit Trojan Coliseum, the battle of the trenches might determine the victor of the game.
“When I took over the program, we were trying to play catch up in the weight program and we’re still trying to get things where they need to be,” Trojans coach Aaron Duncan said. “Ironton always has strong kids and they are going to bank on being more physical at the point of attack than you are. That’s something we have to match and we have to be able to stand in there toe to toe with them.
“Bottom line, football is a man’s game and it’s a game of who’s going to be more physical. Ironton always banks on their kids being stronger and more physical than your kids.”
The rivalry between the two schools predates the age when two NFL franchises called southern Ohio home. The Ironton Tanks and the Portsmouth Spartans squared off in the 30s as part of professional football. And to this day, Ironton plays at Tanks Stadium, and Portsmouth Municipal Stadium still resides along the river, and still hosts high-school games and semi-pro football contests.
However, before those two franchises squared off, Portsmouth High School and Ironton High School was already deadlocked in a rivalry. Duncan described the rivalry as intense but respectful.
“How we feel about Ironton is we have a tremendous amount of respect for their program and their coaches, and we respect the tradition of the game but they’re is no one we’d rather beat more,” Duncan said. “I played against (Ironton) coach (Mark) Vass and we graduated in the same year. He shared with me, ‘We root for you guys nine weeks out of the year but the one week we get together, you’re our biggest enemy.’ I just think that’s kind of how both programs feel about each other. There’s a respect factor there and an honor of the tradition, but both of us want to beat each other worse than anyone on our schedule.”
According to Duncan, for Portsmouth to prevail Friday night, the Trojans must dictate play by being the more physical, aggressive team.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., Friday at Trojan Coliseum in Portsmouth.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.