Though it had been nearly two weeks since the Portsmouth Warriors had played their last football game, they hardly looked rusty.
The Warriors started their postseason run with a 45-0 blowout of the Storm in the second round of the Blue Collar Football League playoffs. With the win, the Warriors advance to the Eastern Conference Championship, and are just two wins away from a league title.
Portsmouth opened the scoring right away, using just four plays to find the end zone. Quarterback Justin Lunsford found Jontez Jones out of the backfield for a 26-yard TD pass to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead. Jones finished the night with 115 rushing yards, while Lunsford would throw for 131 yards on just five completions.
A few moments later, Snook Martin doubled the lead with a 62-yard punt return to make it 14-0. On the Storm’s ensuing possession, Portsmouth’s Dustin Robertson tackled a West Virginia ballcarrier in the end zone for a safety to make it 16-0 just six minutes into the game.
The Warriors seemed to be done with first-quarter scoring after Jontez Jones found the end zone from 30 yards out with under two minutes remaining. But less than a minute later, Lunsford found Santonio Wilson for a 39-yard touchdown pass to make it 30-0 after 15 minutes.
With the game all but decided, Jamie Rice and the rest of the Warrior coaching staff began subbing out his starters late in the first quarter. Running back Luke Brown took advantage of the extra carries, and scored on a 11-yard rush midway through the second quarter.
But the night belonged to the Warrior defense and Chance Freeman. The wide receiver turned defensive back recorded two interceptions on the evening, one of which he returned for a touchdown late in the second quarter. He also recorded four tackles throughout the game, second to only linebacker Zach Swayne, who recorded five.
“That dude has really gotten better every single game. That’s very impressive,” Warrior head coach Jamie Rice said. “He watches film of himself and is always working on his craft.”
The Warrior defensive backfield played a flawless game on Saturday, preventing the Storm from completing a single pass.
“(The defensive backfield) always say they’re the no-fly zone, and they really did that on Saturday,” Rice said.
All in all, the Warrior defense limited the Storm to just 34 yards on 26 plays and recorded two safeties and a touchdown.
“They’re finally seeing how one thing coordinates with another and they’re finally hitting their spots,” Rice said. “I would not have wanted to play quarterback for the Storm. That would not have been a fun job.”
Though both teams agreed to 10-minute, running-clock quarters in the second half, that didn’t stop the game from getting a little chippy in the final moments. However, Rice is proud of the way his team reacted.
“Our guys did a really good job of letting the officials officiate, keeping their mouths shut and just playing football,” Rice said.
With the win, the Warriors advance to play the West Virginia Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals of the BCFL playoffs on Saturday at Spartan Stadium. The Lightning defeated the Southern Ohio Spartans 41-12 on Saturday near Charleston, West Virginia.
The Warriors split two matchups with the Lightning this season, taking a 41-35 overtime victory at home on May 9 and falling 23-21 on July 11 on the road.
Luckily, Rice and his staff has spent weeks preparing for a potential rematch with Lightning.
“They’re a different kind of animal,” he said.
The winner of Saturday’s game at Spartan Stadium will host the BCFL Championship Game on Aug. 29 against either the Butler County Broncos or the Gem City G Men.
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter