Saturday will mark the third straight year that the Portsmouth Warriors have played in a league championship game. The past two years, they’ve come away empty-handed.
But Warrior coach Jamie Rice feels that this year is the Warriors’ best chance to take home a title.
“Hands down. We’re peaking right now,” he said.
The Warriors (12-1) will face off with the Butler County Broncos (11-1) in the Blue Collar Football League Championship Game — a team that Portsmouth defeated at Spartan Stadium just over a month ago.
On July 25, the Warriors handed the Broncos their first — and only — loss of the season, out-rushing them 166-68 and forcing two turnovers in a 41-20 win. Running back Jontez Jones led the way with 161 rushing yards, and receiver Santonio Wilson caught two touchdown passes.
But Portsmouth was far from perfect in the win. The Warriors held a 16-point halftime lead before Butler County staged a second-half comeback. Bronco quarterback VJ Anderson gashed the Warrior secondary for 245 passing yards, 198 those yards going to speedy receiver Paul Jones.
However, a 60-yard return of a muffed punt by Snook Martin sealed the game in the fourth quarter.
“We gave up a big plays on broken plays. We got good pressure, we just didn’t finish,” Rice said.
However, since that game, the Warrior defense has been able to finish. In their three games since playing the Broncos, Portsmouth has allowed only 41 total rushing yards. They’ve also only surrendered just 14 points in those three games.
Last week against the West Virginia Lightning — one of the most successful franchises in the BCFL — the Warriors yielded just six rushing yards and eight total points.
“It’s hands down I think the best defense in the league,” Rice said.
The Warriors also have had the luxury of a game film to prepare for the upcoming championship game. Earlier this season, having never played the Broncos before, Portsmouth was forced to go into the game almost blind.
“We know the opponent (this time around),” Rice said.
The winner of Saturday’s game will most likely receive an invitation to a semi-pro bowl game to played later this year. Whoever is invited would take on a champion of another semi-pro league from around the country.
Though the Warriors have called Spartan Municipal Stadium their home for the past few seasons, they are forced to host Saturday’s championship game at Greenup County High School due to Notre Dame’s home opener with Racine Southern. Rice doesn’t expect the change to venue to be an issue for his team, as Musketeer Stadium is just a short drive across the river from Portsmouth.
“There’s no question that we would have liked to have won a championship at Spartan Stadium. No question. That kind of stinks, but it is what it is,” Rice said.
Kickoff for the BCFL Championship Game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter