High school football in Scioto County kicked off on Thursday evening as the Valley Indians traveled to Trojan Coliseum to take on Portsmouth.
The game had a lot of excitement, as both teams entered the season with renewed expectations of what 2017 could bring to each school.
For Portsmouth, the Trojans welcomed a new quarterback. It was Isaac Kelly’s first time donning blue and red, and a big stage for Kelly to break through against a tough Valley team.
The Indians entered the game looking for redemption and a chance at a new season. Valley was eager to get a playmaker of their own back in Gabe Streeter, their running back who was injured for most of last season.
Fans packed the stands, and were treated with fireworks immediately on the offensive side of the football from Portsmouth.
The Trojans received the opening kickoff, and Kelly showed what he could do right away. Kelly was able to keep the drive moving with a huge third down pass, and then showed off his running ability with a 47 yard rush where he was tackled just shy of the goal line.
Kelly punched the ball into the endzone on the next play with a quarterback sneak, and the Trojans nailed the extra point to take a 7-0 lead after the opening drive of the game.
“I’m glad he’s with us. Isaac is a young man that came into Portsmouth and was voted team captain,” Portsmouth head coach Aaron Duncan said about Kelly. “He’s only been here since the spring, and he’s that type of kid. That speaks volumes of him as a young man.”
Valley was unable to create any lightning of their own in their first drive of the game, going three and out after losing a couple yards.
Portsmouth again looked promising offensively, as the Trojans converted on a fourth down. Portsmouth had taken it into Valley territory, but Kelly missed on a throw and his pass was intercepted by Valley’s Tanner Spradlin.
Both teams were unable to consistently move the ball throughout the remainder of the first quarter, as Portsmouth took a 7-0 lead into the start of the second.
The Trojans marched down the field early in the second quarter with Kelly leading the charge. Kelly found running back D.J. Pearsall out of the backfield for a huge reception to get inside the redzone. Pearsall wasn’t the intended receiver, but was able to track the ball off the tip and make a huge play for Portsmouth.
Kelly then answered with another touchdown run, this time from four yards out. The extra point was missed, but Portsmouth had a 13-0 advantage early in the second quarter.
Valley had a chance to cut into the Trojan lead, as they took over at their own 47 yard line to start their next drive following the touchdown. A holding penalty pushed the Indians back, but they got a big run from quarterback Andrew Shope to get into Portsmouth territory.
After Shope’s big run, Valley stalled and was unable to move the ball any further. The Indians elected to go for a 4th and 10 from the Portsmouth 33, and their pass attempt was intercepted by Portsmouth’s Daniel Jordan.
This drive summarized the night for Valley. The Indians made some plays, but penalties or miscues would often set them back right after their successful play calls.
Duncan was enthusiastic about his defensive performance from the Trojans. “I couldn’t be happier with the defensive effort,” Duncan said. “Those guys played hard, and kept Valley at bay on offense.”
Back on offense, the Trojans were looking to add to their lead. Portsmouth got a big spark from Deante Parker this time around, as Parker got a big first down after taking a jet sweep 13 yards. Kelly then answered with another first down run, and running back Reese Johnson added a nine yard plunge.
With all the success on the ground, Portsmouth decided to try a deep pass to catch the defense off balance. Their risk paid off with a reward in the form of a 30 yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Deante Parker, as Kelly hit Deante Parker in stride in the corner of the endzone.
Deante Parker got in on the tip drill action with the two point conversion, as he caught a pass from Kelly off a deflection to give Portsmouth a three touchdown advantage.
As time in the first half continued to tick away, Valley took the field with under two minutes left. The Indians got a nice gain on a screen pass to JT Ward, but a sack by Portsmouth’s Parker Johnson put pressure on Valley. The Indians decided to burn the rest of the first half clock, and headed to halftime facing a 21-0 deficit.
The Indians were set to receive the second half kickoff, and put together a solid drive out of the locker room. As soon as they began to regain some confidence, though, they were hit with a penalty for a late hit that set them back.
Now facing a 3rd and 15, Shope was forced to take a chance, and was intercepted by Jordan for the second time of the day. Jordan returned the interception all the way to the Valley 13 yard line, but a penalty negated the effort.
The penalty forced Portsmouth to start on the Valley 45 instead, and the Trojans capitalized on the field position. Facing a 4th down and four yards to go, Kelly scrambled and got a big gain for Portsmouth. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called that pushed the Trojans back once again.
Following the Portsmouth penalty, the Indians were whistled for a personal foul. The Trojans were once again in the redzone, and Reese Johnson rumbled in from two yards to give Portsmouth a 27-0 lead after the extra point was again no good.
“I told Reese “be ready for your number to be called” and he answered the bell,” Duncan said. “Really did a good job establishing the run game for us and did an excellent job.”
With a 27-0 lead, Portsmouth kicked off to Valley, who was looking for a spark.
Junior running back Gabe Streeter was able to provide that right away, taking the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. The Indians were on the board, and with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter, still very much alive in the game.
“We gave up the special teams miscue on the kickoff return, we weren’t supposed to be kicking the ball to Streeter,” Duncan said. “He’s a good player and took it to the house on us.”
Valley went with the trickery on their kickoff, choosing to attempt an onside kick. The Indians recovered, but the recovery was overturned and Portsmouth was given the ball. The onside kick no doubt played a huge role in the game, as the Indians had a renewed hope and plenty of time to start their comeback efforts.
Still, Valley had hope, especially after Portsmouth went three and out. The Indians decided to sub freshman Andrew Andronis in at quarterback for Shope, but the Portsmouth defense was too much for Andronis as well.
The two teams stalled on the next four drives, and Portsmouth held a 27-7 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
Facing another fourth down just seven yards from scoring, Kelly scrambled and threw up a ball into the endzone. Once again it was thrown into some traffic, but in the end Reese Johnson was able to make the catch for his second touchdown of the day. A two point conversion catch was made by senior Zach Kinney, and Portsmouth claimed a 35-7 lead in the fourth.
From there, it was all but over as Portsmouth ran the clock down and Valley continued to struggle on offense. The final score favored the Trojans, 35-7 over the Indians.
Reese Johnson finished the game with 89 yards rushing and one touchdown on the ground as well as the touchdown catch from Kelly. Johnson was playing for sophomore Talyn Parker, who left the game early with an elbow injury. Parker was taken to the hospital for further examination.
Duncan was pleased with his team’s performance, particularly Kelly’s game. Kelly finished with 243 yards of total offense and four total touchdowns on the day.
“He knew when Talyn went down, he said “hey don’t panic, we’ve got this,” and he put the team on his shoulders and Reese came in and helped him carry the load there,” Duncan said about Kelly.
The Trojans offense looked good throughout, despite the loss of Parker. “Offensively, we’ve always been able to move the ball and score points,” Duncan said. “We’re still able to do that even with Talyn Parker down, we were able to put 35 points on the board.”
Defense was an emphasis for Portsmouth all offseason, and the D shined with their new coaches Josh Matiz and Bo Mayo running the show.
“Coach Matiz has come in and done an excellent job with the defense and he held Valley to zero points on that side of the ball,” Duncan said.
Portsmouth will travel to Portsmouth West next Friday to take on the Senators. Valley is set to take a trip of their own, heading to Coal Grove to take on the Hornets. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT