The West Senators and the Portsmouth Trojans must feel like this script has played out before. In fact, it has — last year to be exact.
Both squads are coming off losses on opening weekend. Both teams are searching for answers, and both clubs are looking to right the ship at the expense of their rival.
Portsmouth (0-1) is coming off a 33-0 loss to Valley at home in Aaron Duncan’s first game as a head coach. The Trojans only managed 132 yards against the Indians.
”We knew what we were up against with Valley,” Duncan said. “Our gameplan heading into that game was to try and hold onto the ball.
“We’re just not there yet and Valley’s too good of a team to make mistakes.”
Sophomore quarterback Cole Lowery finished 4-for-8 passing for only 21 yards. The Trojans will need more production from the passing game to keep the Senators from loading up the box with eight defenders. However, Duncan believes establishing a strong ground game will aid the Trojans’ aerial assault.
”Our M.O. is we have to establish the running game,” Duncan said. “The positive we are building on this week is we lined up against probably one of the best defenses from a Final Four team last year, and we moved the ball up and down the field in our two tight-end set. It was encouraging.
“At the end of the day, we have to be able to establish the running day and from our running game being established, then things in our passing game will become easier for us to do.”
On the other sideline, West (0-1) fell to Newark Catholic 28-12 at home. To compile problems for the Senators, starting quarterback John Berry left Friday’s game with a knee injury. He is unavailable to play against Portsmouth and is listed as week-to-week.
Sophomore signal caller Brady Douthat will lineup under center when the Senators meet the Trojans at Spartan Stadium. In his relief appearance, Douthat went 8-for-19 for 99 yards against Newark Catholic.
“He doesn’t have the speed that John has, but he’s got some elusiveness and can make somethings happen,” Senators head coach Ben Johnson said. “In the game last week, he kept the play alive and made some throws after the play had broken down. He’s a little bit more athletic that people think.”
Johnson doesn’t foresee a scenario where he’ll have to change his offense to fit Douthat’s skill set.
“It won’t be much change,” Johnson said. “We might be a little more tailback centered. Brady is a pretty good runner himself and we can do a lot of the same things with him.”
According to Johnson, Portsmouth is still trying to find its identity as a football team and since West doesn’t have much film on the Trojans’ new schemes, the Senators are focusing on themselves this week — mainly correcting their own issues.
“We are really focusing on ourselves this week and cleaning up our penalties, and doing a much better job on special teams,” Johnson said. “We fill like if we can just improve ourselves and just get lined up correctly, and play hard, then we’ll be able to compete then.”
As for the Trojans, it’s all about building confidence.
“We told our kids this week, ‘You went against a perennial powerhouse in this part of the state,’” Duncan said. “They returned the opening kickoff but from that point on, we moved the ball into their endzone twice and came away empty handed. It was a 6-0 ballgame in the second half, against one of the top teams. We are using that to build off of.”
Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.