WEST PORTSMOUTH — In the 2017 Blue Collar Football League (BCFL) Championship run that the West Portsmouth Tanks had, the football unit that Jamie Rice and Brian Wroten had spearheaded had put together seven defensive touchdowns by the end of the fourth game of the year.
However, the West Portsmouth Tanks, through three quarters of its fourth game of the year, hadn’t scored a defensive touchdown in 2018.
That changed very quickly in a matter of 13 minutes of playing time.
Behind three touchdowns from Job Swords, which helped establish a 20-8 lead for the Tanks, along with two touchdown receptions from L.J. Adams and two defensive touchdowns in a 32-point fourth quarter — a 41-yard scoop and score by Datoine Robinson and a game-capping 79-yard interception return from DeyArtis Dudley — allowed West Portsmouth to blow the game open with a 46-8 victory over the Cincinnati Gators on Saturday evening at The Complex in West Portsmouth.
For Rice, it’s simply a matter of the wheels beginning to turn in the minds of his players.
“We’re a young team that is starting to click a little bit,” Rice said. “You see little flashes here and there of us beginning to put it all together. We’re definitely talented, we’re just making a lot of mental mistakes with assignment and alignment issues. They are small details. However, we’re ironing those out and are trying to clear that up a little bit.”
As is customary, it wouldn’t be a normal football affair without Job Swords making big-time plays. The born-and-bred West Sider, after a tie score following the first quarter of action, took matters into his own hands by scoring twice within a four-minute span to begin the second quarter of play via a one-yard scamper and a three-yard dart to fellow West Sider Dylan Koons as the Tanks turned a 0-0 deadlock into a 14-0 lead with 11:26 to go in the first half. Both teams then battled to the same stalemate as West Portsmouth retained control of the contest heading into halftime.
“Job does a really nice job,” Rice said. “He’s a young guy. He’s really learned how to play quarterback. He did some really nice things today. He made some mistakes, just like anybody is going to, but he makes mistakes trying to give a guy a chance to make a play. He’s not about being selfish. It’s the opposite. He’s trying to force the ball here and there in order to make a play. He’s doing a great job.”
The Gators, however, didn’t flinch even with its small output that featured less than 25 players.
After obtaining possession on its own 43 yard line, Cincinnati used the dual threat abilities of Ishamel Johnson and the abilities of Tracey Barnes and Derrick Sims to open up its offense on an 11-play, 57-yard drive that was capped by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Sims on third down. Michael Tucker’s two-point conversion run then cut the lead to a 14-8 margin after three quarters of play.
However, to the Tanks’ credit, West Portsmouth didn’t flinch under pressure.
After trading possessions to begin the fourth quarter of action, the Tanks put themselves in an excellent position to score again as a partially blocked punt gave West Portsmouth the football at the Gators’ 14. Swords then survived a big hit at the goal line to scamper in for his third touchdown of the contest in a gutsy and critical nine-yard touchdown run that allowed the Tanks to take a 20-8 lead with 14:09 left in the football game, which allowed the signal-caller to combine with fellow teammates and backfield partners Markel Cain and Duke Edwards for 112 yards rushing on 26 carries.
The Tanks, however, were just getting warmed up.
When West Portsmouth recovered a Cincinnati fumble at the Gators’ 26, Edwards found Adams inside the five on a third-down pass, and the sneaky wide out found his way inside the pylon for a touchdown with 9:11 to play. Then, within 20 seconds of playing time, Datoine Robinson added on to the lead in a thrilling fashion when the 5-9, 250-pounder picked up a fumble by Johnson and scampered 41 yards to the house on a scintillating fumble return where the defensive tackle broke at least a half-dozen tackles en route to scoring on the play.
Within the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, West Portsmouth had taken a 14-8 margin and extended the lead to 33-8 with 8:57 to play en route to putting the game on ice. Adams’ second touchdown catch — a seven-yard reception where the Portsmouth native found himself wide open at the bottom left corner of the end zone — and Dudley’s 79-yard interception, full with a convoy to the house the entire way, iced the game as the Tanks cruised to the win.
“Cincinnati came out and executed a really nice drive at the beginning of the third quarter, and made it 14-8, so it put a little bit of pressure on us,” Rice said. “However, the guys didn’t flinch. They stuck to their guns and pulled away. You would rather not be put in that position and you’d rather win by 40 points the entire way, but they survived the stress, flourished towards the end, and wore them out with our depth.”
With the victory, the Tanks improved to 3-1 overall ahead of a vital matchup with the Columbus Gladiators. A win in Columbus means that both units will be tied for first place overall in the BCFL East Division.
“This is the season where we really are taking it one game at a time,” Rice said. “We really are. We’re so involved in trying to get better on a game-by-game basis that it’s not even something that we’re thinking about or are focused on. The tough part of our schedule, however, is coming up, and that will be fun. We’ll see how these guys react.”
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