Everyone knew that the line of scrimmage was going to be the key in Friday night’s SOC opener between the Portsmouth West Senators and the Minford Falcons. The Senators were able to control both sides of the line of scrimmage handily, and ultimately winning the game in a big bounce back win for West, 26-15.
Going into Friday night’s contest, there were concerns with what the West offense would be able to do with starting senior quarterback Dylan Bradford out after being injured last week vs. Raceland. With senior playmaker Josh Berry under center, the Senators offense did not miss a beat against a very physical Minford defense.
On the Senators first drive of the game, Berry made his only mistake of the night by throwing an interception to Matthew Risner that set the Falcons up with excellent field position near the midway point of the first quarter. Minford’s offense wouldn’t be able to generate any momentum however, and on the attempted field goal, West’s Trevor Staggs blocked the kick, keeping it an even ball game. The score would remain 0-0 at the end of the first quarter.
On the Senators first possession of the second quarter, West would drive all the way down the field behind the three headed monster of a rushing attack of Garrett Hurd, Cole Staggs, and Josh Berry. Berry would cap off the game’s first scoring drive with back to back quarterback sneaks as his second effort crossed the goal line giving West the 6-0 lead after the missed PAT. Neither side would get any more points on the board before the halftime whistle as the scored remained 6-0 in favor of West.
West would not waste any time finding the endzone once play resumed after the half. On a fourth and two from their own side of the 50, head coach Ben Johnson decided to go for the first down and boy did it pay off. Josh Berry kept the ball on another quarterback keeper, this time finding the endzone for a big 58 yard touchdown rush, Berry’s second of the game. After the Senators failed to convert their two point attempt, they held a 12-0 lead over Minford with 9:38 left in the 3rd quarter.
On Minford’s ensuing possession, Kelton Kelley found a wide open Matthew Risner over the middle for a 41 yard touchdown catch and run by the speedy Risner. After the made PAT, Minford now trailed West 12-7 as things began to get interesting with 6:42 left in the 3rd quarter.
One thing you can attempt to prepare for but may not always do justice in practice is the rushing ability of West senior running back Garrett Hurd. Hurd finished the night with 28 carries for 178 yards and a TD as he was able to break off consistent run after consistent run against the Minford defense. Hurd and Staggs supreme rushing ability set up another Josh Berry quarterback keeper for a touchdown with 1:39 left in the third quarter. After the failed two point conversion attempt, West lead Minford by a score of 18-7. Berry finished the game with 11 carries for 84 yards and 3 massive rushing touchdowns. Senators head coach Ben Johnson discussed the will to win that Berry and Hurd show on each and every down. “That’s the way those guys always play” said Johnson, “They’re not the biggest guys, but they’re stout, and they just have a will to not be tackled. It’s something you can’t teach, it’s in their heart. The whole team feeds off of them.”
Minford needed to score points on their next drive if they wanted to have a chance to win and they did just that. The drive included a trick play with Elijah Vogelsong passing to Ethan Slusher for a big first down pickup for the Falcons and a twenty yard gain. The scoring drive for Minford was capped off by a three yard touchdown rush by junior running back Ty Wiget. After Vogelsong barely got into the endzone on the two point conversion attempt, the Falcons then trailed West 18-15 with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter.
Just as they were able to do all night, West began to pound the ball with Hurd, Staggs, and Berry picking up first down after first down. After using over 6 minutes of game clock in their last offensive series, Hurd scampered in the end zone from four yards out and successfully converted the two point attempt to give West the 26-15 lead with 3:15 left in the final period. Minford was unable to put points on the board on their ensuing possession, and ultimately fell to the Senators by that same score.
Johnson spoke very highly of Berry’s ability to step up to the challenge of starting at quarterback in place of Dylan Bradford. “He’s a great kid” said Johnson, “He’s always been getting reps in practice at that position, he’s always been ready to go at any time. His name got called tonight, he stepped in there and did a good job.”
Minford head coach Jesse Ruby spoke highly of Portsmouth West following their home defeat at the hands of the Senators. “West is a good ball team” said Ruby, “They showed that tonight. Coach Johnson and his staff are a class act. They were able to come out and win the game, hats off to them.”
With Valley only losing to undefeated Waverly by a touchdown Friday night, Johnson knows heading into Lucasville to face the Indians next Friday night will be another strong test for his team. “It kind of feels like B1G-10 football” said Johnson, “It’s SOC football, you’ve got to bring your A-game every week.”
The Senators and Indians will kickoff next Friday night in Lucasville at 7 p.m.
The Falcons will travel to Vinton County next Friday night to face the Vikings with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. in McArthur.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT