The defending state champion Wheelersburg Pirates capped off another impressive regular season Friday night as they traveled to West Portsmouth and defeated the West Senators 28-7 to improve to 9-1.
With their playoff seeding already decided, the Wheelersburg Pirates were looking to play for the title of SOC II champions Friday night when they travelled to face the Portsmouth West Senators. Wheelersburg head coach Rob Woodward stressed to his team the importance of this game all year, “Our kids understand back in January that this is our number one goal, to win the SOC. Everything else after that we will worry about later on, but we will focus on this right now.”
Things started off fast on senior night for the Senators as Wheelersburg quarterback Trent Salyers threw an interception on his team’s opening drive. The Pirates defense was able to keep the Senators off the board, however, as they forced a punt on the ensuing drive.
First quarter mistakes would continue to plague the Pirates as on the very next drive they were penalized for a holding call that put their offense behind the chains. Following this penalty, Wheelersburg would again turn the ball over on a fumble by Pirates playmaker back Makya Mathews. West would capitalize on the turnover this time in spectacular fashion with a 43 yard touchdown run by Garrett Hurd. With 6:32 to go in the first quarter, the Senators would go up 7-0 as they looked to finish their year with a huge upset. Both defenses would force punt on the ensuing drives and after another near interception for West, the score would remain 7-0 going into the second quarter.
The Senators defense would keep the pressure on the Pirates offense to begin the second quarter. After a few costly penalties had the Pirates far behind their chains and another near strip sack, Wheelersburg faced a huge 3and long conversion around midfield. The explosive Wheelersburg offense would finally bust through as they not only converted the 3rd and long, but also scored on a 50 yard TD pass to Matthews from Salyers.
Senators head coach Ben Johnson would emphasize stopping the big play to his team. “We really tried to take away the big plays, and we did a good job in the beginning, but they did enough to beat us.”
This play would be all it took for the Wheelersburg offense to get going as they began to rack up yardage and put points on the board in a hurry. The next Pirates drive would see another big play as Salyers again completed a pass to wide receiver Tanner Holden for a 50 yard touchdown that put their team ahead at 14-7 with 2:09 to go in the half.
Despite the early interception, Salyers would go on to have a huge game as he went 5/14 for 136 yards and three touchdowns. Holden broke off another big play for the Pirates as he received the pitch and broke every tackle on his way to a 70 yard touchdown run. Coach Woodward can’t say enough about the year #2 is having, “He is an outstanding player, great speed, and he is just a different player out there than a lot of guys. You can’t coach that, but you try to work and find ways to get him the ball.” Following a missed PAT, the Pirates would go into halftime with the 20-7 lead.
Wheelersburg kept their momentum going as they drove the ball down the field on their opening drive of the second half. Tanner Holden would add another TD reception to his resume as he went up high on the goal line to haul in his third of the game. The Pirates would lead 28-7 with 7:13 to go in the third quarter in what would ultimately be the game’s final score.
Wheelersburg has already clinched the number one seed in the Division V Region 20 rankings, while as for Portsmouth West, they will await to see just where they will likely be placed. Although nothing is yet certain, things are looking good as of Friday night for the Senators hopeful playoff chances.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT