WEST PORTSMOUTH — This coming fall, West’s opponents aren’t going to have to worry about stopping either Dylan Bradford, Josh Berry or Garrett Hurd.
The Senators’ mighty offensive trio has graduated, which is music to the rest of the SOC II’s ears.
But even with the losses of Bradford, Hurd, Berry and the rest of last year’s talented senior class — one that ended its tenure with two straight playoff berths — West has plenty of firepower left.
That supply unequivocally starts with the Senators’ offensive and defensive lines, units that feature seniors Joe Igaz and Blake Partlow. And, if those two have any say in the matter, a third straight postseason appearance may be in the fold.
“Our team isn’t as big as it has been over the past couple of years,” Igaz said. “But we have guys that want to play and guys that are dedicated. We’ve been working hard everyday and we’re going to outwork everyone else. The goal is to get back to the playoffs. That’s the plan.”
Igaz, at 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, is hard to miss. At that size, he’s the cream of the crop when it comes to the Southern Ohio Conference’s slew of skilled offensive linemen.
He’s received multiple collegiate offers to play football and has peaked Division I interest.
But his size alone hasn’t gotten him to this point in his career. It’s the little things, sometimes things he doesn’t want to do, that have allowed him to make a name for himself.
“You can’t skip days, you have to come to Saturday practices … the stuff you don’t want to do, you have to do it. That’s what makes you great,” Igaz said. “We have to come in and work our tails off. That’s the bottom line.”
Last season alone, the Senators rushed for a team total of 1,972 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry and, while West’s skill players have posted gaudy numbers over the past two seasons, that’s all started with a powerful push up front.
This year, Partlow said more of the same can be expected.
“Just strength and conditioning, being out there and doing all you can to win games, that’s what we’re about,” Partlow said. “I feel like we’re at a pretty good point. The way we’ve been working and the intensity we’ve had in practice, I think we’re going to do really well.”
Partlow, who’s listed a 6-foot-1 center and defensive tackle, also discussed what it’s like to play in the SOC and the experience of playing for West coach Ben Johnson.
“The competitiveness in our conference is really good,” Partlow said. “It makes it really fun to play in. [Coach Johnson] pushes you really hard and he tries to get the best out of every player.”
West begins it season on Aug. 30, traveling to KIPP Columbus.
The Senators will then meet with Portsmouth, Dawson-Bryant, Wellston and Raceland (Ky.) to end their non-conference schedule before meeting with Waverly on Oct. 4. Then the schedule poses tests with Minford, Valley, Oak Hill and, as usual in Week 10, Wheelersburg.
It’s a challenging slate and one the Senators will have to carefully journey through if they want to play in Week 11. But they know what the strength of their team is and they know how to get the job done from recent experience.
“You cannot have a good team without having a good line,” Igaz said. “They’re the decision-makers. If the line isn’t performing, the team isn’t going to perform. So we’re the heart and soul. We understand that.”
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