PORTSMOUTH – That feeling that’s in the air? Why, that’s the best feeling there is. It’s the feeling of football season in Southeastern Ohio.
In their annual match up kicking off the high school football season in Scioto County and much of Southeastern Ohio, Valley will make the trip south on U.S. 23 to take on the Portsmouth Trojans who are coming off their first playoff bid in 11 years.
Both teams are hopeful their respective squads can push for a playoff bid in 2019 while attempting to replace key assets on both sides of the field. In this preview, we’ll look at five things to keep an eye on once the Trojans and the Indians take the field for Thursday night’s opener.
1. The Score
This may seem simple, and it is. The team that scores the most points will win the game.
During their match up in 2018, Portsmouth travelled to Lucasville and defeated Valley 57-40, a win that would ultimately help make the case for Portsmouth as a postseason team that much stronger.
The 57 points allowed by Valley were the second most points the Indians allowed last year (allowing 60 against Raceland on September 15th) and the 40 points allowed by Portsmouth were the most the Trojans allowed last year.
While the high scoring games make football that much more enjoyable for the casual fan, both coaching staffs for Portsmouth and Valley would ultimately like to see their team’s defenses limit the other teams scoring chances, more so than last year’s shootout.
2. Valley’s Line
Plagued by injuries a year ago, Valley’s line play struggled at times to keep their quarterback protected while also giving their running backs room to run in the open field.
With returning starters Levi Williams, Jacob Brickey, Mason Zaler, Jacob Ward with Devon Stiltner and Devin Wiley rounding out the offensive line and tight end positions respectively, Valley coach Darren Crabtree believes that his line could be a strength of the team. Their size alone would signal that to be true.
We know that Valley has the offensive weapons and firepower to be able to score points and move the ball. If their line play is solid to great this year, that will be a great improvement from a year ago.
3. Portsmouth’s Starting Quarterback
After losing senior quarterback Danny Lattimore to graduation a season ago, Trojans coach Bruce Kalb hosted a competition for the starting job between junior Micheal Duncan and sophomore Drew Roe.
In his preseason interview with the Daily Times, Kalb insisted there wasn’t a favorite at that point and that he wished he could take the best qualities from each player and combine them into one.
Whether Duncan or Roe get the nod to take snaps under center, either will have to be able to make plays. It’s no secret that teams will be keying in on the Trojans running game with all-state running back Talyn Parker heading a three headed monster rushing attack with Tyler McCoy and Ty Pendleton by his side.
Whoever Kalb decides is fit for the job, eyes will be on their performance and their ability to lead the Trojans offense.
4. Andrew Andronis
A special play-maker in all senses of the word. This was most showcased a year ago when Andronis made five catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of the Indians game against Raceland before being sidelined in the second half due to an injury.
In 2019, the junior play-maker will transition from receiver to quarterback to take the helm of Valley’s offensive production. His first game as a starting QB will be no easy task, however. Going up against an athletic, quick Trojan defense in your first start is no cake walk.
For Valley to reach the heights that it would like to by season’s end while also coming away with a victory in week one, Andronis will have to put his play-making abilities on full display. With senior running back Kayden Mollette by his side and an experienced offensive line protecting him, the junior QB should have every opportunity to do just that.
5. Talyn Parker and Co.
For those of you who thought this group wouldn’t be included, think again.
Parker’s outstanding junior season in which he was named Southeast District Player of the Year began a year ago in this very game. 324 yards on the ground with four rushing touchdowns helped open a lot of people’s eyes to the kind of talent #1 in the white blue and red is.
This year is different, though. Every opponent on the Portsmouth schedule knows exactly the kind of talent Parker is and will be game-planning accordingly.
Without now graduated offensive linemen Colin Boehm and Parker Johnson anchoring the right side of the Trojans line, who will step up and fill that void for Portsmouth?
With opponents keyed on stopping Parker, how will the Trojans staff use Tyler McCoy and Ty Pendleton, the other heads of the Trojans rushing attack?
Both key questions will be answered in the hours following kickoff in Trojan Coliseum Thursday night.
It’s football time: be excited.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved