WEST PORTSMOUTH — With a world of uncertainty surrounding the fall sports season, Portsmouth West’s 11-man senior class is committed to preparing for its senior year of football — as if there wasn’t a global pandemic threatening to change the fall status quo in southern Ohio.
Following the footsteps of Senators’ head coach Ben Johnson, who is entering his seventh year as head coach, seniors Trenton Fike and Hunter Brown are treating each practice ahead of the 2020 season as if it’s their last — and rightfully so.
“As it goes right now, we’re playing every rep as if it’s your last because it’s not guaranteed,” Fike said. “We’re going to keep coming in, especially us seniors, and practice every day like it’s our last because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“We just come in every day and attack it like it’s the very last practice we’ll ever have,” Brown said. “We’re going through rough times right now, but Coach (Johnson) always tell us to work as hard as we can everyday, and keep attacking everything with a positive attitude.”
Seemingly, the 2019 football season left some rather bad tastes in the mouths of this group of senior Senators.
West’s 2-8 record a year ago marked its first losing season since 2016 after a two-year stretch which saw the Senators win 16 of 23 games and clinch back-to-back OHSAA state playoff appearances.
Fike, a 5-10, 200-pound two-way lineman, and Brown, a 5-10, 173-pound running back and linebacker, know all too well the importance of having a strong running game — particularly in Johnson’s offense.
During the 2019 campaign, West running backs rushed for 1,670 yards on 399 carries for a 4.2 yards per carry average.
Brown managed three of West’s 21 scoring totes a season ago — a number that will need to grow if the Senators hope to make amends with their opponents in 2020.
“Strengths of this year’s team would have to be the depth of our offensive and defensive lines,” Fike said. “The hard work we’ve put in; we have one of the hardest-conditioned classes that I’ve worked with this year. Hard, good work ethic as a group.”
“We have a lot of guys who’ve been working hard this year,” Brown said. “We’ve got four seniors on the line, we have good team speed, our guys are fast — I think we’ll have a real good year.”
Brown and Fike also spoke on former West assistant coach Dan McDavid, who passed away during the offseason.
McDavid’s role with the Senators’ coaching staff was being the running backs coach, a spot that allowed him to make a proper influence on the core of the West offense and the 2020-21 senior class as a whole.
“Coach McDavid was a great man,” Fike said. “I have a lot of good, loving, lasting memories with him. Hopefully we can leave it on the field for him this season.”
“Coach McDavid had a great impression on my life,” Brown said. “He was actually my position coach because I’m a running back. He had a lot of good rules, fun to be around, very positive. This season’s going to be dedicated to him.”
As of Friday evening’s press release, the OHSAA Board of Directors voted to shorten the 2020 high school football season to six regular-season games and likewise voted to grant every team in Ohio who chooses to participate playoff eligibility.
This plan is still pending as of Monday, as southern Ohio and much of the Buckeye State await the update Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is expected to make sometime this week.
While Portsmouth West awaits the fate of the last season of high school football for its 11-man senior class, Fike and Brown are hopeful that they’ll be able to represent their school and community on the gridiron one last time.
“It’d mean everything to be out there representing our school and community,” Fike said. “Hopefully we have fans be allowed in the stadium to watch us put on a show.”
“It would mean a great amount to be able to represent our school,” Brown said. “It’s an honor to play football at Portsmouth West High School, we have a really rich tradition here. It’d be great to get out there and win some games.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved