The Southern Ohio Spartans may be down, but they’re far from out.
Last week’s crushing loss to the Warriors put the Spartans (4-3, 3-2 BCFL) two-and-a-half games behind their arch-rivals for in the Blue Collar Football League’s Eastern Conference Blue Division standings. But with a matchup with the Zanesville Rivermonsters coming to town this Saturday and the Warriors on a bye, the Spartans have an excellent chance to climb back in to the divisional race.
“We have to have a short memory,” Spartans coach Michael Parker said. “We’ll get another opportunity with the Warriors. We need to leave that game where it’s at, and let’s get prepared for the Rivermonsters.”
On May 9, the Spartans opened league play by shutting out the Rivermonsters in a 36-0 road win. The win improved their record to 2-1 on the season and sparked a string of impressive victories. Including their opening win in Zanesville, Southern Ohio went 3-1 outscored opponents 160-42 in their first four league games.
In order to get back to their early-season success, the Spartans will need to re-find their running game. Last week, team owner Jojo Parker told the Daily Times that a balanced attack and new focus on running the football was what sparked the Spartans’ offense. Last week against the Warriors, the Spartans were pushed back nearly every time they ran the ball, as they totaled -3 rushing yards.
Despite scoring only one touchdown against the Warriors, the Spartans were able to find limited success throwing the ball. Quarterback Evan Howard completed 11 of his 28 passes for 119 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown to running back Duke Edwards on a third-quarter screen pass.
Against Zanesville, Howard and the Spartans hope to continue their success through the air by finding his tall receivers, 6-6 Colt Coates, 6-8 Anthony Williams and 6-5 Josh Parsons. The Spartans used that blueprint back in May in their win over the Rivermonsters, as they used the pass to set up the run.
“We passed the ball really well that game, and sprinkled the run in here and there,” Michael Parker said.
Southern Ohio also hopes its defense returns to dominant form this weekend against the Rivermonsters. The Spartans have allowed 89 points in five league games this season, 83 of which came against the conference’s first-place and second-place teams in the Warriors and the West Virginia Lightning.
The Rivermonsters enter Saturday’s game in fourth place in the BCFL Eastern Conference Blue Division. In their five league games this season, Zanesville has been outscored 112-46.
All in all, the Spartans gameplan for Saturday’s game is simple.
“We play well when we play as a team,” Michael Parker said. “I think we get into trouble when we play as individuals.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at The Complex in West Portsmouth.
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter