PORTSMOUTH — The Trojan Way became the Trojan Standard in Bruce Kalb’s first two seasons on the sideline as head coach.
Regardless of the game or scenario, the Portsmouth High School football program showed up and exceeded expectations, even for itself.
Now comes another test for the Trojans.
After losing a 14-man senior class and back-to-back playoff appearances, the Trojans must find a way to develop younger players to fit the roles of now-graduated differencemakers on both sides of the ball.
“As we came into the offseason, we knew that we would have our work cut out for us getting some of our younger guys ready,” Kalb said. “We knew we might have to rely on some juniors who might be seeing varsity for the first time and some sophomores here or there.”
The 2019-20 Portsmouth senior class included Talyn Parker, the school’s all-time leading rusher, wide receivers and defensive backs Bryce Wallace and Eric Purdy, and three of the Trojans’ starting offensive linemen.
Parker, as a result of twice being named Southeast District Division V Offensive Player of the Year, was honored as a first-team all-Ohio running back.
Those losses are offset by some of the returning pieces the Trojans bring back, including starting quarterback Drew Roe for his junior season, senior Michael Duncan at tight end, and senior Chris Duff and junior Dariyonne Bryant at wide receiver.
“One thing I can say about this group of kids, no matter what’s been thrown their way, they’ve overcome,” Kalb said. “Really kind of anxious not knowing if we’re going to have a scrimmage before we play our first game, what’s our first game going to look like? Despite all that, this team has remained focused.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Portsmouth returns two starters: Alberto Poxes and Christian Keys.
The other nine spots will see a litany of new faces whom Kalb and his staff hope to have ready by game one.
“Certainly have a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball,” Kalb said. “However, I feel the senior leadership that’s carried us this offseason is going to hopefully carry us for a pretty successful season.”
On its offensive line, Portsmouth plans to use seniors Rex Smith and Jaquan Pearsall at guard, junior James Thurman at center, and seniors Mylan Brown and Hayden Yerardi at tackle.
In a sign of growth as a coach, Kalb admitted his adaptation from year one to year two as the Trojans’ play-caller.
That growth will be ever so important as teams no longer can dial in on their ability to run and will need to prepare for the Trojans to move the ball in many different ways.
“As a play-caller, I’ve evolved,” Kalb said. “At the heart, I’m still a two-back, tight-end based offense — that’s the type of football I love. At the same time, I saw last year that we had a feature back in Talyn Parker, but teams were going to plan for Talyn. Last year, we evolved and this offseason we started finding new ways to be balanced.”
Portsmouth kicks off its season and Ohio Valley Conference schedule with longtime rival Ironton making the trek to Trojan Coliseum for their 136th meeting in the lengthy history of the two programs.
All teams in the state of Ohio are eligible to compete in the OHSAA playoffs — following the OHSAA Board of Directors’ vote to approve the six-game shortened season in early August.
“Ironton is Division V state runner-up. I’ve said when people ask me, Ironton won the league last year, are state runners-up: they’re the team to beat,” Kalb said of the OVC race. Definitely not a team we’re going to take lightly with the pieces they have coming back. At the same time, we prepare, we take care of us and let the chips fall.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved