PORTSMOUTH — There was indeed lightning in and around at the opening, and for the conclusion, of Friday night’s football game between the visiting West Senators and Portsmouth Trojans.
In between, though — and all throughout the final two-and-a-half quarters — there was plenty of Senator thunder.
That’s because West rallied from an 18-7 second-stanza deficit, scored 30 of the game’s final 36 points, pitched an impressive second-half shutout, and ultimately captured a 37-24 victory inside eventual rain-soaked Trojan Coliseum.
With the win, the young Senators assured themselves of at least a .500 season — raising their record to 5-4, and with one final game to be played against visiting Hillsboro on Saturday night (Oct. 31).
But, it was an early Halloween for the Orange and Black on Friday, as the Senators’ spooky second-half defense did not allow a single solitary Portsmouth point.
In fact, the Trojans only ran 18 second-half plays, gained only one yard on 10 Drew Roe rushes, and amounted only 82 yards for the entire half.
In erupting for an early 18-7 second-quarter advantage, and trailing just 28-24 at halftime, the Trojans tallied 228 yards on 31 plays —which included 22 pass attempts and 191 Roe passing yards with a dozen first downs.
But while Roe was involved in all 18 second-half Portsmouth plays, including 81 passing yards on 6-of-8 attempts, the junior quarterback ran for his life from Senator pursuers —until they finally tracked him down and tackled him.
On his final carry, and on the Trojans’ final offensive snap of the season, Senator seniors Carl Howard and Eli Tilley tackled Roe in the end zone for a sack — and a game-clinching safety.
That made it 37-24 with only two minutes and 43 seconds to play, as the Senators received the free kick and took two kneel-downs —all right before an anticipated storm cell swooped in and parked itself over-top of Trojan Coliseum.
How fitting, for the Senators were all over Roe for the final 30 minutes and 26 seconds — aside from a 47-yard big-play touchdown pass from Roe to Amare Johnson with just three seconds left before halftime.
“That was the topic of our postgame celebration. Just hats off to our defense for shutting them out in the second half, and to our physicality and conditioning,” said West coach Ben Johnson. “Portsmouth has been an outstanding offensive team all season and has put up a lot of points. We were able to make enough plays to come out on top.”
The Senators almost lost that second-half shutout only three plays into it, when Roe completed a deep slant pass to Michael Duncan — who was off to the races for a 51-yard pickup, and all the way down to the Senators’ 8-yard line.
But from there, West forced four Roe runs —the second of which resulted in a 9-yard loss on a sack and the final of which was a 2-yard loss for a turnover on downs.
“You can’t get down that far into the red zone and come up empty-handed like that,” said Portsmouth coach Bruce Kalb.
With West still leading 28-24, Johnson explained that defensive stop was a critical confidence booster for his young club.
“They came right out and hit a big pass play on us, but that showed our guys had a lot of heart and guts to get that stop inside the 10, which was basically a goal-line stand,” said the coach. “Just for momentum and mentally at that point, to make that big stop, it gave our guys confidence. We started rolling from there.”
The next Trojan possession resulted in three more Roe runs and a punt —which, combined with a 15-yard Portsmouth personal-foul penalty, set up West in business at the 40.
The Senators scored six plays and three minutes and 21 seconds later with 18 tics left in the third —as Jeffery Bishop took a reverse to his left, and converted a 4th-down-and-3 for a 23-yard touchdown run.
West kicker Caleb Hazelbaker, who went a perfect 5-of-5 on extra-point kicks, hit his final to make it 35-24.
The next Portsmouth possession pushed over two-and-a-half minutes into the fourth quarter, but after moving from their 33 to the Senators’ 38, the Trojans turned the ball over on downs again.
West then burned the fourth-quarter clock with its next series, driving 11 plays in exactly six-and-a-half minutes —and marching from its own 38 all the way down to the goal line with a 28-yard pass to Bishop from Mitchell Irwin.
While West didn’t score on the possession, the Trojans took over in terrible field position —as a block-in-the-back penalty on their second snap negated what they gained from a pass interference flag on their first.
Finally, facing 1st-down-and-23 from his own 5, Roe ran into the end zone to elude the Senator on-rush —but Howard and Tilley took him down for the final two points.
While the safety slammed the door on the second-half shutout, West turning two Trojan turnovers into points turned the first-half tide.
“Our defense late in the first half forced a couple of turnovers and that’s what flipped the momentum for us and allowed us to take the lead into halftime,” said Johnson. “We had shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times early on as well, so we were able to overcome that by making some big plays with our defense.”
After West went 10 plays and 54 yards, and scored on an eight-yard Irwin keeper to get within 18-14 with Hazelbaker’s second extra point, Bishop intercepted Roe three plays later —and returned the ball to the Senator 48 at the second-quarter’s six-minute mark.
Five plays later, and on what was a successful play call all night, Irwin kept the rock up the middle —scoring from four yards away and with 3:46 left in the half.
Then two plays after that, a fumble on a Portsmouth handoff resulted in a Senator recovery at the Trojans’ 20 —as Irwin then threw for his only touchdown, which was a 16-yarder to Luke Bradford with two minutes to play.
All of the sudden, the Senators found themselves leading 28-18 with Hazelbaker’s fourth extra point.
“We knew Coach Johnson was going to have his kids well-prepared for the offense that we run. But like most games, it comes down to who makes the least amount of mistakes and who can capitalize off their opponents’ mistakes,” said Kalb. “And we had crucial mistakes tonight.”
Johnson said his Senators showed no worry when down 18-7 — only a minute and seven seconds into the second quarter.
The Trojans scored all 18 consecutive, including two TDs — a Roe run and a 39-yard Roe connection with Dariyonne Bryant —within 58 seconds of each other early in the second period.
“It was still so early in the game at that point. There was plenty of time left and we didn’t need to abandon the gameplan. We wanted to possess the ball and control the line of scrimmage,” said Johnson. “We stuck to the plan.”
That plan pertained to being physical against the Trojans and running the football with precision —which they often did with 206 rushing yards on 48 attempts.
Ryan Sissel easily amounted game-highs in carries (22) and yards (124), as Irwin added 24 yards with a hat trick of short rushing scores.
Irwin also completed 8-of-11 passes for 136 yards, but benefited greatly from the quarterback sneak play —which netted more than the run-of-the-mill one yard.
Following the Trojans’ second second-half turnover on downs, Irwin erupted for 19 yards on one such carry —on the first play of West’s 11-play fourth-quarter series.
His first keeper — a three-yard plunge with only 2:52 gone by — capped a quick six-play drive to begin things, as Irwin escaped and fired downfield to Bradford for a 46-yard hookup on the game’s first play.
“Our kids just love doing that and they take pride in being able to execute that play (QB sneak). It’s been something that’s been effective for us for a long time. We did enough to stay balanced to where they (Trojans) couldn’t focus on one thing or the other,” said Johnson. “Mitchell (Irwin) did a good job of making some big plays in the throwing game to keep us balanced enough where we weren’t too predictable.”
Meanwhile, for the Trojans, West knows Roe throws.
The standout signal-caller threw 30 passes and completed 19 for 272 yards and three touchdowns, as all three scores covered at least 21 yards — starting with Reade Pendleton’s first-quarter reception that got the Trojans to within 7-6.
Roe rushed for 25 yards on 15 attempts, as five pass-catchers —including Johnson (five for 97 yards), Bryant (six for 61 yards), Duncan (three for 73 yards) and Pendleton (three for 28 yards) — made three receptions apiece.
The Trojans were once again, for the fourth straight and final time, impacted negatively by the kicking game —as placekicker Joel Bowling returned but had his only point-after attempt get blocked.
Portsmouth tried for two-point plays following his other three touchdowns —and converted none of them.
“We were a little gunshy after they blocked that first PAT. No extra points tonight, and when you’re leaving those kinds of points out there, it hurts,” said Kalb. “Had we got those four extra points, it could have been a very different half than what it was.”
Failed two-point plays also played key roles in the Trojans’ two losses against Gallia Academy (18-12 in overtime) and at Northwest (21-20) —the latter of which was Portsmouth’s playoff game this year.
The Trojans finished 2-7, and bid farewell to 13 seniors.
“I’m proud of these seniors. They didn’t give up, no matter at what point the game was. Even when it took a turn for the worse in that second half, they continued to fight against a very physical West team,” said Kalb. “Our kids battled to the end, they left it all on the field, and I couldn’t be more proud of them for that. These seniors showed these underclassmen what it was like to never quit. We had four straight weeks where we lost basically one-score games. I appreciate their leadership this year, and they kept this team on task and focused to get better and to win games.”
Which improving and winning more games is something the Senators have definitely done this fall.
And, they will have one final opportunity for a winning record come next Saturday night.
“We won two games last year and had a lot of young guys playing. To see the progression we have made throughout the season has been outstanding,” said Johnson. “We’ve had great leadership from our older players, and the younger players have just kept working hard and gotten better each week. It gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”
* * *
West 37, Portsmouth 24
West 7 21 7 2 —37
PHS 6 18 0 0 —24
W— Mitchell Irwin, 3-yard run (Caleb Hazelbaker kick), 9:08, 1st (7-0 W)
P— Reade Pendleton, 21-yard pass from Drew Roe (kick blocked), 7;41, 1st (7-6 W)
P— Drew Roe, 1-yard run (pass failed), 11:51, 2nd (12-7 P)
P— Dariyonne Bryant, 39-yard pass from Drew Roe (pass failed), 10:53, 2nd (18-7 P)
W— Mitchell Irwin, 8-yard run (Caleb Hazelbaker kick), 6:26, 2nd (18-14 P)
W— Mitchell Irwin, 4-yard run (Caleb Hazelbaker kick), 3:46, 2nd (21-18 W)
W — Luke Bradford, 16-yard pass from Mitchell Irwin (Caleb Hazelbaker kick), 1:57, 2nd (28-18 W)
P — Amare Johnson, 47-yard pass from Drew Roe (run failed), :03, 2nd (28-24 W)
W— Jeffery Bishop, 23-yard run (Caleb Hazelbaker kick), :18, 3rd (35-24 W)
W— Safety, QB sack in end zone, 2:43, 4th (37-24 W)
First downs 21 17
Plays from scrimmage 60 49
Rushes-yards 48-206 19-38
Passing yards 136 272
Total yards 342 310
Cmp-Att-Int. 8-12-0 19-30-1
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 5-59 5-53
Punts-Ave. 2-31.5 2-32.5
RUSHING —West: Ryan Sissel 22-124, Mitchell Irwin 16-24 3TD, Jeffery Bishop 6-30 TD, Carl Howard 3-18, Ashton Klaiber 1-10; Portsmouth: Drew Roe 15-25 TD, Amare Johnson 1-15, Reade Pendleton 1-8, Christian Keys 1-(-1), Team 1-(-9)
PASSING — West: Mitchell Irwin 8-11-0-136 TD, Jeffery Bishop 0-1-0-0; Portsmouth: Drew Roe 19-30-1-272 3TD
RECEIVING —West: Luke Bradford 2-62 TD, Andrew Jones 3-27, Jeffery Bishop 1-27, Cole Tipton 1-12, Ashton Klaiber 1-8; Portsmouth: Dariyonne Bryant 6-61 TD, Amare Johnson 5-97 TD, Michael Duncan 3-73, Reade Pendleton 3-28 TD, Chris Duff 2-13
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved