Spartans rebound with win over Rivermonsters

Alex Hider

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The difference between the Spartans of week six and the Spartans of week seven was as stark as night and day.

After a disappointing loss to their arch-rival Portsmouth Warriors on June 20, the Southern Ohio Spartans bounced back with a 49-6 win over the Zanesville Rivermonsters on Saturday evening at The Complex in West Portsmouth.

Two weeks ago, the Warrior defense consistently pushed the Spartan offensive line back, limiting Southern Ohio to negative three rushing yards throughout the game. Looking to reestablish their rushing attack, the Spartans tweaked their game plan coming into Saturday’s contest with the Rivermonsters.

“We changed our offense up a little bit to feature Duke Edwards. He’s a powerful, straight ahead north and south runner,” Spartans coach Michael Parker said. “We had to add some plays in there to get him going north to south instead of east to west.”

Edwards rose to the challenge. Southern Ohio’s leading rusher added to his already robust total, gaining over 100 yards in Saturday’s game. The result was the Spartans’ highest point total since they defeated the West Virginia Tar Heels 68-6 on June 13.

Spartan running back LJ Adams also eclipsed the 100 yard mark in Saturday’s game against the Rivermonsters. Parker credited the improvement to his offensive line and a revised blocking scheme.

“We just tried to make the blocking scheme a bit simpler, so the lineman were just reacting instead of thinking,” he said.

Saturday’s win was the Spartans’ second over the Rivermonsters this year, but came in a completely different way. In the Spartans’ 36-0 win in Zanesville in May, it was Southern Ohio’s passing game that was the star.

The one constant in the two wins was solid play by the Spartan defense. On Saturday, the Spartans forced two turnovers and limited the Rivermonsters to just a single score. Southern Ohio has allowed an average of just three points in the two games against Zanesville this season.

Parker said that Zanesville crept into Spartan red zone multiple times on Saturday, but an aggressive defensive mentality kept the Rivermonsters out of the end zone for the majority of the game.

“There were people just flying to the ball,” Parker said. “People make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. But if you fly to the ball, you cut down on those mistakes.”

With the win, the Spartans improve to 5-3 and 4-2 in Blue Collar Football League play. The win also gave them a half-game boost in the Eastern Conference Blue Division standings, as the Spartans now sit just two games behind the idle Warriors. With four league games remaining, the Spartans are well within striking distance for a playoff spot.

All BCFL teams will take a bye for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend. The Spartans will then return to action on July 11, when they travel to Summerville to face the West Virginia Storm.

“We’re giving the fellas the week off to enjoy the holiday with their families, but starting next Wednesday, it’s back to business. We have to build on the win we had last Saturday,” Parker said.

“We just have to focus on getting better.”

Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter