WEST PORTSMOUTH — Under new but familiar leadership, the Portsmouth West Senators football program wants to continue striving toward goals it has had previous seasons.
These include preparing to win every regular season game, contend in their conference championship race, and qualify for the OHSAA football playoffs.
In former coach Ben Johnson’s final season last fall, the Senators completed a full 10-game schedule despite a COVID shortened season, won a game in the OHSAA playoffs, and finished with a winning record.
With a large returning group after graduating just six seniors, first-year West coach Todd Gilliland relayed the importance of last year’s team completing a full season’s worth of contests.
“It was huge for us to get all 10 in,” Gilliland said. “We had a lot of freshman and sophomores on the field, to get those reps for our younger guys was huge coming into this season.”
Gilliland left his position as West’s offensive and defensive line coach to accept the program’s head coaching position, leaving the Senators’ primary strength position to the hands of longtime area coach Ted Newsome.
Up front on both sides, West returns senior linemen Gabe Meyers and Tucker Spriggs, as well as two-year starter juniors Carson Horner and Wyatt Weghorst.
“I think we have a really good core at the line. Gabe Meyers will anchor the line. He’s been around and he’s been through everything the past couple of years. Another senior Tucker Spriggs has put in the work in the weight room. Juniors like Carson Horner and Wyatt Weghorst who have started for two years either on offense or defense. Coach Newsome has been a great pickup for us and has done a great job with him — there’s no one better at coaching the line not just in our area, I would put him up against anyone anywhere.”
Two year starting quarterback in junior Mitchell Irwin will continue taking snaps for West’s offense this fall with several returning weapons who have produced at a high-level in their early varsity experience.
Irwin threw for 14 touchdowns and ran for eight more in his sophomore season with a 58.2-percent completion percentage.
Jeffery Bishop — a standout freshman a season ago — caught 19 passes from Irwin for 419 yards and a team-high six receiving touchdowns. Bishop also ran for three more touchdowns and 233 yards on the ground.
Ryan Sissel carried the ball 47 times a season ago for 269 yards for a 5.7 yards per carry average.
These are among the names Gilliland expects to produce more yardage on the offensive side of the ball this fall.
“The good thing with our skill position guys is that we’re still young,” Gilliland said. “We’re a mix of one senior and the rest are juniors and sophomores, mostly sophomore laden. So there’s still a lot to be excited for from them.”
One position of interest the Senators are looking to build in their run-up to the start of the season is the defensive end.
The graduation of two collegiate-bound defensive linemen in Luke Wroten and Eli Tilley and all-Ohio defensive back Luke Bradford has left somewhat of a void that Gilliland and his fellow coaches will be hoping to fill.
“Key for us will be at the defensive end position, trying to find a couple of guys who can step up and play,” Gilliland said. “We’ve got our whole linebacker core back and besides losing one, we have our entire defensive backfield back.”
West’s non-league schedule includes home games against Fairland and Portsmouth and road trips to face Adena, Wellston and KIPP Columbus.
The Senators begin SOC II play with home games against Waverly and Minford followed by a road trip to Valley in week eight.
West will host Oak Hill on Senior Night in week nine before travelling to Wheelersburg for their rivalry game with the Pirates.
“The kids have put in the effort — couldn’t ask for more of them. You can feel the excitement and there’s some buzz about them. They want to build off the things we did at the end of last season.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved