PORTSMOUTH — A first-half defensive slugfest turned into a one-sided affair.
And just like that, the 2021 football season for southern Ohio teams is underway.
The 10-week dead sprint through the regular season began on Thursday night with Portsmouth and Valley meeting for the ninth time since 2012 to open each teams’ regular seasons — and for the first time since 2019.
Portsmouth, after being shut out on the scoreboard in the first half, scored 35 second-half points and claimed its fifth straight victory over the Indians by a score of 35-3 — with its best defensive performance during its current five-win stretch against its northern neighbors.
Yes, the Trojans kept Valley outside of the end zone on Thursday, edging a prior defensive performance in a 35-7 win over the Indians in 2017.
Portsmouth forced three Valley turnovers (one interception, two lost fumbles), and held the Indians to just 73 yards on 42 carries.
That included a fourth-quarter play that featured a 31-yard Valley loss on a high-snapped punt that resulted in a scoop and score by junior Beau Hammond.
That score was capped by Zach Roth’s fifth-made extra point, giving the Trojans their final-score lead at 35-3 — and began the OHSAA’s running clock for the final 7:03 of the game.
Portsmouth coach Bruce Kalb and Valley coach Darren Crabtree both said the Trojans’ defensive front played a big factor in limiting Valley’s offensive attack on the ground.
“We thought our defense might wear down, but they kept going at. We were really proud of James Thurman, Brenden Truett, those down four we had a good rotation. Cooper Maxie, Hayden Griffith, both the Poxes brothers, Jayvon Zurborg and Jalen Jones,” Kalb said. “That was something we were happy to see with our rotations and being able to limit their runs.”
“Their two defensive tackles did a great job of disrupting our offense. We weren’t able to get to their linebackers sometimes when we were trying to run the football,” Crabtree said. “They did a good job of stopping us running in the second half and forced us to throw the ball, at times we did well at times not so well.”
Valley led at halftime 3-0 — after senior Chase Ruby’s 26-yard field goal on the south end of Trojan Coliseum as first-half time expired.
A first-quarter interception by senior Dariyonne Bryant of Indians’ junior quarterback Carter Nickel, and a blocked field-goal attempt from the PHS 26-yard line, stalled two of Valley’s first-half drives that would have given the Indians one — or possibly two more scores.
“I liked the fact that we were ahead at half, but we missed two other scoring opportunities,” Crabtree said. “Get down inside the 20 and throw a pick in the first quarter and have a blocked field goal in the second quarter. Second half couldn’t get anything offensively and with the fatigue, it became difficult to get into any kind of rhythm.”
Portsmouth’s defense kept it in the game long enough so that when its offense did get going, taking the game’s momentum was all it could do.
A 27-yard pass by senior quarterback Drew Roe to Reade Pendleton just 48 seconds into the second half gave the Trojans their first lead at 7-3.
The play was set up by a kickoff return by Donavan Carr to the Valley 22.
Hammond split the Indian defense for his first touchdown on the night, zooming to the end zone with relative ease on a 38-yard run with 6:02 left in the third quarter — extending Portsmouth’s lead to 14-3.
“The way we run our offense, we call a play, but Drew Roe has options of where to go with the ball,” Kalb said. “As Roe goes left and right down the field, Beau (Hammond) went straight up the gut to put a lot of momentum in our favor.”
A pair of touchdown catches by Bryant — a 36-yarder with 51 seconds left in the third and a 20-yarder with 7:39 left in the game — added to Portsmouth’s offensive attack.
Bryant pulled in six receptions for 80 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
He was second only to Pendleton, who caught six passes for 94 yards and a touchdown, in receiving yardage in Thursday’s win.
Jayden Duncan had five catches for 34 yards in the victory.
“That’s the type of performance we know he (Bryant) is capable of. Those two catches and the interception were humongous,” Kalb said. “I think teams start focusing on Reade, big performance in our scrimmage last week, and that leaves our other guys to make plays. Jayden Duncan had some key, quick screens to keep the chains moving.”
Roe completed 18 passes on 31 attempts for 218 yards and three touchdowns, and an interception in Valley territory that set up Ruby’s field goal to end the first half.
Colton Buckle, who stepped in front of Roe’s pass along the sidelines, covered 73 yards in that pickoff return.
Valley will open its home schedule next Friday — when it welcomes Coal Grove to Lucasville for another non-league affair.
Coal Grove hosted Berne Union on Friday night, and with eight days to prepare, Crabtree is confident his team will show its resilience and bounce-back ability.
“It’s a good, quality bunch of kids that won’t drop their head for very long,” Crabtree said. “They’re going to fight back and open up at home against Coal Grove next week.”
In a game that was a script-flip on the offensive side, the constant was the Trojans’ defense for all 48 minutes.
“One thing we take pride in is we’re going to give you 48 minutes of everything we have, defense definitely did that tonight,” Kalb said. “We changed up how we play defense where we have smaller, lower center of gravity on the D-line. Watching those break down, get parallel to the line of scrimmage — that’s textbook.”
Portsmouth will play West next Saturday (Aug. 28) night at 7 p.m. — at Northwest High School’s Roy Rogers Field.
The game is being moved to McDermott due to the fact that the soon-to-be completed West turf surface is not expected to be finished by game time next week.
* * *
Valley 0 3 0 0 —3
Portsmouth 0 0 21 14 — 35
V — Chase Ruby, 26-yard field goal, :00, 2nd (3-0 V)
P — Reade Pendleton, 27-yard pass from Drew Roe (Zach Roth kick), 11:12, 3rd (7-3 P)
P — Beau Hammond, 38-yard run (Zach Roth kick), 6:02, 3rd (14-3 P)
P — Dariyonne Bryant, 36-yard pass from Drew Roe (Zach Roth kick), :51, (21-3 P)
P — Dariyonne Bryant, 20-yard pass from Drew Roe (Zach Roth kick), 7:39, 4th (28-3 P)
P— Beau Hammond, 9-yard fumble recovery (Zach Roth kick), 7:03, 4th (35-3 P)
First downs 13 12
Scrimmage plays 62 44
Rushes-yards 42-73 13-44
Passing yards 64 218
Total yards 137 262
Cmp-Att-Int. 9-20-1 18-31-1
Fumbles-lost 4-2 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-58 13-106
Punts-Ave 5-32.8 3-30.7
RUSHING —Valley: Chase Morrow 14-61, George Arnett 16-35, Carter Nickel 10-17, Team 2-(-40); Portsmouth: Beau Hammond 4-44 TD, Amare Johnson 5-12, Nick Copley 1-1, Drew Roe 3-(-13)
PASSING — Valley: Carter Nickel 9-20-1-64; Portsmouth: Drew Roe 18-31-1-218 3TD
RECEIVING — Valley: Hunter Edwards 4-30, Justin Moore 1-24, Chase Morrow 1-7, Colton Buckle 1-7, George Arnett 2-(-4); Portsmouth: Reade Pendleton 6-94 TD, Dariyonne Bryant 6-80 2TD, Jayden Duncan 5-34, Donavan Carr 1-10
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