PORTSMOUTH — Simply put, so much for a Thursday night shootout inside Trojan Coliseum— as the Portsmouth Trojans’ defense indeed came to play.
Not to mention their special teams chipped in, and of course, the Trojans’ Drew Roe-led offense put up points — and approached pinball passing yardage numbers.
However, the Trojans’ defense did in fact keep the visiting Valley Indians out of the end zone —allowing only a last-second first-half field goal as the Trojans rolled the Indians 35-3 by erupting for 35 second-half points.
All 35, prior to the enforcement of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule for the final seven minutes, were scored in a matter of 17.
But Portsmouth lighting up the scoreboard, and the senior standout quarterback Roe racking up over 200 yards (18-of-31 for 218 yards and three touchdowns) passing, is not out of the ordinary in recent seasons.
The Trojans’ trials have rested with their ability to stop squads, especially their running attacks, as the Indians attempted to establish early the line of scrimmage —and play ball-control and consume the clock.
But following a 14-play four-first down, seven-and-a-half minute drive which began at Valley’s 30-yard-line and actually marched all the way to the Trojans’ 10, Dariyonne Bryant intercepted Indian quarterback Carter Nickel near the 5-yard-line.
That set the tone and sparked the Trojans’ defensively for the remainder of Thursday night, and proved Portsmouth could bear down and play some defense.
Portsmouth head coach Bruce Kalb called out his charges’ names.
“We figured (Valley) Coach (Darren) Crabtree would come in with a gameplan of trying to play keep-away. But our defense, despite our fears of possibly wearing down, just kept going at it and going at it. We were really proud of (linebackers) James Thurman and Brenden Truett, and those down four (linemen) we had a good rotation between Cooper Maxie, Hayden Griffith, both the Poxes (Alberto and Leo) brothers, Jayvon Zurborg and Jalen Jones,” said Kalb. “That was something we were happy to see with our rotations and being able to limit their runs. We’ve changed up how we play defensive line this year, going with the faster, smaller kid with a lower center of gravity. All of that work we put in during the offseason, to watch it in play, it was amazing to see.”
The ground-first approach by the Indians only produced 73 yards on 42 total carries, which of course averages out for less than two yards per rush.
Nickel, who had the Indians’ longest run of the night for 13 yards, completed 9-of-20 passes for only 64 yards —with tight end Justin Moore making the longest reception gainer for 24 as part of that opening drive.
Portsmouth forced five Valley punts, and more importantly two turnovers on special teams.
The second, with the Trojans leading 28-3, occurred in the fourth quarter — when a Valley punt attempt sailed way high over punter Dakota Secrest’s head.
At first, it was a 31-yard team loss for the Indians, but Beau Hammond had the presence of mind to scoop the football up at the 9-yard-line — and run it in to make it 35-3 with Zach Roth’s fifth of five extra-point kicks.
Typical Trojan defenses in recent memory have been unable to get key stops —let alone force turnovers, and even score off them.
Portsmouth put all that together in seemingly one fell swoop on Thursday.
“That was a big thing. The interception early, the snap over the head on the punt to give us a defensive score near the end, those were critical plays and we were really pleased,” said Kalb. “You look at the score 35-3, had it not been for that pick and long return, then they probably don’t even get the three.”
Kalb was referring to the Indians’ only score — which was the result of Roe’s only real mistake of the entire game.
Inside of 30 first-half seconds and with the Trojans at Valley’s 12, Colton Buckle stepped directly in front of a Roe pass right along the sidelines —and scampered the other way 73 yards down to the Trojans’ 20.
Chase Ruby, with time expiring in the opening half, kicked a 26-yard field goal for Valley’s only points — and a 3-0 lead.
From there, though, as NewFound Glory once sang, it was “all downhill from here.”
Portsmouth’s depth and defense got in the Indians’ backfield in the second half, as Valley —with only 31 players on its roster —wore down as the Trojans turned the heat up.
Valley only had four second-half rushing yards, thanks largely to two team losses totaling for 40.
Nickel threw for just 26 second-half yards, as he finished with 17 on the ground on 10 totes —joining George Arnett (16 carries for 35 yards) and Chase Morrow (14 carries for 61 yards) as the Indians’ only other ballcarriers.
Hunter Edwards was Valley’s top receiver with four receptions for 30 yards.
“Their two defensive tackles did a great job of disrupting our offense. We weren’t able to get to their linebackers. They took away our running game in the second half, forced us to try and throw, and fatigue and lack of depth on our end settled in,” said Valley coach Darren Crabtree. “Portsmouth made some nice adjustments and took away what we were doing well.”
Besides for the half-ending field goal, the Indians’ only other red zone appearances were on their opening two drives —the first of which was the Bryant interception with the second resulting in a blocked field-goal attempt.
For Valley, not being able to score was partly its own doing.
“We missed two good scoring opportunities in the first half. We throw the pick on the first drive and get the field goal blocked on the next drive,” said Crabtree. “That’s 10 points. We could have easily been up 13-0 at halftime. Then in the second half, we couldn’t get anything going offensively and we got really tired.”
So while Valley was right there and into it for 24 minutes, the Trojans’ defense was into it from the opening kickoff to closing whistle.
“One thing we take pride in is we’re going to give you 48 minutes of everything we have. The defense did that tonight. We were very introspective this offseason with the changes we needed to make, both defensively and even with special teams. We sold it to the kids,” said Kalb. “We told them if they don’t believe in the changes we’ve made before tonight, both on defense and in special teams, then you better believe after tonight. Their performance was hands down better than it’s been in a long time.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved