PORTSMOUTH — With rivalry games, you can indeed throw records out the window.
And, with West “hosting” Portsmouth this week in Roy Rogers country, you can throw the records out the front, back and side doors as well.
That’s because, for the second consecutive week to open the season, the West Senators are playing a “home” game away from their true home of “The Rock” —which is nearing completion of its artificial turf surface project.
But, this is no ordinary week for either the Senators or the Portsmouth Trojans —which renew their annual week-two football rivalry bout on Saturday night.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., as this season’s contest takes place at Northwest High School —and sparkling Roy Rogers Field.
A week ago, the Trojans allowed the Senators to play host to Fairland on Saturday night —as Portsmouth played host to the Valley Indians on Thursday night.
Portsmouth posted an opening 35-3 rolling of the Indians on the strength of 35 second-half points, while West saw its 27-14 lead with 17 minutes and 53 seconds remaining evaporate into a heartbreaking 28-27 loss.
Both coaching staffs scouted the other as a result of playing on different nights in Trojan Coliseum, but again, no matter the records —rivalry games are the ultimate wild cards.
Especially this season —at a truly neutral Northwest High School.
“It’s Portsmouth and West, and Portsmouth and West will always be a tough hard-fought game. We’ve had some battles throughout the years, and no doubt this year it’s not going to be any different,” said fourth-year PHS coach Bruce Kalb. “They (Senators) are going to be very tough and they have a lot of playmakers back. They’ve had a lot of freshmen and sophomores the last two years, so now they are junior and senior-heavy.”
But so are the Trojans, as many of both sides’ returnees saw snaps in last season’s October matchup —which was added at the end of the season as a result of the coronavirus impact, and with both teams being out of the state playoffs at that point.
West won 37-24, as the young Senators finished at 6-4 — and the Trojans at 2-7.
“It will help, but we still have several new guys on the field for the first time against them,” said first-year West coach Todd Gilliland.
One not “new” guy is Portsmouth senior quarterback Drew Roe, who is starting his third Portsmouth and West meeting.
While West won last year’s game, Roe racked up 30 pass attempts, a hat trick of touchdown passes and 272 yards on 19 completions —while rushing 15 times for 25 yards and a score.
Against Valley last week, Roe —the first-team all-Southeast District quarterback and thrower for over 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns last year —picked up from where he left off, amassing strikingly similar numbers with 18 completions on 31 attempts for 218 yards and three more TDs.
He completed touchdown strikes for 27 yards to Reade Pendleton, and a pair to senior Dariyonne Bryant for 36 and 20.
Both Trojans caught six passes apiece (Pendleton for 94 yards and Bryant for 80 yards), as Jayden Duncan made five receptions.
Gilliland knows the dual run-pass threat the speedy Roe and his wideouts present, as West faced Fairland —which is similar to the Trojans in their ability to strike quickly.
No play was more obvious than the Dragons’ go-ahead and ultimately game-winning touchdown with 5:13 remaining —a 68-yard hookup over the middle from Fairland quarterback Peyton Jackson to Zander Schmidt.
“They’ve (Trojans) got speed everywhere. Very dangerous. Fairland is the type of team that can score from anywhere at anytime, and so can Portsmouth. You can’t let down on any play,” explained Gilliland. “They can do so many things with Roe. Having a quarterback that can run can cause issues. It makes it a lot tougher. Now you have to defend everyone. Some teams you don’t have to defend the quarterback, but in this case, he can take it to the house from any spot on the field. He is as fast as anybody out there. He can run around and extend plays that causes teams a lot of problems. We have to make tackles in space, limit the big plays and when and if they make mistakes, you have to take full advantage of it.”
One way West can neutralize the Trojans’ athleticism and speed —don’t let them have the ball.
Look for the Senators — which put together an 11-play, five-first down, five-and-a-half minute and 55-yard first-half scoring drive against the Dragons —to play ball control and attempt to consume the clock.
West, with a 27-21 advantage against the Dragons, drove another 15 plays and devoured actually eight minutes and 51 seconds off the second-half clock —but unfortunately didn’t finish that march off, which began at its own 27-yard-line and ended up just outside the red zone.
A critical illegal-procedure penalty pushed the Senators back from 3rd-down-and-6 to 3rd-and-11 at the Dragons’ 24, where they turned the ball over on downs with 5:45 remaining.
Two players later, Schmidt scorched them for the 68-yard touchdown.
The Senators also missed the extra point on their third TD —which later on loomed large.
“We played hard, gave great effort against Fairland. We just made one too many mistakes and they made one more good play,” said Gilliland.
Going forward, Gilliland said Saturday night’s loss can serve as character-defining for his young club.
“This will be a character game for us. Are we going to come back and regroup and work to get better, or are we going to sulk over this? That’s where we’re at,” he said. “Portsmouth is a good team and is going to be very tough, and we have to be really prepared for them.”
As for the Trojans, Kalb said his squad needs to match the Senators’ physicality.
While Portsmouth wore Valley down with its depth and numbers advantage, West will almost equal the Trojans in roster size —and will surely bring a physical, hard-nosed brand of football to the kitchen table.
Kalb is well-aware of what West will likely try, as Ryan Sissel secured 23 carries for 112 rushing yards against the Dragons — part of 41 rushes and 159 ground yards as a team.
“We took from last year’s game that their physicality took over the second half, and we have to know they are going to be very physical again this year,” he said.
The Trojans, for better or worse, will have two extra days of preparation time compared to the Senators —since Portsmouth played on Thursday night and West two nights later.
But Kalb said that, even after the second-half performance against the Indians, complacency is NOT in his Trojans’ vocabulary.
“We go into each week with the mentality that we have to get better. I love that out of this senior class,” said the coach. “We want to take away from each win that we get that it is a great win, but we have to get better and not get complacent.”
Of course, it’s probably difficult to become such with a front-running rivalry game —which is what Portsmouth and West will be all about on Saturday night.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved