PORTSMOUTH — Now this is called making seriously something —out of what was originally nothing only three days ago.
But life is all about making it work out — somehow and some way — and consider the rich rewards the impromptu football marriage between the Portsmouth Trojans and Waverly Tigers will reap from Friday night.
That’s because, with the undefeated Trojans (4-0) and host Tigers (3-0), somebody —as a result of this colossal contest put together on mid-week Wednesday —is simply going to hit a computer points playoff jackpot.
Thanks to coronavirus-related cancellations involving their respective original opponents, Portsmouth (Gallia Academy) and Waverly (Washington Court House) will meet in a non-league encounter come Friday —with undefeated records, playoff points aplenty, and even U.S. Route 23 bragging rights on the line.
In what didn’t even exist as of Wednesday morning, Portsmouth and Waverly —with rapidly-growing observer interest by the hour —will kick off at 7 p.m., inside what should be a rocking Raidiger Field.
In interviews on Wednesday with both coaches, who were once assistants together at Waverly, Portsmouth coach Bruce Kalb and Waverly coach Chris Crabtree are glad the two clubs could meet each other in the proverbial middle.
Of the week that is, as the Tigers —which had road shows canceled on them by Frontier Athletic Conference members Chillicothe last week and Washington Court House on Monday —got the home game for their fifth this year.
While Waverly was without a game from Monday morning until Wednesday afternoon, the Trojans found out at that time that their Ohio Valley Conference foe for this week —Gallia Academy —was forced to cancel by order of the Gallia County Health Department, and in response to that county’s coronavirus situation.
So the PHS Athletic Department, including Kalb and Portsmouth Athletic Director Joe Albrecht, dialed up Waverly and Crabtree —and made the game official in a matter of an hour-and-a-half.
Truth be told, both sides players’ —particularly their seniors — signed up originally for 10 regular-season games, and deserved to be playing on Friday night.
Already, along Internet message boards, it’s become a much-anticipated and highly-discussed matchup.
“It’s a day-and-a-half of preparation, but my seniors came out this year and have worked their butts off to be able to play 10 games,” said Kalb. “We had an opportunity to pick up a Waverly team that is pretty darn good this year. But at the same time, I think we’re playing some pretty good football ourselves. This game makes sense for us. Having your kids sit idle is never a good thing. Their kids were looking at two straight weeks off. The kids on both sides want to play, so we’re excited about playing and getting the chance to play them. These kids are up to this challenge.”
“Our kids are excited about playing again, and us getting a home game. It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” said Crabtree. “Everybody is going to get to play another week, and this should be a good game and good competition.”
Crabtree said he was disappointed by Chillicothe’s cancellation of that game, and as of Tuesday night, began to prepare as if his Tigers would be unfortunately forced to sit idle for a second consecutive week.
Then the phone rang, and it was his friend Kalb on the other end.
“Up until about yesterday (Tuesday), I was resigned to the fact that we were going to be off again. Fortunately, this is a game that came up for us,” said Crabtree. “Coach (Bruce) Kalb and I are friends and we have coached together, and by already scrimmaging them before, there was already some familiarity and preparation, even if we’re taking the game this late in the week. We felt like this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”
Speaking of passing, these two teams have put up eye-popping offensive statistics —both team and individually.
The Trojans have wasted very few possessions this season, scoring 166 total points and at least three offensive touchdowns — part of five overall — in each game.
Portsmouth senior quarterback Drew Roe, after an over 2,500-yard and 29-touchdown season in 2020, has only expanded upon those numbers this year —completing 73 of his 111 attempts in four games, for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns against only three interceptions.
He has also rushed 46 times for 207 yards, with nine touchdowns.
He was easily a first-team all-Southeast District Division V offensive selection last season —as is among the frontrunners for Division V Offensive Player of the Year in the district this year.
“With Drew Roe and some good skilled kids, we’ve put up some numbers ourselves this year,” said Kalb.
And, Crabtree and the Tigers are indeed aware.
“They are super athletic at the quarterback position and their receivers. He (Roe) is going to make plays happen, extend plays, and they (receivers) do a good job of getting in Roe’s sight when he moves around. That’s something that we have to do a better job of, and something we learned from the scrimmage,” he said. “When you have teams of their capability, they can score at any moment with missed tackles here and there, because their athletes are so good. Both offenses are going to be aggressive, and hopefully, we can get some stops when we need to, and get our offense back on the field.”
For the Tigers, senior quarterback Wade Futhey — through three games —has been just as good, taking over for the graduated Haydn’ Shanks and completing 54-of-73 for 940 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Six separate Tigers have caught at least three passes for 33 yards, as three wideouts —with twin brother and second-team Division IV all-Ohioan Will Futhey being one of them — have made at least 13 receptions for 197.
But where Waverly has improved in running the ball, with Jace Hurd hitting paydirt five times on 51 carries and 348 yards, so too has the Trojans’ overall defense —especially in not allowing a rushing touchdown all year.
In August, the two squared off in an Ohio High School Athletic Association Jamboree bout, which is a two-quarter preseason scrimmage.
Waverly won that 42-21, but of course, it was preseason —with both teams holding players out and not showing their full hands of cards.
Kalb said the Trojans’ defense has dramatically improved since then, but was victimized by the Tigers for lengthy and quick-strike scoring plays.
“We were very vanilla on offense in that Jamboree game, but we know the playmakers they have. When you have a team that has the athletes which Waverly has, we need to force them to put together long sustained drives. We felt we gave up too many big plays to them in that (Jamboree). We can’t let them get cheap 60, 70 or 80-yard touchdowns off blown coverages or missed tackles,” said the coach. “We want to make them earn every inch they get, offensively speaking. Our defense has come a long ways since the beginning of the season, and we made a lot of adjustments since that game that have served us well.”
Now, these Trojans need to come a long way with a short amount of preparation time —to try and contain the athletic, talented and highly-touted Tigers.
“We want to keep their offense off the field, just as much as they want to keep our offense off the field,” said Kalb. “Ball control, capitalizing on turnovers, and time of possession should all be interesting factors in this game. Both teams like to score a lot of points and do so quickly. This might be the longest game in southern Ohio with as much as we both throw the ball.”
But, no matter the game’s length —or growing anticipation because it’s two undefeateds with plenty of playoff points at stake — both squads still get to play on Friday night.
“I’m happy that our kids still get the opportunity to play football this week,” said Kalb. “It’s a lot better than them sitting at home lamenting about not playing.”
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