LUCASVILLE — They say that two out of three isn’t bad.
And, for the West Senators getting one out of four, they will take any and all “home” victories they can get.
That’s because, playing at Valley High School for the third consecutive week, the “host” Senators captured a second straight win on The Reservation —and finally won a “home” game for the first time in 2021.
The Senators scored the game’s first 49 points, including two returns for touchdowns by sophomore Jeffery Bishop —as West chopped down the offensively-struggling Oak Hill Oaks on Saturday night’s Senior Night by a decisive count of 56-7.
The Senators amounted 21 points apiece in quarters one and three, tacked on a touchdown and extra point apiece in periods two and four for 28 points in each half, and put the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule on the Oaks for the final 23 minutes and 37 seconds.
About the only issue was getting the game started, as there was a brief delay due to a problem with the chains following the opening kickoff.
But, West wasted little time taking it to the Oaks, as Bishop returned a punt 63 yards to paydirt following Oak Hill’s first possession.
From there, Ashton Klaiber kicked an onsides kick which was recovered by Mason Parker at the Oaks’ 46-yard-line —and West was already in business again.
Following four plays, and only a minute and seven seconds later, Klaiber caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Irwin —as the Senators’ rout of the overwhelming underdog Oaks was officially on.
With the win, the Senators raised their record to above .500 to 5-4 —and evened their Southern Ohio Conference Division II tally to 2-2.
Two weeks ago on Saturday night, West — plagued by five turnovers — lost to Minford 41-21 on the same Reservation, but returned there and won 12 days ago with a 44-14 victory over host Valley.
With West’s home field of “The Rock” undergoing renovations for and replacement to an artificial turf surface, the Senators switched an original home game against Waverly to Waverly’s Raidiger Field —sandwiched around “home” games against Fairland (at Portsmouth High School’s Trojan Coliseum) and Portsmouth (at Northwest High School’s Roy Rogers Field) and against Minford and Oak Hill at Valley High School.
So, and on Senior Night with the Senators honoring a half-dozen 12th-graders, it was nice to get a “home away from home” win.
“It was great for Senior Night. We got everyone involved and everyone got on the field and contributed. It was a good way to finish up our ‘home’ schedule, if you want to call it that,” said West coach Todd Gilliland. “We’re very grateful for Portsmouth, Northwest and especially Valley for helping us out and allowing us use of their fields. It was just a good night that we were able to execute and do the things we needed to do to take care of the job at hand.”
In the Senators’ four losses, too many mistakes —especially turnovers —have doomed them.
They turned the ball over once on Saturday night, but West’s defense forced two interceptions itself — including one ran back by Bishop for 42 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter.
Parker, in addition to his early onsides kick recovery, picked off Oak Hill quarterback Andy Meldick on the opening play of the second stanza.
The Senators forced the Oaks into six punts and for only a 16.7 yards per punt average —as all half-dozen of those possessions were three-and-outs.
Oak Hill had no first-half pass completions nor any first-half first downs, rushed 16 first-half times for minus-1 yards, and didn’t cross its own 40-yard-line let alone midfield until its second-half scoring drive.
And, that was against the Senators’ second-unit players.
Offensively, West rushed for 308 yards on 34 trips —including half (17) of those carries by featured back and junior Ryan Sissel, who went off for 182 yards and two touchdowns, including on his only second-half carry which went for 57 yards and initiated the running-clock rule.
His first touchdown — a 19-yarder with four-and-a-half minutes remaining in the second quarter to make it 28-0 — capped a seven-play, 49-yard drive which consumed three minutes and 16 seconds, as Sissel carried the ball on all seven snaps.
Exactly a full quarter earlier, the senior all-purpose performer Klaiber capped a nine-play, 41-yard and four-minute march — with a three-yard plunge to make it 21-0.
Cole Windsor, who scored second-half touchdowns on a 44-yard third-quarter dash and a nine-yard fourth-quarter run, wound up with 68 yards on six attempts.
Irwin was good for 4-of-9 passing for 58 yards, as West punted just once and racked up 19 first downs.
Another senior, placekicker Landon Perkins, perfectly kicked on the night —going 8-of-8 on extra-point tries.
Combine that with Bishop’s two returns for scores, and it was a total team effort by the young Senators.
And, there was absolutely no looking ahead by West — to its regular-season finale this week with Wheelersburg.
“You can never look ahead. If you get caught doing that, teams can catch you on a bad night, and anything can happen. Our big focus was getting out to a good start. Jeffery Bishop’s punt return and recovery of that onside kick right after that set the tone for the night, and from there, we just did what we wanted to do,” said Gilliland. “Jeffery is that type of player who can do it all for us. But in general, we executed the gameplan the way we wanted. We got Ryan (Sissel) the ball, and he popped off some big runs, just some good hard runs the way he always runs the ball and the line blocked well. Then we spread the ball around to some other guys. Then the defense did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage and playing physical up front. The execution was there and what we wanted to see.”
The Oaks, which had scored only 40 points all season with four shutouts going into Saturday night, averted a fifth blanking by scoring with 10:49 remaining.
The Jackson Countians crafted a five first-down, 13-play, 58-yard scoring drive that devoured seven minutes and 52 seconds —and was capped off by Max Gentry going in from two yards out.
Garrett McKinniss made the extra-point kick for the Oaks, which trailed 49-7 at that point.
Oak Hill, which defeated injury-riddled Northwest 21-14 in week four for its only win, fell to 1-8 and 0-3 in the SOC II.
The Oaks host highly-touted and talented Waverly for their season finale, while West will return to Wheelersburg —with another archrival awaiting.
The Pirates have had the Senators’ number in recent seasons, but a West win would likely vault it into a top-eight position in the OHSAA’s Division V Region 19 computer ratings —as the Senators sit 10th with Tuesday’s second-to-last release.
With the expansion of the OHSAA state playoffs to 16 teams per region this year, and no bye weeks with that, the top eight squads secure first-round home games.
Thus, a win at Wheelersburg might bring the West side back to The Reservation one more time in 2021 —but Gilliland said “we can’t worry about those things”.
“It will be a challenge playing them (Pirates), especially there in that loud environment, but our kids are excited about it,” said the coach. “We really have to come focused, prepared, and we HAVE to match their physical style of football. There is a lot at stake, but all we can worry about right now is playing this game on Friday night. Wheelersburg will present a challenge to us in which we need to rise to the occasion. Whatever happens after that happens. We will go play in the playoffs wherever they tell us to go play.”
* * *
Oak Hill 0 0 0 7 —7
West 21 7 21 7 —56
W —Jeffery Bishop, 63-yard punt return (Landon Perkins kick), 10:30, 1st (7-0 W)
W — Ashton Klaiber, 23-yard pass from Mitchell Irwin (Landon Perkins kick), 9:23, 1st (14-0 W)
W —Ashton Klaiber, 3-yard run (Landon Perkins kick), 3:32, 1st (21-0 W)
W— Ryan Sissel, 19-yard run (Landon Perkins kick), 4:34, 2nd (28-0 W)
W — Ryan Sissel, 57-yard run (Landon Perkins kick), 11:37, 3rd (35-0 W)
W —Cole Windsor, 44-yard run (Landon Perkins kick), 9:06, 3rd (42-0 W)
W — Jeffery Bishop, 42-yard interception return (Landon Perkins kick), 6:46, 3rd (49-0 W)
OH — Max Gentry, 2-yard run (Garrett McKinniss kick), 10:49, 4th (49-7 W)
W — Cole Windsor, 9-yard run (Landon Perkins kick), 5:22, 4th (56-7 W)
First downs 7 19
Scrimmage plays 46 43
Rushes-yards 37-66 34-308
Passing yards 14 58
Total yards80 366
Cmp-Att-Int. 2-9-2 4-9-1
Fumbles-lost 3-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 4-50 8-76
Punts-Ave 6-16.7 1-35
RUSHING —Oak Hill: Masen Saunders 13-25, Max Gentry 5-20 TD, Eddie Abele 5-10, Andy Meldick 6-5, J.J. Brunton 4-5, Aidan Hall 3-1, Team 1-0; West: Ryan Sissel 17-182 2TD, Cole Windsor 6-68 2TD, Jeffery Bishop 4-14, Masion Smith 2-17, Ashton Klaiber 2-11 TD, Mason Parker 1-7, Ashton Reynolds 1-6, Scottie Simmons 1-3
PASSING — Oak Hill: Andy Meldick 2-9-2-14; West: Mitchell Irwin 4-9-1-58 TD
RECEIVING— Oak Hill: Isaiah McCarty 1-14, J.J. Brunton 1-0; West: Ashton Klaiber 1-23 TD, Trevor Fike 1-13, Cayden Coleman 1-11, Jeffery Bishop 1-11
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