PORTSMOUTH — Some observers will simply say it’s Portsmouth’s plot for revenge.
And, deep down, that’s probably part of it.
But, if you talk to the Portsmouth Trojans ahead of their Division V Region 19 quarterfinal tilt at Ironton on Saturday night, the goal is to simply to win and advance.
That’s because the ninth-seeded Trojans, in their 13th all-time state football playoff appearance and fourth consecutive, try to upset the top-seeded and highly-touted Fighting Tigers —and reverse their Ohio Valley Conference outcome from merely two weeks ago.
That’s when Portsmouth jumped out to a 9-0 first-half lead —only to turn the ball over at the goal line with under a first-half minute left, leaving the second-half floodgates open for the Fighting Tigers to score the final 36 points.
Actually, it was 29 second-half points, but Ironton capitalized on Portsmouth’s mistakes and imposed its physicality upon the Trojans —locking up the Region 19’s top seed and third straight OVC outright championship in the process.
However, it’s a challenge to defeat a team twice in one year, especially only two weeks apart — as 8-3 Portsmouth plays at 10-1 Ironton, inside once again the confines of Ironton’s historic Tanks Memorial Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Following that 36-9 setback on Oct. 22, fourth-year head coach Bruce Kalb talked about the prospects —and good chances —of facing the Fighting Tigers again.
He also knows his Trojans’ tall task ahead —against Ironton’s talented roster, physical defense, and depth.
“We have our work cut out for us, but I know these kids and this coaching staff,” said Kalb. “We’ll make sure we come up with a gameplan that’s going to give us the best chance to be successful.”
The Trojans were quite successful last Saturday night in their Region 19 opening-round win at Zane Trace —scoring via five different means and amounting 31 first-half points, en route to a 38-22 topping of the eighth-seeded Pioneers.
In fact, it was Portsmouth’s first playoff win since the 2002 season —and their second straight of two playoff wins over Ironton.
Those 2001 and 2002 meetings are the only times the Trojans and Fighting Tigers have squared off in the playoffs —in what will be the 130th all-time meeting in this storied series.
Ironton, given the victory two weeks back, owns the slight series advantage at a razor-thin 62-60-7.
It’s actually believed to be the third longest-running series in the state —with Troy and Piqua and Massillon Washington and Canton McKinley being the oldest pair.
But back to the here and now, and not even two weeks ago, Kalb said his Trojans have taken what happened in the final 25 minutes of that regular-season loss —and learned from it.
“Ironton is not invincible. That’s the thing. We had them on the ropes. But we made some mistakes and had some opportunities that we missed and they capitalized on some of those,” said the coach. “We know what we’re capable of. That’s something this team is good about. I think we’ll be able to go in there with more confidence than we had the first time. We saw what we were able to do for two quarters.”
What the Trojans did for two quarters was take advantage of Ironton adjusting on the fly for injured quarterback Tayden Carpenter, who suffered a broken foot on a sack on the game’s fifth play.
Portsmouth senior standout quarterback Drew Roe rolled right and hit Donavan Carr for a 54-yard touchdown pass on the Trojans’ opening snap, then got a Zach Roth field goal for that 9-0 lead.
But with that late second-stanza lost fumble, as Newfound Glory once sang — it was all downhill from there.
The Fighting Tigers trended upward in the second half, with Landon Wilson going at running back and Jon Wylie —who replaced an injured Carpenter for four weeks after his first-quarter injury against Wheelersburg —steadying the signal-calling ship.
Meanwhile, Ironton’s iron-clad defense was physical with Roe and the PHS receivers —as Roe took a beating before exiting after a Portsmouth possession late in the third quarter.
In fact, the Fighting Tigers’ defense has surrendered more than three touchdowns in one game just twice in three years —last season’s state championship tilt against Kirtland, and against Division I powerhouse Cincinnati Moeller in their only loss this fall.
This season, the Fighting Tigers have allowed just 83 points in 11 games.
In addition, Roe played against Zane Trace at about 70-to-75-percent healthy —and could be only at that percentage again on Saturday night.
Roe is expected to start and play, with junior Tyler Duncan —who played the entire fourth quarter against Ironton —once again backing him up.
“Their depth and their physicality wore us down after two quarters,” said Kalb. “We’ll have to manufacture a gameplan which provides more depth for us, and gives us the best chance to succeed.”
Indeed, all Portsmouth plans on doing is playing the game —and trying to win.
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