Trojans face physical, 5-0 Hornets


PHS tries to keep pace in OVC race

By Paul Boggs - [email protected]



Portsmouth senior quarterback Tyler Duncan (12) scored a first-half rushing touchdown in the Trojans’ week-five home game versus Gallia Academy.

Portsmouth senior quarterback Tyler Duncan (12) scored a first-half rushing touchdown in the Trojans’ week-five home game versus Gallia Academy.


Ed Litteral | Daily Times

PORTSMOUTH — In Bruce Kalb’s four-and-a-half seasons so far as the Portsmouth High School head football coach, if it’s one aspect his staff has prided itself upon in improving his Trojans, it’s the program’s physicality.

The reason?

For particular Ohio Valley Conference contests like the one on Friday night — against the undefeated Coal Grove Hornets.

Indeed — given the likes of three-time defending conference champion Ironton, traditionally Coal Grove and Rock Hill and usually Gallia Academy — the OVC plays a physical, run-oriented and hard-nosed brand of ball.

The Hornets, like Ironton always has been, have been the OVC squad long associated with physicality —under now four-year head coach Jay Lucas, and his Hall of Fame father and longtime Coal Grove coach Dave Lucas before him.

For the Trojans to triumph for Friday night, the gameplan gets no simpler —as the 2-3 Trojans (1-1 OVC) try to upstage the 5-0 Hornets (2-0 OVC) in a critical conference affair along the Ohio River.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. inside Coal Grove’s Patterson Field.

In addition to not only keeping pace with Ironton and perhaps Gallia Academy in the OVC, Friday’s winner picks up a bevy of Ohio High School Athletic Association computer points —as the Trojans sit 16th in Division V Region 19, per the second weekly release of the OHSAA’s ratings on Tuesday.

The Hornets, which begin the meat of their schedule starting this week, are the top-rated team in all of Division VI Region 23 —having opened OVC action with wins over South Point and Chesapeake.

The top 16 teams in each region, at regular season’s end on Oct. 23, qualify for the state playoffs —with the top eight teams in each region earning opening-round home bouts.

Moreover, it’s a step up for Coal Grove in competition —as the Hornets have beaten Berne Union (4-1) in the opener, before victories over 2-3 teams Valley, Meigs, the Pointers and the Panthers.

Against Valley and Meigs, the Hornets allowed 34 points apiece, but did score 50 and 61 themselves.

For the Trojans, their three setbacks are against 4-1 West (34-7), at undefeated 3-0 Spring Valley (42-31) in West Virginia, and last week against undefeated 5-0 Gallia Academy (36-34) — on a Blue Devil field goal in the final few seconds.

Given Portsmouth’s massive comeback — trailing 21-0 and 28-7 — against Spring Valley to take a 31-28 advantage with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, it is conceivable that the Trojans could realistically be 4-1 at this point.

“We’ve had two tough losses against Spring Valley and Gallia Academy, and those losses still sting, but these guys are still hungry,” said Kalb, in an interview on Tuesday.

That’s because there is still plenty to play for.

“We want to get back to .500 this week, secure our place in the league standings towards the top, and Coal Grove being 5-0 is a big computer points game for us. They bring a boatload of second-level points,” added Kalb. “But the focus this week is on stopping Coal Grove’s rushing attack, what we need to do to put up points and make sure we are getting things done moving the ball and securing the ball.”

Truth be told, the Trojans are better battle-tested —as West is a like Division V squad, while undefeateds Spring Valley (Division III equivalent in Ohio) and Division IV Gallia Academy are bigger schools.

The Hornets’ best victories are likely over fellow Division VIs Berne Union and Valley —as the Indians play up in schedule against the Southern Ohio Conference Division II.

“If we have any advantage coming into this game, this is a team that has been battle-tested this year. Even our wins against Rock Hill (2-3) and Valley (2-3), those were 14-point games that were tough games for us,” said Kalb. “Our experience should help us out on Friday night.”

It’s going to have to, and also the Trojans at least equaling the Hornets’ physicality.

Coal Grove is headlined by upwards of 17 returning starters from a season ago, including first-team all-Southeast District Division VI running back Chase Hall.

Hall, halfway home, has to be the frontrunner for Division VI Offensive Player of Year —as he has already rushed for 22 touchdowns, and unofficially 1,206 yards on 114 carries.

The Trojans, to win, must have the 225-pound Hall in their sights —and must hit him low, wrap him up, and gang-tackle him to bring him to the ground.

That first, of course, requires them to win the war along the line of scrimmage —and get off those Coal Grove blocks, either straight up or trapping ones.

“We know the style of football they play. Very strong and physical up front with a very capable and physical back in the Hall kid. He is just putting up amazing numbers so far this year. He got significantly bigger since last year, and he is a very fast and powerful 220-plus pound back,” said Kalb. “You can see from film they are big and are going to be very physical. What they do is nothing fancy. They understand that football comes down to blocking and tackling. They are really good blockers, good physical linemen. We have have to match that with our ability to tackle. We have to wrap up and tackle low, and we can’t sit back and catch. We have to be on the attack and be the aggressors all four quarters. With a team like Coal Grove, you have to match their physicality. Because if you don’t, it’s going to be a long night.”

And, be able to account for the Hornets’ array of looks.

“We have to make sure we’re in position,” continued Kalb. “They do a lot of things with unbalanced sets, a little bit of backfield action. If we’re not defensively disciplined and we’re not reading our keys, they will get you out of position and hit that hole so fast. What’s a two-yard or three-yard or four-yard gain turns into a 15, 20 or 30-yard gain. We can’t take plays off. We always tell our defense to play your position, play it well, play it with discipline. I would add to that, be physical this week.”

Two years ago, the Trojans and Hornets locked horns in a 66-63 shootout which host Coal Grove won — neither defense able at all to stop the opposing offense.

Kalb said that is not the type of game which Portsmouth wants to engage in, as the Trojans captured last season’s meeting, 42-20.

In fact, Coal Grove was the first squad to score a rushing touchdown on the Trojans last year —and amounted the most rushing yards on Portsmouth, prior to its archrivalry game at Ironton in the regular-season finale.

The coach was also asked in order to keep Coal Grove’s offense off the field, can the Trojans try some ball-control of their own?

“We know they can eat up large chunks of the clock with any given drive. We don’t want to get in that shootout like we had a couple of years ago. That was just insane. Likewise, we want to make sure we’re protecting the ball,” said Kalb. “We HAVE to win that turnover battle in order to win this game.”

For if the Trojans do triumph, they can set themselves up quite well —within the OVC pecking order, along with the Region 19 computers points chase.

Portsmouth senior quarterback Tyler Duncan (12) scored a first-half rushing touchdown in the Trojans’ week-five home game versus Gallia Academy.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/09/web1_Tyler-Duncan-_-PHS-GA-1.jpgPortsmouth senior quarterback Tyler Duncan (12) scored a first-half rushing touchdown in the Trojans’ week-five home game versus Gallia Academy. Ed Litteral | Daily Times
PHS tries to keep pace in OVC race

By Paul Boggs

[email protected]

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved