PDT Sports Editor
After stepping away for a season to tend to an illness within his family, West football coach Merril Triplett is excited for his to return to the Portsmouth-West contest he described as a friendly backyard brawl.
West got the best of Portsmouth a year ago as the Senators came away with a 26-13 game, but Triplett sees an opponent that is very different than the one West has beaten the last two seasons.
“I think Portsmouth is a very much improved team. I think they have a much better offense than they have had and are a lot more versatile,” Triplett said. “They can run it or throw and and I thought they did a great job on play selection and I think they have their kids headed in the right direction and he (Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford) is doing things that they are succesful at.”
West did not get off to the start they wanted, dropping the 2012 opener 34-14 to Fairland, but the Portsmouth coaching staff likely warned its players of West propensity to recover from a loss. Since 2009, the Senators have bounced back from regular season losses by winning their next game by a combined score of 147-21.
Triplett said a return to basics has his team focused on what is ahead, not what happened last week.
“Our kids have worked super hard this week. We got beat by Fairland and they want to come out and redeem themselves,” Triplett said. “They came out flat and they realize they had a lot of mistakes and missed assignments. We have got a young group but still they need to do things right.
“We just went back to the drawing board and just went back to making blocks and learning how to play football.”
Portsmouth’s season opening loss at Valley showed that the Trojans switch away from the spread may prove problematic to opposing defenses.
“I thought we executed fairly well at times,” Clifford said after the game. “The biggest thing that killed us on offense was turnovers.”
The Trojan offense racked up 253 yards through the air behind the efforts of quarterback Brandon Wedebrook and running back Darion Robinson. Portsmouth compiled 323 yards in their contest while West put together a total of 257 in their opener.
“I think they are pretty balanced. They have the (Johnie) Charles kid they hit up the middle on and they can get the corner with several fast guys,” Triplett said. “You are going to have to defend the whole field or they will pick you apart. They have the athletes to spread the field and they want the edge because they have such great speed.”
West’s rushing attack put together 203 yards rushing against Fairland and that number may improve against a suspect Portsmouth defense that was gashed for 391 yards in Lucasville.
“Our defense was a rumor, I think that’s as kind as I could put it,” Clifford said after the game. “We did exactly the opposite of the things we are taught to do.”
With such a limited body of work to judge either team, momentum and adrenaline may prove to be the determining factor of which team comes away with their first victory of 2012.
“These are great games when you get to play your neighbors. It’s just an exciting game with a lot of adrenaline for the players and the coaches,” Triplett said. “I’m good friends with coach Clifford so it is a friendly rivalry. I have a lot of respect for him and his coaching staff and the Portsmouth program.”
Both coaches said the familiarity of the players and coaches makes the West-Portsmouth match ups more enjoyable.
“It’s such a big game because all the kids know each other. We start talking about the number of a player on film and they shout out the guy’s name,” Triplett said. “The kids have cousins on that team so it’s a backyard brawl. The kids are fired up and it is going to be a very physical game.”
Kick off is 7:30 p.m. on the west side.
Note: Portsmouth Coach Curt Clifford was not available Thursday evening for comment.
BOB STRICKLEY may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or email@example.com.