PDT Sports Writer
With the race for the SEOAL crown up in the air more than any other year in recent memory, Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford is focused on the smaller picture.
“We’re not concerned about the league, we’re concerned about Logan,” Clifford said. “We’re 1-4, we can’t look ahead to anybody.”
His Trojan ball club enters the first week of SEOAL play with momentum and optimism despite a 61-34 setback in their home opener a week ago to arch rival Ironton. Portsmouth (1-4) racked up 481 yards against the Fighting Tigers.
“We had a good week (of practice), especially offensively,” Clifford said. “I think the kids got a lot of confidence…for losing a ball game, our team was decidedly upbeat because I think they knew they were fighting an uphill battle because that was a good Ironton football team.
“We stressed character and what was going to happen. If you have to say a loss helped you, I think that it helped us from the standpoint that our kids did not quit.”
But as Logan (0-5) comes calling Friday night, work on the defensive side of the ball has been a major point of emphasis throughout this week’s practice. Ironton totaled 640 yards against the Trojan defense and Clifford felt his team’s practice defensively was hit-and-miss at best.
“The guys have got to play with more discipline, that’s the bottom line,” Clifford said. “We’ve got to get lined up properly, we’ve skull sessioned our kids until there was no tomorrow.
“Hopefully they prepared themselves this week to get lined up to where they’re supposed to be and if they do, we stand a better chance of winning the ball game if we’re doing things right and things fundamentally sound.”
But as Portsmouth prepares for league play, Clifford can’t help but to think any of the six schools could etch their names onto the trophy. Entering this week’s action, the six-team league has a combined record of 9-21.
The .300 winning percentage is headlined by the 3-2 record posted by Gallia Academy. Clifford’s reaction said it all.
“As far as the league being wide-open, absolutely it is, it’s the most wide-open I’ve ever seen it,” Clifford said. “But the one thing that’s going to remain, no matter what, is the physicality of the league. That’s not going to go away.
“Good, bad or indifferent, we’re going to be in for a physical football game (Friday) night. I think our kids know that.”
Although the Chieftains will be searching for their first win of the 2012 season, school size and numbers will be to their advantage. With four returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, junior defensive lineman Caleb Branson has been the biggest name on the Trojan scouting report to contain. If Portsmouth can keep out of second-and-long situations, putting this defense on its heels will be more likely.
Offensively, Logan will look to have a big game out of senior running back Cory McCarty. Although he felt Ironton’s Patrick Lewis was by far the best back his team will face this year, McCarty won’t be a pushover.
“I think he’s the guy who ripped us for 240 yards two years ago,” Clifford said. “He got hurt last year, he’s back and he scares me to death.”
Third-year coach and former Chieftain running back Kelly Wolfe is glad to turn the page from a dismal non-league portion schedule that was capped off by a 50-0 home loss last week to Nelsonville-York.
“The weekend was a blur,” Wolfe said in an interview with the Logan Daily News. “I was so embarrassed about Friday night. I know people aren’t happy… and neither are we.”
After last season’s 24-21 double overtime win in Logan, Portsmouth holds a 4-3 series edge. The win but the Chieftains, a founding member of the SEOAL, in the standings cellar for the first time in a generation.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.