PDT Sports Editor
Coming off a 1-9 campaign, the Portsmouth Trojans are looking to improve on their 1-3 start when they travel to Ironton Friday night.
The Trojans are a year older and more experienced at key positions, which includes eight returing starters on offense. However, thanks to an early gauntlet, Portsmouth is still in search for its second victory.
“The first game (against Valley) was our best game overall as far as completeness,” Portsmouth coach Jason Sparks said. “We had a couple of plays that could have gone our way, which could have changed the outcome a little bit.”
The Trojans have lost to the Indians, Wheelersburg and Minford, who are a combined 12-0 on the season.
“I’m pleased with some of the things we’ve executed,” Sparks said. “My concern is that we are not doing it for a full game. The bright spot is we know how to do it because we’ve shown how to do it. We have to do it for four quarters. Not two quarters, not three quarters, not three quarters and six minutes, we have to put it together for a full 48-minute game.”
In those three losses, two of the three contests were competitive. In the opening game of the season, Portsmouth lost to Valley by nine points. After the lone victory of the season against a 1-3 West squad, the Trojans trailed Wheelersburg (who is No. 1 in the Associated Press Division V polls) 21-14 at halftime.
“Last week, we played three good quarters. Against Wheelersburg, we played a good first half and bad second half. Against Minford, it was just the opposite. We played a bad first half and a good second half,” Sparks said.
Leading the Trojans’ attack Friday night will be quarterback Brandon Wedebrook along with running back Johnnie Charles.
“Their quarterback is a three-year starter and he has a nice arm,” Ironton coach Mark Vass said. “(Charles) is a good, hard runner who has speed and can break tackles.
Those two players aren’t the only concerns for Vass.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons on offense,” Vass said.
On the other end of the specturm is Ironton (2-2), who is coming off a 42-20 loss to Ashland at Paul Blazer High School in Kentucky.
In the opening contest of the season, the Fighting Tigers lost to the Pirates 49-12 before notching their first win of the season against the Russell Red Devils, 35-14, in week two.
Last year, Ironton traveled to Portsmouth and defeated an inexperienced Trojans’ team 61-34. However, the roles are reversed going into this matchup as the Fighting Tigers only have three starters returning.
“I see a lot of them last year in what we’re going through this year,” Mark Vass said. “They had a lot of new players and a lot of inexperienced players.”
Sparks doesn’t see an inexperienced squad when he looks at Ironton.
“They have young guys playing but the thing I’ve noticed through the three games that I’ve watched is they are getting significantly better every week,” Sparks said. “This is the fifth game for them too and they are approaching midseason form. Freshmen aren’t freshmen anymore and sophomores aren’t sophomores anymore. Young guys aren’t young guys. Everybody has four games under their belt and they know what to do.”
According to Sparks, Ironton is a tough opponent.
“They are a downhill running team,” Sparks said. “They have some spread stuff they can do, they are pretty good at it, but that’s not their bread and butter. When times get tough, they are going to go double tights and try to cram it down your throat. That’s what they are known for and they don’t shy away from that. They are big and physical.”
According to Sparks, the Trojans have to be physical for four quarters and Portsmouth has to execute the gameplan.
“Whatever play is called, we have to execute to perfection,” Sparks said. “If we make mental mistakes in the first quarter, they are going to jump on that and it’s going to be a hard hole to climb out of.”
The Ironton Tribune contributed to this report
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Chris on Twitter @crslone.