PDT Sports Writer
There’s no denying that Portsmouth is a football town. In a city barely big enough for a Walmart, there are two semi-pro football teams.
With their stadiums less than five miles apart on US Route 52, the Kentucky Warriors and the Southern Ohio Spartans have developed an intense rivalry. Warrior wide receiver David Mallory knows all too well. He’s been on both sides of it.
After graduating from Portsmouth High School in 2009, Mallory began taking classes at Shawnee State. Looking to continue his football career he joined the inaugural Warriors team soon after. As the years passed, Mallory would establish himself as one of the Warriors top receivers and one of the team leaders.
Prior to the 2013 season, Mallory’s cousin Joseph Parker established the Southern Ohio Spartans, a second semi-pro. Parker had a vision of a team that would connect directly with the Portsmouth community rather than the Tri-State region.
“He just had a different view about how he could have a team,” Mallory said. He had a different view of how he could use the team to benefit people in the community.”
Playing their home games at New Boston Stadium, the Spartans joined the NFFL’s Blue Conference, meaning they would play two games a year against the Warriors. A natural geographical rivalry was sure to follow.
Soon after establishing the Spartans, Parker asked his cousin if he wanted to play for his new team. Even though he was one of the original members of the Kentucky Warriors, Mallory chose family over his teammates.
“I wanted to help (Parker) out in his first year,” Mallory said.
Throughout the Spartans first season, Mallory put his versatility on display as one of the team’s key players. He spent time at receiver, quarterback and cornerback.
“I played just about everywhere,” he said.
But before the 2014 season began, Mallory took an oil job in Texas. Knowing that the upcoming season would be his last in Ohio, he had another difficult decision to make.
“(The Spartans) wanted me to stay, but I was kind of thinking bigger,” he said. “I wanted to leave with the team I started with.”
It was family ties that brought him to the Spartans last year, but the bond that Mallory had with his Warrior was a unique one.
“I had more of a chemistry with those guys,” he said. “I felt that kind of drew me back because of the team camaraderie that I had. I just felt more at home, I guess.”
But Mallory wasn’t the only Spartan to move across town. Running back Luke Brown also joined the Warriors after spending a season with Southern Ohio. So far this season, the duo has combined for nearly 900 total yards of offense and eight touchdowns.
In week one, his first game back in Kentucky black and gold, Mallory made his season debut against his former team, a 34-9 victory for the Warriors. To say he played with a chip on his shoulder would be an understatement.
“It’s a rivalry game, but there’s something more in it for me,” he said. I feel like I have to make statements when I play them.”
Though the Spartans were disappointed to learn that Mallory would be leaving them, many of them still remain close with “Pook.” He remains close with a group of Spartan players, a group of guys that Mallory says are “his closest friends.” But that won’t change what will happen at Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
“Even though a lot of them are family and friends, we’re competitors at the end of the day,” he said. “I’m not going to take it easy on them and they’re not going to take it easy on me. There’s still that competitive edge.”
Part of that competitive edge comes out in friendly wagers. Mallory says he and his Spartan buddies have an agreement that the losers of this weekend’s games will be forced to do “Donkey Kicks.”
“You can call it at any time. Anywhere, any time, I could ask one of them to do a donkey kick,” Mallory said. “You have to stand up, jump to their hands and kick their feet to the air like a donkey and yell ‘HEE-HAW.’”
No matter what happens in this weekends’ rivalry game one thing is for sure: One area team will walk off the field victors, and the other will leave…donkeys.
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter