PDT Sports Editor
The long road home has Portsmouth traveling through Minford for the Trojans last contest of a four-game SOC II road tour. Waiting for the Trojans will be a Falcons squad that is off to an impressive 3-0 start and is locked in a tie at the top of the SOC II with Valley.
Last week the Falcons were in a tight contest with Piketon and availed 19-14. Minford coach Brent Daniels said the close win translated well into his team’s week of preparation for Portsmouth.
“It was a big game for us point-wise and a chance to check what type of heart and attitude we have,” Daniels said. “We have had a good week of practice. A really good week of practice.”
Portsmouth, who is 1-2 on the year, will be looking to recover from a rough, 43-13 loss at Wheelersburg in Week 3.
“As coaches and players, we don’t have the time to dwell on the week before,” Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford said. “I think we will go out there and play better than we did last week because of the outstanding week of practice we had.”
Minford has relied on a stable of backfield weapons all season. Last week, Sean Berry rushed for 90 yards on 12 carries while teammate Austin Carter had 21 carries for 146 yards.
“I think one thing that is good for us is that we have five or six kids that we can put back there at any given time if someone gets tired and needs a blow,” Daniels said. “We have packages to get all the kids in and get everybody a decent amount of carries during the game. That kind of makes it hard for anyone to key on just one kid.”
Clifford agreed that the Minford backfield will be an important factor in the game, for both teams.
“They are a Wing-T team and run it very well. They are a precision offense that blocks very well and they have a stable of running backs and will go with the hot hand,” Clifford said.
The stable of backs is one obstacle for the Trojans, the other is the blocking ability of Division I college prospect Jared McCray. Clifford, who knows a thing or two about coaching Division I blockers, described McCary as a road grader.
“He is a good football player first of all. This guy carries his weight well. He has a great first step and a great second step,” Clifford said. “You see a lot of big guys but like we tell our linemen, your second step is important. Without a good second step you lumber and this guy doesn’t lumber and block on one leg. He is a good football player.”
Portsmouth’s backfield rarely lumbers. The Trojans have an enviable selection of weapons as well. Though the numbers weren’t there against the Pirates, Portsmouth has seen impressive yardage totals put up by quarterback Brandon Wedebrook and running back Johnie Charles. Wedebrook compiled 253 yards through the air in the Trojans’ loss to Valley in Week 1 while Charles had 148 yards rushing in Week 2 against West.
Daniels said one key to keeping a grip on a Portsmouth’s offense that was averaging nearly 400 yards per game through the first two weeks is proper identification of formations.
“I think the biggest key is our defense being aligned properly this weekend,” Daniels said. “We had some missed alignments last week during the Piketon game that cost us so that has been a focus for us this week.”
The other concern for Daniels and his Falcons will be the speed and special teams of Portsmouth.
“They are a very fast team. They have a lot of speed on the field and several good offensive and defensive linemen and it is going to be a very hard test for us,” Daniels said. “We have to be very careful who we kick to and make sure our kickoff and punt coverages are at the top of their game this week.”
Portsmouth has been focusing on playing smart football in preparation for the Falcons.
“With a team like Minford you have to play disciplined football. If you don’t take care of your responsibilities and try to do too much they will make you pay,” Clifford said.
This is the first time the two schools have faced each other in seven seasons. Portsmouth took the last contest 26-7 and though the players are long gone from those teams, the opportunity to play against a non-SOC, county foe will be exciting for all involved.
“Every game we play, that’s our big game. This is our big game and we are only focused on this one,” Daniels said. “Our kids all know each other so it ought to make for an interesting match-up.”
Clifford said the road tour through the SOC II has been a fun one, and the last leg into Falcon territory will be as well.
“It’s been fantastic to play local teams at their venues and see what they are all about,” Clifford said.
Portsmouth has had SOC II road contests against 3-0 Valley, 0-3 West, 2-3 Wheelersburg and will now face 3-0 Minford.
“It certainly saves us having to travel two hours on a bus, but we would rather be 3-0 rather than 1-2,” Clifford said.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Minford High School. The Minford Athletic Department will be honoring veterans and active duty military personnel at the game with free admission to the game.
Bob Strickley may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org.