PDT Sports Writer
The Portsmouth fan base may have watched the Trojan football program grow before their collective eyes Friday night in the team’s home opener with archrival Ironton.
Despite spotting a 35-0 lead to the Fighting Tigers, Portsmouth rallied in the second half before Ironton pulled away to win 61-34. Despite a game in which he watched his defense allow 61 points and 640 yards of total offense, Trojans coach Curt Clifford was very pleased with how his offense countered with 481 yards on their own, all with a makeshift line.
He even went on to say after the first quarter, that was the best Portsmouth offensive outburst against a quality opponent in three years.
“I’m never satisfied with a loss and we’re sitting at 1-4, but you’ve got to ask yourself, what if we had been playing this way all year long,” Clifford said. “It’s what ifs. In my opinion, we left three touchdowns out there.”
The night got off to a quick start for the Fighting Tigers. On the second offensive play of the game, running back Patrick Lewis burst through the Portsmouth defense and raced towards a 66-yard touchdown.
The Trojan offense was on the field for one play in their opening drive. Brandon Wedebrook’s pass was intercepted by Brandon Wilson as he took it down to the Portsmouth 22.
Five plays later, Lewis made it 14-0 with his 15-yard run to the end zone. The senior would finish with 165 yards on just six carries.
On the next drive, the Trojans built up a head of steam but an option pitch from Wedebrook to Johnie Charles was put on the carpet and Aaron Stephens picked it up for Ironton. Senior quarterback needed just four plays to make it a 21-0 affair with 2:22 left in the quarter when he hooked up with Trevor White on a 45-yard pitch-and-catch.
The second quarter almost seemed to mirror the opening stanza. White scored on a 2-yard plunge and Dutey connected with Dion Brown on a 29-yard pass to make it 35-0 in a game that had all the signs of a blowout.
“They weren’t stopping us very well and we kept scoring on them early,” Fighting Tigers coach Mark Vass said. “…I pull our starters pretty quick and just thinking into the next three games.”
That’s when the Portsmouth offense, missing three offensive starters and moving more players around than a game of musical chairs, started to reap the fruits of its labor. The Trojans went 69 yards on 10 plays and Charles burrowed his way in from a yard out to make it 35-7, a score that would remain until the second half.
The scoring drive was almost spoiled when Wedebrook hooked up with Sky Oliver on a pass play. Oliver coughed up the football around the Ironton 10 but a Portsmouth player emerged from the pile at the 1.
The Trojans started the second half off with the ball and had every intention of scoring but were stopped on a 4th-and-goal at the Fighting Tiger 1. Tristan Cox, who replaced Dutey in the second quarter, turned a quarterback sneak into a 99-yard run for six.
“However you give up a 99-yard quarterback sneak is beyond me,” Clifford said. “I wasn’t really happy with the defense.”
Portsmouth rebounded, scoring on a 47-yard pass from Wedebrook to Alex Dickerson and a Charles 1-yard plunge, to make it a 41-27 ball game. The second score was set up by Bryan Sexton, who stripped the ball away from White.
With the energy and momentum peaking towards the home team, Vass brought back his starters and they responded. Lewis needed one play and 66 yards of open, green turf to make it 48-27.
The Trojans tried to answer on their next drive but Jacob Friend found his hands in possession of a Wedebrook pass and took it to the Portsmouth 30. Dutey leaped over the pile for a 1-yard score to cap the drive.
Wedebrook scored the final Portsmouth points of the contest with a 9-yard run before Ironton’s Matt Thomas barrelled through a plethora of Trojan defenders for the final score of the night.
Wedebrook finished the night 16-of-27 passing for 226 yards, a passing touchdown and two picks while Charles had a breakout game with 157 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns.
“I can’t be any happier with our offense,” Clifford said. “I thought our offensive line absolutely played the best game I’ve seen those guys play in I don’t know how long. That offensive line played the best game I have seen our offensive line play since probably going all the way back to the 2009 season.”
Dutey, the son of Portsmouth Superintendent Scott Dutey, was a perfect 5-of-5 passing for 124 yards and two scores.
Now Portsmouth’s goal will be to win a wide-open SEOAL. The Trojans first crack at it comes next week when Logan comes into town.
The Fighting Tigers, now owners of a 56-54-8 record in the all-time series between the two rivals, travels on the road next week into the Bluegrass State to take on Paintsville (Ky.) Johnson Central.
Cody Leist may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or email@example.com.
Ironton 21 14 6 20 — 61
Portsmouth 0 7 13 14 — 34
I — Lewis 66 run (J. Schweickart kick) 11:09
I — Lewis 15 run (J. Schweickart kick) 8:36
I — White 64 pass from Dutey (J. Schweickart kick) 2:22
I — White 2 run (J. Schweickart kick) 10:17
I — Brown 20 pass from Dutey (J. Schweickart kick) 8:24
P — Charles 1 run (DeLotell kick) 5:13
I — Cox 99 run (kick blocked) 4:58
P — Charles 1 run (kick failed) 3:01
P — Dickerson 47 pass from Wedebrook (DeLotell kick) 1:02
P — Charles 1 (DeLotell kick) 10:05
I — Lewis 66 run (J. Schweickart kick) 9:43
I — Dutey 1 run (J. Schweickart kick) 6:53
P — Wedebrook 9 run (DeLotell kick) 3:50
I — Thomas 44 run (kick blocked) 2:22
First Downs 8 26
Rush Att.-Yds. 31-416 51-255
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 6-5-0 27-16-2
Pass Yds. 124 226
Total Yds. 640 481
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-2
Turnovers 1 4
Punts-Avg. 1-30.0 2-27.0
RUSHING: Ironton — Lewis 6-165, Cox 6-135, Thomas 2-45, White 6-34, Dutey 4-15, Brown 1-13, T. Schweickart 4-7, Bodmer 1-6, Berry 1-(-4); Portsmouth — Charles 29-157, Wedebrook 10-48, DeLotell 5-20, Dickerson 3-18, Rideout 4-12.
PASSING: Ironton — Dutey 5-5-0 124, Cox 0-1-0 0; Portsmouth — Wedebrook 27-16-2 226.
RECEIVING: Ironton — White 2-77, Brown 1-29, Stephens 1-14, Wilson 1-4; Portsmouth — Dickerson 11-156, Oliver 4-61, Lattimore 1-9.
RECORDS: Ironton 5-0; Portsmouth 1-4.