PDT Sports Contributor
The Portsmouth Trojans (3-5, 2-3) look to bounce back this week in their final OVC conference game of the season in a game against the Coal Grove Hornets (4-4, 3-1). Last week, the Trojans managed to battle back in the third quarter against the grinding rushing attack of the Chesapeake Panthers only to have turnovers stop their momentum. They would go on to give up 21 points in the 4th quarter and lose by a final score of 49-18.
“Last week was a tough loss,” admitted Portsmouth Head Coach Aaron Duncan. “We battled back and made it close in the second half for a while but things got out of hand towards the end of the game. Now we have to try to rebound and get the kids focused with a great week of practice.”
Coal Grove and Chesapeake both have an offense focused on rushing the football. But, Coach Duncan sees a distinct difference in how the two teams approach the running attack.
“Chesapeake’s quarterback, Casey McComas is the straw that serves the drink,” Duncan said. “Last week, he accounted for around 250-yards. We knew coming into it he was going to be tough to shut down. And while Coal Grove has a fine quarterback as well in Daniel Rutherford, he won’t run quite as much. Coal Grove plays more a physical brand of football. They come out in unbalanced lines, dual tight ends and with kids that run downhill. We have to focus on our tackling, which we’ve been struggling with. It always comes back to blocking and tackling.”
The Hornets are coming off a very close win against the Fairland Dragons by a score of 20-13. Portsmouth managed to beat the Dragons 35-7 in week 4 of the season. Also, a team Portsmouth beat, the West Senators managed to defeat Coal Grove earlier in the year. Coach Duncan isn’t reading too much into these games, though, and warns against trying to compare teams based on other game’s outcomes.
“West beat Coal Grove, we beat West, we beat Fairland handedly and they struggled against them,” Duncan pointed out. “But, Coal Grove held Ironton much better than we did. We can’t get into trying to compare scores like that. The best thing I can take from it is they have a lot of youth just like we do. Some weeks we look really good and some weeks we look pretty bad. They have a similar situation in that they are going through a coaching change. At the end of the day they are 3-1 in conference play despite their youth.”
Cole Lowry had a tough time last week for the Trojans, throwing four interceptions and finding very little room to run against the Chesapeake defense. Both Lowry and Duncan hope to limit those turnovers against the Hornets, something that must be done according the coach in order to stay in the game.
“He’s 15,” said Duncan. “He started some as a freshman, but now he’s essentially got two years under his belt. He’s had two games where turnovers have been a big problem. But he’s had games where he had some big plays. It is all part of the growing pains for a sophomore quarterback. An old coach of mine used to tell me ‘how many sophomores you start on a Friday night is how many games you are going to lose’. Cole has flashes where he can take over a game but he must take what the defense gives him and limit the turnovers. Wheelersburg and Valley were superior teams to us, but each of the other losses we’ve had thus far we’ve found ourselves in the games. Turnovers turn out to be our Achilles Heel. We must limit them to stay in the game Friday night.”
Friday night’s game wraps up conference play for the Trojans. Coach Duncan seemed delighted to be in the OVC, a conference that features both great competition and the opportunity to compete on a much more local level than the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League.
“This year has been a good experience,” Duncan said. “It’s proven to be a competitive league and right now we are in the middle of the standings. We’ve lost to the playoff teams in the conference thus far. The OVC is a strong conference and a lot of new coaches are taking over some of these programs. Once we get our feet on the ground and get up and running it will only get more competitive.”
“It is so much nicer to only travel around 45 minutes to a game rather than going all the way to Logan, Warren, Zanesville, or Marietta. I’d much rather play locally.”
Duncan and the Trojans look to even their conference record to 3-3 as they play the Coal Grove Hornets Friday night at home at 7 p.m.