Bragging rights on the line for Warriors, Spartans

Sandy Phipps | Submitted Photo The Southern Ohio Spartans attempt a punt against the Warriors in 2014. The two teams square off on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

Alex Hider

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Warriors’ receiver Mike Dawkins has plenty of friends on the Southern Ohio Spartans. In fact, he played for the Spartans in 2013 and 2014.

Dawkins still hangs out with his former teammates, but when it comes time for kickoff on Saturday, they’ll be no friends of his.

“It’s fun and games, but on the field it’s business,” Dawkins said.

The top-ranked Portsmouth Warriors (6-0, 5-0) will renew their cross-town rivalry with the Spartans (4-2, 3-1) Saturday evening at Spartan Municipal Stadium.

Last season, the Warriors rolled the Spartans in two regular-season match ups by a combined score of 79-15. But this season, the Spartans are hoping a re-tooled offense can finally knock off their neighbors.

“I think this year is the best coached (the Spartans) have been,” Warriors head coach Jamie Rice said. “They have the best fit for their players, system-wise.”

With quarterback Evan Howard under center for the Spartans this season, they’ve averaged nearly 40 points a game in four Blue Collar Football League (BCFL) contests this season. However, the Spartans will be facing one of the most stingy defenses in the country on Saturday. In their last three games, the Warriors have allowed just 14 points.

In the past, Spartan coach Jojo Parker has adjusted his game plan to try and attack the Warrior defense. On Saturday, he said he’ll let his team do what they do best.

“My main objective is to keep it simple and run the plays I know my team runs well,” he said. “…We are going to do what we do.”

The plan may be for Howard to target his tall, quick receivers. Three of the Spartan split-ends are at least 6-5.

“They have some pretty tall receivers…so our corners will have to play tough,” Rice said. “We just have to play fundamental against them.”

On the other side of the ball, the Spartans will need to find a way to stop an offense that averages nearly 400 yards a game. With a stable of talented offensive linemen and running backs, the Warriors will attempt to do what they’ve done all season — run the ball to set up the pass.

The Spartans hope to fool the Warriors by adding new packages to their five-man front. But Parker knows that most teams in the BCFL won’t be able to keep the Warriors off the scoreboard — they can only hope to contain the scoring.

“It’s not likely your going to stop them every time they have the ball,” he said. “If we get a couple of stops, with how our offense has been playing, we’ll be OK.”

With a 5-0 league record, the Warriors hold a one-and-a-half game advantage over the Spartans in the BCFL East Conference Blue Division. But the standings are secondary compared to the bragging rights that come along with being Portsmouth’s best.

“You can throw all the records out,” Rice said. “They’re fast, they’re physical. They’re a good team. We expect to battle with them.”

Chris Slone contributed to this report

Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter

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