Last updated: July 24. 2013 1:59PM - 173 Views

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PDT Sports Writer

Between injury and suspension, the Portsmouth Trojans have been left with a dearth of upperclassmen leadership entering the eighth week of the season.

With two home games remaining and the program down to one active senior on the roster, Portsmouth (1-4, 0-2) is looking to finish the season with some positive momentum. It will be a task the Trojans will take on as they welcome two-time defending SEOAL champion Jackson (4-3, 2-0) into the Coliseum Friday night.

When asked about how to describe the Ironmen, Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford used the words big, strong and physical on a plethora of occasions.

“We’ve been playing these guys regularly now since we’ve been in the league and it seems like they clone them up there,” Clifford said. “They’ve got big, strong kids that that are physical kids that live in the weight room and they’re hard to beat.”

The role of spoiler will be filled once again by a Trojans squad that fell 49-21 a week ago to Gallia Academy. A bright spot coming into Friday’s contest will be the return of some healthy bodies to the PHS lineup.

Clifford said Hunter Gibson will be available for the first time since going down with an injury in the Minford game. The Trojans may also see the return of Alex Grashel and Jacob Albrecht, who have been out since the Valley and Wheelersburg contests respectively.

While the return of potentially all three players is a positive sign, Clifford cautioned his coaching staff that throwing the trio immediately into the fire will be done more as a gentle toss to avoid the risk of further injury.

“We’re just hoping to get some quality reps out of those guys this week,” Clifford said. “We think it will be a little pick-me-up if we can get those guys some reps.”

For Jackson, hopes of making a third-straight trip to the postseason are treading water as the Ironmen sit in 16th place in the latest Division III, Region 12 computer rankings according to JoeEitel.com. A loss would almost certainly dash those dreams.

Ever since the 40-14 loss at Wheelersburg, Jackson has won the last two games by a combined total of 67-46. Last week, the Ironmen defeated Logan 31-20 in Jackson.

One reason for the recent success, according to Ironmen coach Andy Hall in his weekly interview with the Jackson County Times-Journal, was the change in practice.

“We’re still back to four days a week in full pads, working on the fundamentals every day,” Hall said. “We’re not going to give up getting better. We’re going to continue to work on fundamentals and keep finding that mixture to make us a better football team.

“Some people say it’s too late in the year to work on fundamentals, but I don’t believe that. I think that every week that you practice, you can get better at doing the little things.”

Clifford said Jackson fullback Morgan Landrum and tight end Cole Batchel are two players that stick out the most in his mind. Landrum leads the team in rushing with 549 yards on 87 carries and four touchdowns.

Mistakes are another issue Portsmouth is trying to remedy heading into the game. Last week against the Blue Devils, the Trojans made six trips into the Red Zone but converted on only three instances.

The three empty drives now made the season total rise to 14 Red Zone chances without points.

“I think we’re more interested in cleaning ourselves up,” Clifford said. “We know that Jackson is going to bring in a big, physical ball club. Regardless of what they have, we need to clean up our own house.”

Portsmouth leads the all-time series 22-9 but Jackson has won the past four meetings, including last year’s 56-6 outcome at Alumni Stadium.

Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or cleist@heartlandpublications.com.

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