PORTSMOUTH — If you put purple helmets and numbers on the Portsmouth Trojans, you might easily confuse them with the Logan Chieftains.
After all, both have proud football traditions that have not reached expectations recently. While the Chieftains have been 8-27 since the start of 2010, the Trojans (9-26) are only one game better.
Each team has a new head coach. Jason Sparks has taken over the PHS heading coach job following the three-plus decade coaching career of Curt Clifford. Each team has played extremely difficult non-league schedules. The Trojans' three losses — 28-19 against Lucasville Valley, 42-14 against Wheelersburg, and 34-6 against Minford — came against teams that are a combined 15-0.
Was a win over the Fighting Tigers a mirage, or are the Trojans ready to step up in their pursuit of an SEOAL championship?
Offensively, the Scioto Countians are averaging 309 yards per game and have been amazingly balanced, passing for 719 yards while rushing for 827. While Logan has faced strong running teams (Lancaster, Loudonville) and strong passing teams (Newark), this will be the first test against a team who will happily take what the defense gives them.
Junior Sky Oliver (5-11, 180) will be the quarterback, taking over the job from senior Brandon Wedebrook (5-11, 158) in the Trojans loss against Minford. Oliver completed 12-of-18 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns against Ironton last week.
Johnnie Charles (5-9, 166, senior) is the workhorse back for the Trojan offense. Charles has rushed for 495 yards and four touchdowns on 80 carries. Portsmouth lost Darion Robinson (6-2, 172, junior) for the season because of injury, opening a spot for Austin Hollins (6-0, 172, sophomore) in the backfield.
Alex Dickerson (6-3, 172, junior) and Isiah Lisath (6-0, 165, senior) lead PHS with 15 catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns and 13 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown, respectively. Khalil Lattimore (5-10, 152, senior) is the big-play threat with four touchdowns in his nine receptions for 204 yards.
The Trojans average 235 pounds from tackle to tackle, led by senior tackles Gavin Applegate (6-2, 247) and Kyle Williams (6-2, 244) and senior center Alex Grashel (6-2, 235). Juniors Hunter Gibson (6-4, 230) and Ryan Penn (6-1, 227) are the guards.
Portsmouth’s defense has been up and down this season and has struggled against opposing running games, allowing over five yards per rush. Conversely, they have allowed just over 100 yards passing per game and average an interception per game.
The Trojans will line up in a 3-3 stack defense, led by outstanding strong safeties Charles and Jacob Albrecht (6-0, 178, senior). The strong safeties in this PHS defense will line up all over the field and provide excellent support against opposing running and passing attacks.
Vinnie Kennedy (6-1, 228, sophomore) and Austin Carter (6-1, 202, junior) will flank hulking nose tackle Woody Workman (5-9, 350, senior). The linebacking corps is anchored by Michael Sturgill (6-0, 192, junior), who is joined by Zach Delotell (5-11, 222, sophomore) and Andrew Scott (5-11, 202, junior). Austin Ridout (5-10, 199, junior) adds depth at linebacker.
Oliver, Lattimore, and Dickerson will all rotate at cornerback while Lisath will be the free safety.
Delotell will handle both punting and kicking duties and Lisath, Lattimore, and Charles will all return kicks and punts.
Logan football historian Spencer Waugh of loganfootball.com previews the Chiefs’ opponent every Thursday in The Logan Daily News.