By PAUL BOGGS
Photo’s by Tim Gearhart
PORTSMOUTH – Two squads with the same goals are essentially taking different roads to get there.
In a key Ohio Valley Conference clash on Friday night, and with Division V Region 19 playoff points and positioning at stake, the 3-3 Chesapeake Panthers face the 5-1 Portsmouth Trojans – and indeed a styles contrast should be on display.
The Panthers, which have been a much healthier club this season, plan on a ball-control clock-consuming approach – given that Portsmouth’s now all-time leading rusher lines up in the opposing backfield.
The Trojans, conversely, have obviously relied heavily on the running of senior tailback Talyn Parker – and his ability to score touchdowns and break big plays.
In truth, something will have to give on Friday night, as kickoff inside sparkling Trojan Coliseum in Portsmouth is set for 7 p.m.
In addition to contrasting offenses and gameplans, the measuring stick that is strength of schedule should show itself – as the Panthers are 1-2 and the Trojans 2-1 in the OVC.
But Chesapeake’s three defeats are to teams with a combined 16-2 record – as they have allowed at least 50 points to Minford (5-1 record and 54 points), Gallia Academy (6-0 and 55) and Ironton (5-1 and 50).
The Trojans – by contrast – aside from their 32-27 season-opening triumph over visiting Valley, have not defeated a team with a .500 or better record.
The winner will remain in the OVC championship chase, but a loss absolutely eliminates Chesapeake – and definitely dampens Portsmouth’s hopes.
Both have already lost at defending champion Gallia Academy, and the Trojans travel to Ironton for the regular-season finale.
Both are also ranked among the top-10 in the OHSAA’s Region 19 computer ratings, as the Trojans (7.9833 computer points average) sit sixth while the Panthers are 10th (5.95).
The top eight teams in each region qualify for the playoffs – with the top four squads earning first-round home bouts.
But both coaches, in interviews over the telephone this past week, agree that all standings and computer points will work themselves out later.
By their own admission, their teams are off to good starts, and that Friday night’s game is the “most important” on their up-to-date schedules.
“We just have to take care of business with the team that’s right in front of us. That’s Portsmouth right now,” said Chesapeake coach Todd Knipp. “One of our ultimate goals is to qualify for the playoffs, and this would be a big Level 2 points game, but the only thing we can control right now is playing Portsmouth this week and doing what we can to win the game. If we block, tackle, and take care of the football, good things will happen to us.”
“We approach every week the same. That is the team that’s on the schedule this week. Our focus is on Chesapeake, and they have a host of big, strong linemen and some good fast athletes in the backfield. It’s easy to look ahead in the OVC and to week 11, but we can’t get there if we don’t take care of weeks seven, eight, nine and 10,” said Portsmouth coach Bruce Kalb. “Chesapeake presents a new set of formations and a style that we have to be ready for.”
But, are the Panthers ready for Parker?
Last season, while Chesapeake was young and suffering through injuries, Parker pasted the Panthers for 381 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries.
Portsmouth put up 55 points, as the Panthers scored 39 themselves.
This season, scoring-wise especially, Parker has picked up where he left off – and ever since Valley bottled him up in the opener for 21 yards on 17 carries, he has run wild to the point of surpassing his father’s all-time career rushing yardage record at the school.
While Portsmouth only had the football for 18 minutes and 37 seconds against Coal Grove – with the visiting Hornets holding onto the pigskin and keeping Parker on at least defense – Parker did run for all 112 of the Trojans’ rushing yards on a dozen carries, as his 75-yard touchdown dart with five minutes and 20 seconds remaining broke his father Jo Jo’s record.
Jo Jo Parker’s mark of 5,572 rushing yards had stood for two decades, as Talyn now has 5,626 yards in his career.
But breaking off long runs has been Talyn’s talent this season, as he has four touchdown jaunts of at least 59 yards in the past three weeks.
Knipp said his Panthers must pursue Parker with good tackling angles, but what is more important is wrapping him up and getting him down.
“Talyn Parker is an extremely talented football player. But the thing with him is you can’t let him just make big explosive plays. He has really hurt teams by breaking off big plays at any time. It happened to us last year,” said the coach. “We know he is going to get the football, especially in space, and therefore we have to get as many hats to the ball, and just do a good job of tackling him. He has a great ability to break tackles, so we have to get to him, and make sure we tackle.”
Kalb is counting on Chesapeake, like several teams, to try and stack the box on Parker and the Trojans.
That makes the other Portsmouth playmakers much more dangerous, and they have not disappointed.
- Drew Roe
- Current Team
- OVC, SEO
- 2019, 2020, 2021
In the past three weeks, Trojan quarterback Drew Roe has completed 35 passes on 56 attempts for 514 yards with five touchdowns – while wide receiver Eric Purdy has made half of those receptions (18) for 218 yards.
“We know how teams are going to gameplan us, either try to take Talyn away or just try to keep him on defense by keeping the ball,” said Kalb. “We need to have the ball, and our skilled kids have really stepped up and made plays for us. Drew Roe has done a really good job leading this team, has become much more comfortable out there, and we’ve made plays in the passing game. We want to be a team that can strike at any time with any one player.”
Knipp knows the Trojans are no longer a one-man show.
“You watch them on film, and you quickly see they have other guys to account for besides Parker,” he said. “They want to get the ball to their athletes in space, so it is up to us to tackle and make plays in space.”
Of course, the best defense can be a team’s offense.
Chesapeake – with its wing-T base – has a size and experience advantage up front, and will attempt to play keep-away from Portsmouth.
The Purple Rushing Attack
Coal Grove won the time-of-possession battle, and full-house Rock Hill had its way with running straight at the Trojans, so expect the Panthers to try the same.
“That’s the type of offense we are, we want to ball control, run the clock, wear teams down at the line of scrimmage, and not turn the ball over while staying ahead of the chains,” said Knipp. “A good way to keep Parker from breaking big plays is not letting him have the ball.”
Kalb said his Trojans must defend the misdirection, and be successful on third downs.
“Chesapeake runs the wing-T, they run a lot of misdirection, they play their positions well,” he said. “It’s similar to what we’ve seen with Coal Grove and even some with Rock Hill, but we have to be disciplined defensively, and use our leverage and quickness on our lines to our advantage. We also have to get off the field on third down, not let them convert third-and-longs, third-and-mediums.”
Still, given the history of this series, don’t be surprised to see a lot of scoring.
The two teams played consecutive from 2001 thru 2007, and resumed the series once Portsmouth joined the OVC starting in 2015.
The Panthers’ only wins were that season and again the next, as the Trojans have scored at least 20 points in all of those series victories.
So far this fall, they have scored at least 28 in each, including exactly 28 in the past two – and 40 in the two before that.
For the Panthers to win, though, they probably prefer a lower-scoring affair – and shortening the game by keeping the ball.
The Trojans, meanwhile, will likely seek to strike on any given snap.
Indeed, it’s a contrast of styles – but both teams have the same goal of a key win.