Senior-laden Trojans trade size for speed
By PAUL BOGGS
Photo’s by Kent Sanborn
PORTSMOUTH – If speed kills, then Portsmouth’s Talyn Parker is a killer.
Although, in addition, Parker is joined this season by some speedster and senior-laden Trojans.
As Portsmouth begins its second season under head coach Bruce Kalb, the Trojans – headlined by their talented and experienced senior running back – shift from a squad spearheaded by size to one which quickness is the quality.
“Last year, we were big up front with good size and some height. This year, we have guys with good speed and that are agile,” said Kalb. “Talyn Parker had an amazing year last year and set three school rushing records and gained all kinds of honors. But we have some other weapons than just him that we need to get the ball to if we’re going to be successful again. Let’s be honest, if you’re scouting us, you’re thinking I’m going to get eight, maybe nine, even a 10th guy in the box. We probably averaged only seven passes a game last year. We want to take some of that pressure off Talyn.”
The Trojans graduated 11 seniors, several of which were linemen blocking for Parker – a primary reason why the Trojans went 7-3 in the regular season and qualified for the Division V state playoffs.
They also enjoyed a 5-2 record in the Ohio Valley Conference, tying Ironton for second-place – after defeating fellow playoff qualifiers Ironton and Fairland.
That is where his father, former Portsmouth star running back JoJo Parker, played.
Talyn stands at five-feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 195 pounds, but it’s his speed that burns opposing defenses.
“Talyn is a very dynamic athlete and runs so hard and so well,” said Kalb. “But this year, we want him to be more versatile than just an I-back running the ball. He is a solid running back, we’re going to give him the football, and we also want to throw it to him out of the backfield. Get him out in space even more.”
But the Trojans, although it may not always seem like it, are more than just a one-man show.
In fact, Kalb prefers his fastest men on defense first.
While Parker perhaps masked – for better or worse – the Trojans’ other strengths and weaknesses, the defense did do its job well, at times, last season.
Still, it allowed 40 points to Valley, 39 to Chesapeake, 34 in back-to-back losses against Gallia Academy and Coal Grove, and 28 against Ironton.
“Defensively, we want to use our speed and play fast. If we get out of position, we want guys who can get back into position and make plays,” said Kalb. “We want to swarm to the football, get in position and make good solid tackles and make good plays. My thing is speed kills. I tell (assistant coach) Bo Mayo our defensive coordinator, outside of our two defensive tackles, I want the fastest guys on the team playing defense.”
Chris Jenkins (5-10, 209, sr.) will be the strong side end with fellow senior KaDen Davis moving to the weak side in the Trojans’ 4-4 front.
Davis replaces Brian-Carey Knipp – a first-team all-district defensive end.
Mason Shepherd (5-5, 198, sr.) and Austin McKenzie (5-7, 217, sr.) are the tackles, with fellow senior Seth Porter (5-11, 225) and juniors JaQuan Pearsall (5-7, 200) and Rex Smith (5-9, 193) spelling them.
The end backups are seniors Jairemiah Brown (5-10, 193) and Tanner Queen (6-2, 224).
Parker and fellow senior Eric Purdy (5-8, 153) return as the outside linebackers, with senior Tyler McCoy (5-8, 208) coming back on the strong side inside.
The other inside linebacker could be Christian Keys (5-6, 156, jr), with sophomore Donavon Carr backing up Parker and Purdy.
Bryce Wallace returns at one cornerback with Ty Pendleton back at safety, while sophomores Dariyonne Bryant and Amare Johnson and junior Chris Duff are expected to compete for the other corner spot.
Purdy and Wallace will return at the wide receiver spots, but given the Trojans’ limited passing attack, they are heavily counted upon for being deep threats and blockers for Parker.
Bryant and Duff do provide depth, as Parker’s primary blockers are the fullback McCoy and tight end Jenkins, who is also a dependable receiver.
Jenkins is also Portsmouth’s punter.
“We took Chris Jenkins who is well-built and played wide receiver and we moved him down to tight end this year. He’s going to be a weapon because he’s a good mismatch,” said Kalb. “He’s a fast kid, a big kid, he can block. He’s just an athlete.”
Kalb said the Trojans’ playmakers, especially seniors, will take the pressure off Parker.
“We have 14 seniors and 12 of those 14 have solid experience. I’m confident in them leading us. They are physically more mature, mentally more mature, They know ourschemes and what we want to accomplish. We make sure we get as many of the older guys with varsity experience on the field,” said the coach. “We have some dynamic players who can bring our young quarterback Drew Roe (5-6, 135, So.) along. We have our two top receivers coming back, so we want to throw the ball more and have Drew run the option and get outside and use his legs some.”
Up front, the Trojans graduated standout Colin Boehm – a first-team all-district offensive lineman.
Like the defensive line, the offensive line graduated four of six starters, as only Queen at center and McKenzie at guard return.
Smith is the other guard, with Brown and Porter playing the tackles.
Pearsall and Shepherd are the immediate fill-ins.
“We are replacing some linemen, so we want to get the new guys to jel together and grow as a group,” said Kalb.
The kicking game is another question mark, as those extra points and even two-point conversion attempts play a major role in deciding potential shootouts.
It was that way with Portsmouth in the OVC last season, and could be again.
Kalb considers defending conference champion Gallia Academy as the preseason favorite, but knows Ironton is talented and experienced and the remaining clubs are greatly improved.
“Gallia Academy is the defending champion and the team to knock off, and Ironton has a lot of hype around them. They have a lot of talent and three or four players that have major college interest. This league is going to be a challenge every single week with no easy opponents at all,” he said. “You’re going to have to prepare hard and really be ready for every single game. There’s not one night off in this conference.”
Thus, in order to slay the other OVC beasts, the Trojans will rely most on their killer called speed.
Kalb said his squad is ready to build off last season’s success.
Head Coach Bruce Kalb
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“I’m very proud to be a Trojan and all of our assistant coaches are graduates of PHS. We are excited to see what this season brings and are eager to watch the progress of these young men,” he said. “Every year is different and presents new challenges, but last season’s seniors set a high bar and passed the torch to these seniors who are ready to take more steps forward.”
Portsmouth plays host to the 2019 Southeastern Ohio season opener, welcoming Valley to Trojan Coliseum on Thursday night (Aug. 29).
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