Portsmouth knocks off Ironton, 33-20
IRONTON — Portsmouth’s Johnie Charles rushed for a career-high 162 yards and backup quarterback Sky Oliver threw for two scores as the Trojans came into Tanks Memorial Stadium and defeated Ironton, 33-20, Friday night.
In a game that has been played every year since 1902, it was the first win for Portsmouth (2-3) since 2007.
The Fighting Tigers (2-3) were on the back foot from the beginning, as Ironton was forced to abandon its power run game as the Trojans stuffed the line, and operate out of the shotgun formation in several situations.
Ironton quarterback Tristan Cox’s second pass attempt of the game was a busted screen that was picked off by defensive lineman Nick Green and returned 10 yards for the first score of the game.
“They’re a ground and pound type of team,” said first-year Portsmouth head coach Jason Sparks. “We wanted to put them in a position where they had to rely on that passing game. We felt like, athletically, if we could put them in that type of game we would have an advantage.” Portsmouth went into the half leading 14-7, after a 9-yard scamper from Cox and an 11-yard pass for a score from Oliver to Alex Dickerson.
Cox would throw three more picks in the second half, including one with less than three minutes remaining while the Tigers were trying to put together a potential game-winning drive, trailing 26-20 .
On the next play, Charles took a handoff 25 yards into the end zone to put the Trojans up 33-20. Cox would throw one more pick, and the Trojans were able to take a knee and run out the clock.
“It’s a huge win,” Sparks said. “We had a goal coming in to the season to win on the river with Portsmouth West and Ironton and Wheelersburg. Obviously we fell short on Wheelersburg, but two for one isn’t bad.
“This was a game that we didn’t mark on our calendar per se, but everyone else had, because everyone looks forward to this game.” Oliver, who threw for 182 yards, was in for the injured Brandon Wedebrook.
“He just rose to occasion,” Sparks said. “We expected him to make some mistakes and he made a few, but he just made up for it with his athletic ability.” Ironton has now dropped two straight, after losing to Ashland 42-20 last week. That game was also 14-7 at the half.
“It’s disappointing because it’s the same old stuff,” said Vass, who has five starters out with injuries. “The first half I just thought was bad football. It was pretty sloppy in the second half. We played a little better, and we had our chances, but we just made too many mistakes.” “But we knew Portsmouth was going to be a tough opponent. They have three losses to three undefeated teams, and they’re a good program.” Next week the Tigers host Kentucky Class 4A power Johnson Central.
“It certainly doesn’t get any easier,” Vass said. “They know that. All we can do is regroup and see what happens.”