By DEL DUDUIT
Southern Ohio Today
Wheelersburg Coach Rob Woodward said his squad is ready to get back on the field on Saturday after being off for two weeks.
The Pirates (5-1) will play host to Portsmouth West (4-3) at Ed Miller Stadium in the second round of the Division V Region 19 high school football playoffs.
West, the No. 14-seed, knocked off Chesapeake 34-14 last week in the first round while Wheelersburg, the No. 3-seed, had a bye.
“I really don’t like the concept of a bye,” Woodward said. “I don’t like losing any conditioning or any mental edge. So, we used last week as an intense week of practice and game-like situations.”
On the other hand, the Senators were able to work on their game and Coach Ben Johnson was pleased with the play of quarterback Mitchell Irwin.
The sophomore threw for 146 yards and had one touchdown in the air and one on the ground to spark the offense.
“We are going to need a big night from him, but for him to have a great night, the line is going to have to play really well, so it’s all balanced,” Johnson said. “We need to establish the run better than we did the last time we played.”
The Pirates defeated West 28-0 the first week of October.
“Our defense gave up a lot of first downs and we just seemed to run out of gas,” Johnson said of the first encounter with Wheelersburg. “We were tired as the game went on.”
West stuck around for most of the game before the Pirates scored two touchdowns in the final quarter to put it away.
Woodward acknowledged his defense will focus on Irwin and running back Jeffrey Bishop, who had an impact in last week’s victory for the Senators. Bishop ran for a touchdown and Ryan Sissel also had 87 yards and had two scores last week.
“They are spreading around their offense and we need to know where their playmakers are,” Woodward said. “So, we worked on defensive fundamentals all last week. Containment. Tackling. Fundamentals.”
Johnson said his defense must be stingy and not allow the 385 yards of total offense to Wheelersburg as it did the first time around.
At one point, Pirates running back Derrick Lattimore bulled his way through the defense for a 66-yard TD romp.
“They have a lot of weapons,” Johnson said. “(Jake) Gregg is a talented quarterback and they have some weapons on the ends and they have some strong backs. We will have to play a complete game on defense and contain better than last time.”