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Senators coach making return to Ironton

WEST PORTSMOUTH – Mike Sammons is coming home.

Thursday, November 01, 2001

WEST PORTSMOUTH – Mike Sammons is coming home. Sort of. Sammons is the four-year head coach of the Portsmouth West Senators who will play the Ironton Fighting Tigers at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tanks Memorial Stadium.

It won’t be Sammons first time on the Tanks Stadium turf. He was the head coach at Ironton St. Joe for three seasons for leaving after the 1992 year, the final season St. Joe had football.

Sammons then spent five years at Raceland, Ky., before going to Portsmouth West.

"I learned a lot of football at Raceland," said Sammons. "Then the West job opened and I got the opportunity to be a head coach and I’ve been here the last four years."

Sammons will bring a West team to Ironton that is 9-1 and won its first Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship since 1990.

The game also marks the Senators third postseason appearance, all against Ironton. West lost 30-8 in the first round in 1988 and then 41-8 at Portsmouth in 1990.

"Being the first time in the playoffs in a big-time atmosphere is a concern. This is the biggest stage they’ve been on," said Sammons.

The Senators only loss this season was 25-14 to Portsmouth the third game of the season. Ironton got past Portsmouth 16-15 the sixth week.

"We got beat by Portsmouth, but we grew up. We played without a couple of starters, but our kids came of age," said Sammons.

West starts six seniors and five juniors on offense and defense. After going 5-5 last year, Sammons said he expected next season to be the best year.

"Most everyone has started for two years and now they’ve grown up. They had to to their growing up on the varsity field," said Sammons.

The Senators will need some maturity when they face Ironton, according to Sammons. He said Ironton will be the best team they’ve faced so far this season.

"They’re good. There’s no other way to look at it," said Sammons. "All their backs run hard, the line comes off the ball, and the defense is sound. They stalemate you and run to the ball. The big thing I’ve noticed is they don’t quit. Everybody gets knocked down, but when they get knocked down, they get back in the play. They hustle and that makes a difference."

Ironton, 10-0, has outscored its opponents 357-to-74. However, it is the defense that concerns Sammons the most.

"We don’t’ have anybody on our schedule who compares to them. Ironton has the power and Portsmouth is more of a speed team both on offense and defense. Ironton’s defensive line is pretty quick. Their ends Fry and Lutz play excellent. Their nose guard (Kyle Scior) is hard to block and they have those linebackers to back them up."

Sammons said West will use a balanced offense against Ironton, but the Senators defense will hold the key.

"We had six or seven backs with over 200 years. (Quarterback Bryson) Williams most recognized and most talented. He has good speed and throws ball pretty well, and (Justin) Cantrell is a hard runner. (Fullback Jeremiah) Lens has real good hands."

Lens led in receptions and yards.

In order to win, Sammons thinks his team has to win the battle of the turnover first.

"The turnover margin has been in our favor, but we need to hang onto the ball. We need to hang onto the footballl and create some turnovers on defense. If we can do that, then we have a chance," Sammons said.