Regardless of the team, league or organization, there are always going to be critics.
However, anyone who believes the Buckeye 8 League isn't good for the member schools needs to look no further than this past weekend.
St. Clairsville scored in the final two minutes to get past Buckeye Local; Indian Creek had to rally at Harrison Central and Martins Ferry found itself in a slugfest at Edison. The only blowout was Bellaire over Union Local.
The fact that so many of these games have been close during the season indicates to me, at least, how well the league works and how closely matched these teams and schools are in almost every regard.
A great decision was made two years ago when the league decided to schedule all of its conference games in the final seven weeks.
While some of the coaches might not have liked it because of the physicality of the league taking a toll each and every week, it's created quite a buzz at area fields.
Each week, there's a game that's got everyone talking, a game where fans just can't wait to arrive and a game that comes down to the wire with serious implications to either the OHSAA playoff race or the OVAC.
Those kinds of factors are what are supposed to make football the best season of the school year.
St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean told me last week that he firmly believes fans and the kids remember who won the league rivalry games over who made the playoffs. There might be some truth to that, but fans are greedy, they want victories in the rivalry games as well as making the playoffs.
While the Buckeye 8 creates an atmosphere and interest, there could actually come a time when the league is seeking new membership. Since the league's inception, people have posed this question several times: What school would be the first to defect?
Hopefully, that question is never answered because the league works so well on so many levels.
Much like football stirs the drink at the college level and has caused an almost every week chat about who's going where, football is what caused the creation of this league. However, if there comes a time when a team is thinking about leaving, hopefully, the administration considers all of the sports that take part.
Plus, the fact that so many of these games were played prior to the creation of the league, meaning they're natural rivals. The league is another chance to honor kids and give area teams another goal for which to play.
Everyone who plays a high school sport has - or at least should have - the goal of winning the state championship.
But, I hate to be a downer, but that goal is extremely, extremely far fetched for the majority of local teams. However, winning the Buckeye 8, the OVAC and making the playoffs and a putting together a nice run in November aren't that far fetched.
When these seniors return to their respective alma maters in several years, they'll look up the walls of the gym and see the OVAC banners and Buckeye 8 banners with the championship years, and have a sense of pride and accomplishment.
One thing we'd like to see the Buckeye 8 administration implement is mandatory 7 p.m. starts. Actually, we'd like to see the OVAC implement that as a standard policy. That 30 minutes makes a big deal in the grand scheme of things for everyone involved.
Take a look at last week's Bellaire visit to Union Local. That was maybe the longest game in history, obviously that's a bit of a stretch, but it was long. Not sure fans want to be sitting at a high school game for three hours.
If game times are the only thing that are debated, then the league is on solid footing and doing quite well for itself.
1. Steubenville - Big Red has held this position all season and rightfully so. The number of good players, who've committed to Division I schools, to come into Harding Stadium is countless. More times than not, they head home with their tails between their legs. That happened again last Friday when Buffalo St. Joe and Clemson verbal Chad Kelly showed up. Big Red handed them a 49-26 thrashing. Steubenville is too well coached and its players are really good, too. Jo Jo Pierro is one of the area's most unherladed players. Actually, many of Steubenville's players are unheralded when you hear discussions about the top players around because the entire team is so balanced.
2. St. Clairsville - The Red Devils were faced with a stiff challenge from Buckeye Local and they passed. Maybe not with flying colors, but a victory nonetheless. Could St. Clairsville have been looking ahead to this week's game against Martins Ferry? Hard to say, but the Devils didn't play well Friday against the Panthers. They were without sophomore Jaylon Brown and the muddy conditions didn't suit their finesse game, but again, they headed back to Belmont County with their eighth consecutive victory, which was the most important thing to McLean. Now all focus can shift to the Purple Riders.
3. Indian Creek - The Redskins are one of the area's best stories. They came into the season under the radar and have played themselves directly into the playoff hunt in Division III, Region 11. Creek is doing it with the big-play capability of Mike Furda and a lockdown defense, which is directed by Shadyside High graduate Sean Grinch. As well as the Redskins have been playing, they had quite a battle on their hands from Harrison Central, having to rally and then hold on for victory late. Creek will meet Buckeye Local in a very intriguing Buckeye 8 game this Friday.
4. Cambridge - The Bobcats suffered their second loss of the season, 31-24, at powerful Dover last Friday. The loss was damaging for the Cambridge quest in Region 11 playoff hunt. Coach Rick Goodrich's team has lost to two teams with a combined 15-1 record. Not too shabby, but this week's game against Zanesville is developing into a must-win.
5. Martins Ferry - The Purple Riders are back in the top five after getting back to their winning ways at Edison. Coach Dave Bruney's team will host St. C. in its home finale this week. The Purple Riders used their vaunted running game and mixed in some solid passing from senior quarterback Jonathan Carlier to get past the gritty Wildcats. Ferry finds itself in seventh place in the Region 15 ratings and third in the OVAC title chase. A victory over the Red Devils would be a gigantic points boost in both ratings.
1. Linsly - The Cadets are one of the best teams in the Ohio Valley that very few people know anything about. Linsly just continued to take care of its business on the road last week. Linsly's trip to Old Washington this past week must have felt like a home game after trips to Columbus and Cleveland had preceeded. With a plethora of skill players at their disposal, the Cadets have been putting on offensive clinics all season. Linsly finally returns home this week to face Allderdice, Pa. After hosting Brashear next week, the Cadets and Wheeling Central will meet in what could be a defacto OVAC Class 2A title game.
2. Wheeling Central - The Maroon Knights took this week off and will return to the field with a 7-0 record on Saturday night against Caldwell. The Knights feature one of the area's premier one-two punches in quarterback Parker Henry and tailback Gino Bianconi.
3. Monroe Central - The Seminoles showed they're for real by knocking Barnesville from the ranks of the undefeated with a 20-10 victory. Playing in the mud allowed the Seminoles' defense to be quite opportunistic as it picked off seven Barnesville passes. Jacob Black stepped in front of three of those and took one back to the house. Monroe Central jumped into the lead of the OVAC title chase and appears primed to wrap up a playoff berth and an opening-round home game.
4. Barnesville - The Shamrocks had been sitting on top of this poll since the start of the season. Their aforementioned loss to Monroe Central was costly in more terms than this poll. Barnesville dropped to eighth in the Region 15 computer poll and have tough tests against Magnolia and Shadyside ahead. It also fell into second place in the OVAC standings. Coach Luke Johnson and his staff had better get the psyches of their players back up in a hurry.
5. Shadyside - The Tigers just seem to find a way to get it done. This past week they made it a ground game and fed the ball to junior tailback Brooks Ramsey, who went for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Shadyside has proven on multiple occassions it can run the ball extremely well. Ask Strasburg, Shenandoah and Lancaster Fairfield Christian about it if you don't believe me. The Tigers return home for the final two games and will take on struggling Bridgeport this week before Barnesville comes calling. Shadyside controls its destiny for the postseason.
If the playoffs started this week, there would be seven schools from The Times Leader's immediate coverage area printing up playoff bound T-shirts. Of those seven, Beallsville, Shadyside, Monroe Central and St. Clairsville would all be playing on the home turf in Week 11.
River, Barnesville and Martins Ferry would be heading on the road.
This is a great time of the year because there's so much scoreboard watching going on all over the place because every game matters in determining what 192 schools will play beyond the next two weeks.
According to the website Joeeitel.com, St. Clairsville has already clinched a spot regardless of what happens the next two weeks.
Shadyside, Monroe Central and Martins Ferry control their own destinies.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org