Where does time go?
It seems like only yesterday, coaches and players were in the middle of two-a-days and everyone was upbeat about the start of the prep football season.
While we feel five area schools - Beallsville, Martins Ferry, Monroe Central, St. Clairsville and Shadyside - are basically locks to be a part of the postseason and an additional pair, River and Barnesville, are on the proverbial bubble, the remainder of the Ohio Valley teams are beginning their final week of practice.
Again, it's just hard to fathom.
Despite it being the last week of the regular season, teams and players will still be on the field this weekend, laying it all on the line regardless of what their playoff situation is. Football is the only OHSAA-sponsored sport where not everyone makes the postseason, which makes the regular season even more precious to the athletes and coaches. You're only promised 10 football games. Making the postseason in this state is an impressive feat without a doubt.
However, representing your school and community to the highest degree both on and off the field is the most important thing.
Football - and high school sports in general - teaches so many life lessons that equate to people becoming productive members of society.
And let's be honest, that's the most important part of any high school sport.
So, go out this weekend and support your team win or lose. If your favorite team or alma mater is going to the playoffs enjoy every minute of it, but if you're not, oh well. There's always next year.
On behalf of The Times Leader sports staff, we'd like to express congratulations to Steubenville head coach Reno Saccoccia, who notched his 300th career victory at Big Red last week.
That is just incredible to me. The thought of winning 300 football games when the most you can play is 15 a season is incomprehensible. Saccoccia is now 300-52 at the Big Red helm and owns three state titles.
As incredible as one coach getting his 300th victory is, how about a second in as many weeks? If his Monroe Central Seminoles knock off Buckeye Trail Friday night, Jay Circosta will join Saccoccia in the prestigious Ohio coaching club, which currently stands at just 12.
Circosta and Saccoccia have been able to continually get it done by doing it their way. They're old-school guys who have been able to get their players to continually buy into what they're teaching and saying. No one who's ever played at Steubenville or Monroe Central has been bigger than the program, which is a huge key to success.
And probably most impressive about both coaches isn't their on-field success. It's what great guys they are off the field. Both will do anything and more for their players and are great representatives of their respective schools.
Both coaches - when they're good and ready - will be first-ballot locks for the OVAC Hall of Fame, but hopefully, they keep coaching for many years. The Ohio Valley needs coaches like Saccoccia and Circosta.
Again, congratulations to Saccoccia and good luck, this weekend, to Circosta.
1. Steubenville - The Big Red presented Saccoccia with his 300th victory and beat Massillon to do so. Not a bad weekend for Saccoccia when you consider you get a milestone victory against one of the most tradition-laden programs in the state of Ohio. Also, the Big Red locked up a Week 11 home game and are on the verge of yet another perfect season. William Houst and the Big Red defense are making life miserable on opposing teams. Houst is a man among boys and is single handedly taking games over.
2. Indian Creek - The Redskins were a team that was totally under the radar before the season. They've lost two games to high-powered Linsly and St. Clairsville and appear to be headed to the postseason if they can defeat Route 43 rival Edison Friday. The Redskins were mighty impressive in all three phases last week against Buckeye Local. Andrew Connor deserves many coach of the year thoughts for the season his Redskins have put forth.
3. Cambridge - The Bobcats appear to be headed to an 8-2 campaign after they took down Zanesville last Friday in Muskingum County. Cambridge and head coach Rick Goodrich are probably playoff worthy, but they're caught in a numbers' game in Division III, Region 11, which is definitely one of the toughest and deepest regions in Ohio. Dashaun Lewis has fueled the attack from the tailback spot and deserves serious all-Ohio consideration.
4. Martins Ferry - The Purple Riders turned numerous heads last week with their well-documented victory against St. Clairsville. Martins Ferry just has the Red Devils' number ... especially in games at Purple Rider Stadium. The Riders clinched a playoff berth with the win and took a huge step toward hosting a game in Week 11. However, before head coach Dave Bruney and any Purple Rider player begins thinking playoffs, they've got a big game with Bellaire to go. And the annual meeting with the Big Reds is a game that Bruney wants to win more than any other.
5. St. Clairsville - The Red Devils were pushed to the brink by Buckeye Local in Week 8 and pushed over it by the Purple Riders last week. St. Clairsville's offense is quite impressive, but the St. C. defense must become better run stoppers if it hopes to be around long in the postseason. The Red Devils finish the regular season on the friendly turf of Red Devil Stadium against winless Union Local before learning their official postseason opponent. Head coach Brett McLean and his staff won't let their players stay down from the loss for too long. They simply can't afford it.
1. Linsly - The Cadets are really, really good. They just continue to take opponent after opponent apart. Last week's victim was Allderdice from Pa. Mark Dodd is one of the most physical running backs around and Alex Stephens is one of the best quarterbacks around that you've probably never heard of. The Cadets are closing in on Wheeling Central in the Class 2A OVAC title chase and fittingly the two schools play each other in the finale at Wheeling Island Stadium.
2. Wheeling Central - Some thought the Maroon Knights would have their hands full against Caldwell this past weekend. Not so much! Wheeling Central seemingly did whatever it wanted to do against a Redskins' squad, which has been the definition of up-and-down this season. Central's vaunted running game was again impressive and its defense is highly underrated. Mike Young has done an absolutely superb job this season with a team that many weren't expecting much from. Something tells me, the veteran Young used that aforementioned expectation as serious motivation for his team.
3. Monroe Central - The Seminoles had their first unit out of the game before halftime last Friday against Frontier. Coach Jay Circosta's club is headed to the postseason once again and are closing in on an OVAC title, but Martins Ferry is closing hard in the 3A race. The Seminoles' offense has been steady and their defense has been lights out. These are good times in Woodsfield and hopefully the weather cooperates and the city park is flooded with people - and not rough field conditions - for Week 11.
4. Shadyside - The Tigers are hitting their stride and they've made themselves a very difficult team to prepare for because of their offensive versatility. One week, the Tigers come out and hand their running backs the ball countless times and the next they become a passing team. That versatiltiy is quite a luxury, especially when you can do both well. The Tigers are also very sound defensively. Shadyside is headed to the Division VI playoffs for the third straight season under Mark Holenka and its chances to win a few games in November are growing each week as it continues to get better.
5. River - The Pilots are one of the hottest teams around. Coach Mike Flannery is another guy who deserves major coach of the year consideration. Not only has he turned a 2-win Pilots' team from a season ago into a club on the cusp of the postseason, but the work he's done during the season has been admirable. Remember, this River team was shut out three, yes 3, straight weeks in the early season and won a game at Bridgeport with just seven points. All that is moot, however, because the Pilots have stayed the course and are playing much like the team Flannery expected in August.
BUCKEYE 8 RIVALRY WEEK
The Buckeye 8 made a tremendous decision when it created rivalry week within the league for Week 10. Obviously, Bellaire and Martins Ferry will meet for SPARKY, the Route 43 Trophy will be on the line when Indian Creek meets Edison and now St. Clairsville will meet Union Local.
However, we think the most entertaining game will be in Yorkville when the Panthers host Harrison Central in the battle for VALES, which is an acronym standing for Veterans, Athletes, Legionaires, Education and Sportsmanship.
Obviously, the trophy enhances the game, but two fairly evenly matched teams, who share similar offensive identies, are always entertaining. Throw in the fact that the districts border each other and the schools just don't like each other very well and you've got all sorts of additional meaning.
Follow The Times Leader all week for coverage of these games.
OVAC TITLE CHASES
Races are getting tight and games are running few. While Ohio closes things out this week, West Virginia has two weeks to go, so the titles won't be finalized until after the Nov. 5 games.
Indian Creek jumped into the lead in the 5A chase by a slim margin over Morgantown. Steubenville is on its way to wrapping up the 4A crown. Big Red's win over Massillon and St. C.'s loss at Martins Ferry has all but clinched the school's 10th title.
In 3A, Monroe Central is clinging to a slim lead over Martins Ferry, which picked up a truckload of points by knocking off the Red Devils. Monroe will be a heavy favorite this week, but won't pick up much in the way of bonus points because Trail has just one win. Ferry, however, will take on Bellaire, which has won five games. Fans of the Riders and Seminoles better get their calculators out this weekend.
Wheeling Central and Linsly will settle the 2A title on the field on Friday, Nov. 4 in a De facto title game. Beallsville should clinch its 10th title in school history with a victory Friday night.
In listening to some coaches talk about these standings, I don't want to hear that no one cares about the OVAC title. Because, that's inaccurate.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org