Monroe Central aims to finish strong

Despite a boatload of injuries and sicknesses, Monroe Central still has a pulse left as far as the OHSAA Division V, Region 17 playoffs are concerned.

Albeit a small one, the Seminoles can still qualify for a post-season berth with a win Friday night over Buckeye Trail, and an entire myriad of things to happen.

“Never. Never. Never,” veteran Monroe Central head coach Jay Circosta repeated when asked if he had ever endured a season like this. “Between injuries and illnesses, it’s been unbelievable … unreal.”

However, after suffering a midseason slump that saw it lose back-to-back contests to Fort Frye and Magnolia, Monroe central has come on strong in its bid to make the playoffs.

“We have an outside shot, I guess,” Circosta, who has 306 victories to his credit, allowed. “We have to win and then a whole lot of things have to fall our way, but we’re really not concerned with that.

“Our main concerns at this point are to finish strong with four straight wins, and if we do, we would share the Pioneer Valley Conference title with Fort Frye and River.

“To go 7-3 with all the injuries and sicknesses, and losing to two really good football teams in Shadyside and Magnolia, and to a good Fort Frye team, all-in-all it would be a great season.”

The injury bug continues to bite the Seminoles as two-year starting center Chandler Carothers will miss his final regular-season contest. According to Circosta, Carothers was scheduled to undergo an appendectomy this week.

Quarterback Korey Lafferre has enjoyed a breakout season. The senior has run 131 times for 858 yards and an eye-popping 15 touchdowns. He has reached the end zone in every game with the exception of the Fort Frye and Magnolia setbacks.

Lafferre has also completed 42 of 111 passes for 737 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. In addition, he is also a standout on the defensive side of the ball.

Sophomore Chase Carothers has come on strong after taking over for injured Levi Brown. The younger Carothers has rushed for 222 yards and half-a-dozen touchdowns, with half of his yardage coming in a lop-sided win over Barnesville.

The Seminoles are currently in the 12th spot in the latest OHSAA computer rankings. Fort Frye, North Lima South Range and Columbiana are ninth through 11th, with North Lima South range controlling its own destiny.

“Hopefully, we can continue to practice for one more week,” Circosta said.

In other action Friday night, Bridgeport (2-7) will travel to Cameron (4-5) to complete its rough season.

The Bulldogs and Dragons will be playing for nothing but pride, but that should be enough motivation.

Both squads are coming off tough losses last week as Bridgeport was manhandled by state-ranked and undefeated Shadyside, 49-13, while Cameron was nipped, 7-6, by homestanding St. John Central.

Senior Dallas Fields has been a steady contributor for the Bulldogs all season. He has picked up 856 yards and scored six touchdowns on163 carries.

“Dallas has run hard all season,” said bridgeport head coach Rudy Vavrock. “He has had a very good season for us.”

Passing the ball has been a trouble spot for the Bulldogs as sophomore Bailey McGrath, who has battled ankle injuries all season, has completed just 36 of 83 passes for 413 yards and half-a-dozen touchdowns. He has been, however, intercepted 10 times.

Fields has been his favorite target with 15 catches for 143 yards and a pair of scores.

The Dragons are led by 6-8 quarterback Logan Routt and 6-3 receiver Mark Walker.

Hunter Yoders and Devin Starcher carry the workload on the ground. The defense is led by Waylon Miller.

Games already previewed in X’s and O’s include the long-time rivalry between Bellaire and Martins Ferry at Purple Rider Stadium; St. Clairsville looking to go unbeaten at Union Local; Shadyside looking for perfection at Barnesville; and Harrison Central and Buckeye Local playing for the V.A.L.E.S. Trophy in Cadiz.