Prep football season picks up steam as Week 4 arrives

While we obviously hate to wish away time, especially the high school football season, but week four has finally arrived.

We say finally because there will finally be some games that have cache. The nature of the high school football season means all of the games have meaning, but few, thus far, have had cachet.

Rivalries and excitement just haven’t existed much during the first three weeks of the season outside of last week’s Barnesville and Union Local encounter.

The Buckeye 8 lends itself to excitement because the league features games against teams of neighboring school districts of the same size and same culture, meaning most of the games are evenly matched and come down to the wire.

If you examine the Buckeye 8 through the first three weeks, only two teams (Edison and Union Local) have losing records.

Taking that a step further, St. Clairsville and Buckeye Local both made it through the non-league portion of their schedules unschathed. To me, that means there are going to be some outstanding football games in the coming weeks.

It all gets started Friday as all eight teams play that night.

One of the most interesting matchups is slated for Yorkville where Buckeye Local hosts Bellaire.

The Panthers and Big Reds both had their way with John Marshall and Bellaire is coming off an impressive victory at Steubenville Central. In that Big Reds’ victory, sophomore quarterback Spencer Badia put up video-game like numbers with 507 passing yards and seven touchdowns.

Buckeye Local is one of the area’s best kept secrets. Senior running backs Josten Dear and Jordan Piergallini are forces out of the backfield, but I’ve been impressed with A.J. Barsch at quarterback as well as Justin Isinghood as a receiver and a defensive back.

Panthers’ A.D. Sam “Chicken” Jones has assured me that the lighting issue at World War II Memorial Stadium has been resolved.

Another interesting matchup occurs at St. Clairsville where the Red Devils host Indian Creek. Both offenses have firepower and the ability to score from anywhere on the field. This is the only game in the league that starts at 7:30 and fans had better be prepared for a long one because it could come down to which team has the ball last.

Martins Ferry is at home once again and hosts Harrison Central. This is always a special game because it’s the teacher, Dave Bruney, against the pupil, Justin Kropka. However, it will be the players on the field who decide the outcome.

It’ll be a matchup of two of the league’s premier ground games with the trio of Tyrel Simmons, C.J. Williams and Trent Neavin lugging the ball for the Riders and Maurtice Hython carrying it for the Huskies.

Edison hosts Union Local in the other game. We believe both teams are better than their records indicate. The Wildcats two losses came to Oak Glen and Wheeling Central. Union Local has been in each of its three games and had chances to pull away and/or post a victory, but sputtered.

Wow, I am excited for the next seven weeks. Let the (real) games begin.


Small School

1. Barnesville – The Shamrocks didn’t play their best game last week against Union Local. However, it’s a rivalry game and they still found a way to make enough plays to get it done and pull away for a convincing victory.

2. Linsly – The Cadets look like a force to be reckoned with. Each week, I am becoming more and more sold on Coach B.J. Depew’s squad. They look like the real deal and the favorite in OVAC Class 2A.

3. Wheeling Central – The Knights were expected to be slightly down this season. Thus far they’ve proven that’s why games aren’t won and lost in the early weeks of August. Sophomore quarterback Parker Henry is climbing the ladder as one of the most exciting players in the Ohio Valley.

4. Monroe Central – The Seminoles’ offense continues to struggle to get untracked, but their defense was again lights out as they blanked River last week. Monroe has now won two games in a row and appears to be well on their way to righting its ship. A stern test awaits this week at Caldwell.

5. Beallsville – The Blue Devils are back in the top five after an impressive come-from-behind victory against Bishop Donahue. The Blue Devils showed an impressive ground game last week with a strong collection of ball carriers.

Just Missed: Madonna (2-1).

Big School

1. Steubenville – Once again, no one has proven themselves to be better and Big Red had done nothing to warrant dropping. Big Red flexed their muscles against a Canadian outfit last week and will make their first road trip this Friday at Brooke.

2. St. Clairsville – The Red Devils continued to score points in bunches this past weekend, but it was against a subpar opponent. However, St. C. has been impressive offensively in all three outings.

3. Cambridge – The Bobcats have done what many expected them to do and that’s cruise through the first three weeks. Cambridge will garner a strong litmus test this week when it travels to New Philadelphia

. A date with powerful Sheridan follows in week five.

4. Buckeye Local – The Panthers are pretty good. I think they’re making more and more people realize just how good they are. They do boast one of the area’s top one-two punches in the backfield in Dear and Piergallini.

5. Martins Ferry – The Purple Riders were dealt their first loss of the season last week by a strong Ridgewood squad in what will most likely prove to be the game of the year in the Ohio Valley. The Riders are a strong team and with Bruney leading the way, we firmly believe this past Friday will just be a bump in the road.

Just missed: Indian Creek (2-1), Oak Glen (2-1).



I’ve written in this space before that no head coach in the Ohio Valley circles the wagons quite like Kropka.

Unfortunately, the veteran Huskies’ head coach had to pull his biggest circling job yet this past week. The Harrison Central Huskies were dealt an early season blow when junior quarterback Rasheen Mitchell was injured.

However, that was extremely trivial and miniscule compared to what the Huskies dealt with last week when sophomore Jimmy Cameron, who was #68 for the Huskies, passed away after a brief illness.

Kropka and the Huskies spent plenty of time mourning the loss of a young man, who was far too young to die, but they also turned their grief into a form of motivation.

The Huskies honored Jimmy before the game, but something tells me, Jimmy was smiling down on his teammates and coaches even wider after they rallied for an impressive victory over a strong Caldwell team.

Kropka has had to deal with numerous issues, including a teacher’s strike and the death of a players’ parents, but I am guessing that nothing compares to losing one of your players.

While the memories and thoughts of Jimmy won’t ever cease, Kropka and the Huskies will continue to go back to work the best they can and can probably know that their biggest fan is watching down on them.

We send our deepest condolences to Jimmy’s family, the Harrison Central football family and the entire Harrison Central school district.


When the Shadyside Tigers announced their finished schedule in late July, I and probably many others looked at the Shadyside week three opponent and thought Mark Holenka had scheduled a built-in victory by signing Imani Christian out of the Pittsburgh area.

When Holenka and I talked in August for the Tigers’ preview, he kept trying to convince me that despite it being Imani’s first year of football, it would be an athletic and talented team. Again, I thought that was typical coach speak.

However, as Friday’s game showed, Holenka was right on par. Imani Christian didn’t bring a lot of fans or a lot of players, but they brought talented, fast players and handed Shadyside its second straight loss.

While, I will admit, I was off base, it’s still a crying shame that Shadyside played that game.

Personally, I was hoping Shadyside would have came to an agreement to play St. Clairsville or at least some other local team.

Not only did Shadyside suffer a setback, I am guessing neither Shadyside nor St. Clairsville made a killing at the gate this week. I personally saw the Red Devils’ game with Dayton Jefferson and the Broncos brought six – yes six – fans.

Keep in mind, this is just one example. Steubenville played a team from Canada for crying out loud this past week. Big Red is really good, but they still play with 16- and 17-year old kids the same way most teams do.

Regardless, local teams should be playing local teams. Unfortunately, the membership of the OVAC voted down mandatory scheduling.

Whether it’s the struggles teams had to fill their openings this year or the costs of transportation and the need for football gate reciepts to help offset some of the non revenue sports during the year, the need resolve these scheduling differences still exists.

We think it’s time the OVAC, the schools and maybe most importantly the head coaches reconsider their stance on mandatory scheduling.

Staskey can be reached at