Playoff chase really heating up with two weeks to go
There are only two weeks in the prep football regular season remaining.
As hard as that might to believe, it is what it is.
And the race for the coveted Ohio postseason is on as the OHSAA will formally send out its invitations to 196 schools in less than two weeks.
So, for the next two weeks, scoreboard watching will be hot and heavy.
It’s been an up-and-down season for many teams in the Ohio Valley with many outcomes have just been tough to see coming.
If the playoffs began this week, five area teams would be in the tournament.
There might not be a tougher region in the state to get a handle on than Division IV, Region 15.
This past week, all but three of the teams in the current top eight, according to Joeeitel.com, lost.
The only teams to win were St. Clairsville, Indian Valley and Piketon. Ironton and Piketon were routed in their games.
The region being down overall has allowed St. Clairsville to already clinch a home playoff game after only eight weeks. Clinching a berth is one thing, but to have wrapped up a home game after eight weeks is tough to do and comprehend.
Martins Ferry and Harrison Central are clinging to the seventh and eighth spots, respectively. The Purple Riders visit St. C. this week and Harrison Central visits Union Local.
Bellaire is in the seventh spot in Division V, Region 17. The Big Reds are a solid 6-2 with a road trip to Edison looming this Friday.
Shadyside would be the only team from the immediate area in the Division VI, Region 21 field. The Tigers are currently third after posting a victory against Buckeye Trail last week.
River, which is in Region 23, won for the second straight week, but dropped to ninth in the computer poll. The Pilots have a huge game this week against 4-4 Buckeye Trail.
A reminder that Divisions II, IV and VI will play on Friday nights during the month of November, while Divisions I, III and V will battle it out on Saturdays.
Bellaire has continued to impress. After losing two weeks in a row to Indian Creek and St. Clairsville, the Big Reds bounced back with a big win at Harrison Central and then this past Saturday they closed out the home portion of their schedule with a victory against Union Local.
The Big Reds’ attitude is much different than it’s been in the past. They take the field not hoping to win, but expecting to win. It’s the same attitude that Big Reds’ teams that head coach Jose Davis and offensive coordinator Ty Masciarelli played on possessed in the late 90s.
You can just tell that the Big Reds are playing with more swagger than they had in the past. That comes with confidence and a level of expectation of victory.
Bellaire’s skill players have grown up with each passing game, the line has been solid, the running game has been productive enough to keep defenses honest, the defense has made continual strides and special teams has a weapon in the form of senior kicker Dalton Conroy.
The Big Reds have road trips to Edison and arch-rival Martins Ferry. The Big Reds are currently in seventh place in the Region 17 rankings. Looking ahead should the Big Reds qualify, avoiding Kirtland and Youngstown Ursuline would be ideal for the Big Reds.
Each August when we begin our work on The Pigskin Preview and start talking to coaches about the upcoming seasons, to a man, each talk about the same thing as the biggest keys to their season.
That being the word injuries.
As population in the Ohio Valley continues to decline and numbers at area schools dwindle, so do the numbers on prep football teams. Yeah, some of the teams have a good many kids dressed on Friday nights standing along the sideline, but there is often times quite a dropoff from the first unit to the second and third teams.
If you look at Shadyside and St. Clairsville, both are undefeated and both have stayed reasonably healthy. They’ve got kids banged up obviously that happens in a physical sport after eight games, but they’ve not had many of their key performers miss any time at all.
Schools such as Monroe Central and Martins Ferry have really been hit hard by injuries.
Purple Riders’ head coach Dave Bruney was quoted after Friday’s loss to Edison that the Riders played with as many young kids as he had in his 40 years.
The thing about injuries are for the majority of area teams, the loss of one player is actually losing two because the individual plays a key role on both sides of the ball.
The Shadyside Tigers have one of the area’s most storied football traditions. But, the current group of Tigers is two victories away from etching its name into history. Shadyside is sitting at 8-0.
The Tigers have just one perfect 10-0 team in their history and that 1977 squad was honored a few weeks back.
Don’t think for a minute that any discussion of 10-0 is going on inside the Tigers’ lockerroom – at least when head coach Mark Holenka is around.
The entire second half of the season, Holenka has spent professing that his team’s total focus is on the next task at hand. This week’s task is a road trip to Bridgeport and then next week at Barnesville.
Both the Bulldogs and Shamrocks are struggling. Bridgeport hasn’t won on the field since Week 2 against Toronto and the Shamrocks have lost three in a row.
It looks as if if the Tigers want to play host to another game in Week 11, they’ll need those two victories. Then throw in the OVAC title ramifications and it’s obvious that Holenka will continue to impress on his team that it’s one week at a time.
The 5A race is getting especially tight as Indian Creek continues to make up ground on the University Hawks. Creek has games against Buckeye Local and Edison remaining.
The 4A race is the most widespread race of all the classes. St. Clairsville continues to set the pace. The unblemished Red Devils are the team in their class with fewer than two losses. The result is better than a 20-point cushion over Steubenville.
In 3A, the Bellaire Big Reds continue to set the pace. Bellaire posted a victory against Union Local, while Magnolia took the week off. The Big Reds have games against 5A school Edison and 4A Martins Ferry, while the Blue Eagles finish with 3A Barnesville, 2A Steubenville Central and 4A Oak Glen, so it’s going to come down to bonus points.
In 2A, Shadyside has been setting the pace all season and continue to hold off Steubenville Central. The Tigers are 8-0. The Crusaders have stiff challenges, but also big bonus point games against Madonna and Magnolia ahead.
In 1A, Madonna holds a fairly comfortable cushion on Bishop Donahue, but the Blue Dons have three games remaining.
St. Clairsville’s Michael Ferns and Jaylon Brown were guests at the Michigan blanking of Illinois last Saturday. Ferns, just a junior, has already committed to the Wolverines.
Shadyside sophomore Austin Dorris was a guest at Ball State University’s overtime victory against Western Michigan.
CHECKING ON THE LOCALS
JOHN MAGISTRO and his Westerville Central Warhawks found themselves in a tie game at halftime, but Westerville South exploded in the second half and posted a 50-28 victory. The loss drops Central to 6-2. If Magistro and company hope to be a part of the challenging Region 3 tournament field, a win against undefeated Hilliard Darby is almost a necessity.
AFTER FALLING to Glen Oak on a Thursday game, Todd Filtz’ Canton McKinley Bulldogs got back on track. McKinley rolled past Massillon Perry, 49-14 in their final regular season home game of the campaign. The Bulldogs will travel to Youngstown to take on Boardman this week before meeting arch-rival Massillon in their annual season finale.
COLUMBUS BISHOP Hartley continued to take absolutely no prisoners as it cruised to 8-0 with a 62-6 thumping of Ironton. The Hawks, who won the 2010 state title, are led by Notre Dame recruit Jacob Matuska at tight end and linebacker. Matuska’s parents are St. John Central graduates.
DUBLIN COFFMAN improved to 8-0 on the season with an impressive 69-13 victory against Westland last Friday. Coffman features three players – Tanner Zinni, Zack Murdock and Brent Whitehead – who all have Ohio Valley ties. Zinni and and Murdock, who is headed to Ohio University, are starters along the offensive line. Coffman will take on Olentangy Liberty this week.
PICKERINGTON CENTRAL got back to its winning ways the past two weekends with victories against Grove City and Newark. The Tigers received a strong performance from senior running back Brent Walton, who ran for 203 yards and three touchdowns. Walton’s dad, Brian, played football at Magnolia, and his mother, Missy, is a St. Clairsville graduate. Walton has grandparents living in both Barnesville and St. Clairsville.
CINCINNATI MOELLER got back on the winning side of things with a 48-13 victory at Indianapolis Cathedral. Senior quarterback Spencer Iacovone ?was an efficient 10-of-12 for 119 yards passing. He also ran for a touchdown. Moeller hosts undefeated Lakewood St. Edward this Saturday.
Staskey can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @TLSportsSeth