The high school football season will be reaching its halfway point today. Playoff teams have emerged to the front of the pack, while others are simply playing for pride the rest of the way.
Huge match ups are set for this weekend with Union Local (3-1) entertaining Martins Ferry (4-0) in what is expected to be the largest crowd ever in Morristown for a football game. In addition, Buckeye Trail (4-0) will travel to Zanesville to take on Rosecrans (4-0), while Steubenville (4-0) will try to extend its overall winning streak to 35 when they host Beaver Local (1-3).
As for last week’s picks, the self proclaimed “guru” had his worst week yet going 28-8. That brings the season total to 122-26, which is good for 82 percent. I’m going to try and run the table this week, and will settle for nothing less.
There is a lot to talk about, so let us get to it.
Who is Hot
– Zanesville’s senior tailback Bryan Gaiters is on fire. Arguably the best back in the Eastern District, Gaiters, ran for 286 yards on just 10 carries while scoring three times. In doing so, the Division I recruit broke former Mr. Football Buster Howe’s all-time single-game rushing record of 277 yards at Zanesville. The Blue Devils chalked up 508 yards on the ground as a team in their 56-14 pounding of previously unbeaten Portsmouth. The Blue and White are currently second in the Division II, Region seven computer rankings.
-It wouldn’t be a “who is hot” list without mentioning the Tri-Valley Scotties. Senior quarterback Cameron West was up to his old tricks once again as the Scotties torched West Muskingum by the score of 47-0 this past Friday. West completed 12 of 21 passes for 317 yards and four scores bringing his season totals to 1,116 yards and 12 touchdown passes to one interception. He also grounded out 72 yards on nine carries scoring twice. His top target was senior Wade Warner who hauled in seven balls for 221 yards and three trips to pay dirt. Not to be overshadowed was the return of senior Taylor Trout who suffered a lacerated liver in a 7-on-7 back in the summer. Trout intercepted a Tornado pass and raced 40 yards for a score. The Black and Gold have outscored their opponents 176-20 thus far in 2007, and they are currently sitting in the eight spot in Division II, Region 7.
-Zanesville Rosecrans has now tossed three consecutive shutouts after blanking Corning Miller 29-0 this past Friday heading into this week’s showdown with unbeaten Buckeye Trail. The Bishops have shutout Portsmouth Notre Dame, Strasburg, and Corning Miller in consecutive weeks. Miller had scored 90 points the previous two weeks. In all, Rosecrans has outscored its opponents 143-13. They now have a streak of 14 consecutive quarters without giving up a point. However, the offense wouldn’t be outdone as senior quarterback Beau Moyer completed 13 of 16 tosses for 221 yards and two scores. Both TD tosses were to junior tight end Sean Pottmeyer. The Red and Black are currently eighth in Division VI, Region 23.
-The streak is over. St.Clairsville got the proverbial monkey of its back when it defeated bitter rival Bellaire this past Saturday for the first time since the 1991 season. The Red Devils ended the long losing streak by leaving no doubts in their 41-6 throttling of the Big Reds. Many years of frustrations, disappointments, and misery came to an end with the victory. Now, the Red Devils are 4-0 for the first time since the 1985 season. By the way, the Devils went 10-0 and failed to make the playoffs that year. They are currently third in Division IV, Region 15.
-Union Local junior quarterback Jordan Barbina showed why he is one of the best athletes around in the Jets 39-15 triumph over visiting Indian Creek. The signal caller carried the ball eight times in the first half for 102 yards. In all, the slippery junior finished with nine totes for 106 yards and four scores. Through the air, Barbina completed 16 of 22 passes for 187 yards including one score and one pick. Also, junior Kyle Blackman (6’4) appears to be emerging on the scene in a big way. This past week the rangy junior hauled in four balls for 150 yards and two scores. The previous week he snared another two scores. Union Local is currently eighth in Division IV, Region 15.
-I would be remiss to not mention Claymont’s 9-7 upset of New Philadelphia. The Mustangs used a late field goal by Jordan Powell to top the Quakers combining with a quarterback that hadn’t started since the sixth grade and a tailback getting his first varsity start. Robbie Western was the signal caller who orchestrated the game winning drive and Jared Kendziorski delivered on the ground with 40 carries for 231 yards and a score.
-Malvern’s Tyler Tucci enjoyed another big day as the Hornets defeated Tuscarawas Central Catholic (55-17) to go to 4-0 for the first time since 1999. Tucci ran for a touchdown, threw a score, and returned an interception to pay dirt. In all, Coach Dave Tucci’s bunch racked up 440 yards of total offense. The Green and White are currently second in Division VI, Region 23.
-Buckeye Trail rolled over rival Barnesville this past Friday by a count of 50-7. This was shocking to me as I picked Barnesville to win. Senior tailback Steve Beros rolled off 237 stripes on just 14 totes with a score. Senior quarterback Brock Davis ran eight times for 101 yards including two TDS, while completing five of eight aerials for 123 markers and another two scores. Sophomore Bobby Beros had two carries for 67 yards including a score, while catching one ball for 66 lightings with a trip to pay dirt. The sophomore also kicked a 26-yard field goal. The Warrior defense only allowed 127 yards of total offense. Coach Randy Thompson’s unit is currently third in Division V, Region 19.
Who is Not
-Steubenville Big Red is the least likely team to show up on this list, but the teams they have defeated are proud members of this dreaded section. Indian Creek, Akron Buchtel, East Liverpool, Buffalo St.Joseph’s are a combine (1-14), which is the main reason Big Red is listed at No. 7 in the computer rankings in Division IV, Region 13. However, the remaining six teams on the schedule are a stellar (16-5).
-How could you? Beallsville gave up its first points of the season in a 48-6 victory over Cameron (WV). The touchdown came against the second unit; therefore, the first team defense has yet to give up a point. However, the Blue Devils opponents are a combine (3-13).
-In what many thought to be a “colossal” match up of unbeatens, the Shadyside defense was torched by the Wheeling Central (WV) ground game in its 45-21 setback at Wheeling Island Stadium this past Saturday. Led by senior Chris Martin’s 265 yards and five touchdowns, the Knights churned out 451 total rushing yards. Senior QB Alex Peluchette completed 7 of 12 passes for 125 stripes giving the Maroon and White 576 total yards of offense. The Shadyside offense struggled as well with senior quarterback Billy Merryman completing just 9 of 28 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown toss to Nathaniel Haney. The Knight defense only allowed the Orange and Black just 12 rushing yards.
A look at Week 5:
Martins Ferry (4-0) @ Union Local (3-1)
It has been coined the “Showdown in Motown,” but will it live up to the hype. If history is any indication, the numbers say the Riders will roll. What numbers? Ferry is 18-3 lifetime against the Jets outscoring them (744-222). This included 10 consecutive wins from 1989-2000, and five straight leading into tonight’s game. However, this isn’t the same Union Local of year’s past.
This is a “guru” guarantee. Morristown will witness its largest crowd ever for a high school football game tonight. Jet Stadium will be rocking with a standing room only crowd. One can take that to the bank.
Union Local comes into the game with one loss (27-20) in double overtime to rival St.Clairsville, while the Riders are unbeaten after a week one scare followed by three blowouts. The Riders average 30.3 points per game on offense, while only giving up just five points per outing on defense. The Jets are scoring at 28.8 points a night, while giving up 20.5 points a game.
To me, this game is going to come down to one question, will Union Local be able to stop the running game of Martins Ferry or at least slow it down? St.Clairsville has a pretty good rushing attack that dominated the line of scrimmage against the Jets, so one would only think that Ferry might do the same. For Ferry, they will have to limit the big play passing attack. How will they do that? The Riders will put heavy pressure on junior quarterback Jordan Barbina as they won’t sit back. They are going to force him to make quick decisions, and to me this is a statement game for Barbina. Where is he at as a quarterback? Tonight will tell the tale. If he is able to create enough time for his receivers to get open the Red and White are going to score some points.
In the end, I believe Ferry’s rushing attack will wear the Jet defense down. Union Local will have to play mistake free football on offense, and that is very hard to do when throwing the ball as many time as they do. But, Coach Cisar knows by spreading the opposition out and slinging the ball around is his best chance to win football games. He wants to get the ball to his athletes and playmakers in open space.
The safe pick is Ferry, but Union Local has the ability to win this game. However, this game is going to be won up front, and that is why I’m taking the Purple Riders 35-20.
The Rest of the Slate:
Philo 7 @ Tri-Valley 35
Look for Wade Warner and the receiving core to have another huge night.
Zanesville 56 @ Warren 7
Look for Gaiters to go over the 200-yard mark for a third consecutive week.
Beaver Local 14 @ Steubenville 28
Look for the Beavers to play their best game of the year, but it won’t be enough in Death Valley.
Buckeye Local 13 @ Indian Creek 12
Most likely the closest game on paper for week 5.
Cambridge 28 @ River View 0
Sophomore Tyler Hardesty continues to rack up the yardage on the ground.
Alliance 21 @ Carrollton 8
The Aviators have lost two close games to state powers Canfield (3-1) and West Branch (4-0).
Claymont 14 @ Meadowbrook 16
Look for a let down from the Mustangs after last week’s big victory.
East Liverpool 0 @ Poland 56
Edison 12 @ Harrison Central 34
The Huskies take out their frustrations from last week’s loss to Shenandoah.
John Glenn 34 @ West Muskingum 7
The Little Muskies running attack will be out in full force led by Justin Gidcumb.
Wheeling CC (WV) 35 @ Morgan 7
The Maroon Knights are a juggernaut, as the Raiders will find out.
New Philadelphia 42 @ Indian Valley 14
The Quakers weren’t as good as we expected, but they roll over the Braves.
West Holmes 28 @ Madison Comprehensive 21
The Knights go to 2-0 in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.
Dover 35 @ Coshocton 21
The Tornadoes knock the Redskins from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Tuscarawas CC 7 @ Sandy Valley 28
The Cardinals run the Saints streak to 13 L’s in a row.
Massillon Tuslaw 19 @ Tuscarawas Valley 21
This will be the game of the night in the PAC-7.
Bellaire 18 @ Steubenville CC 24
The Big Reds will improve from last week, but the Crusaders are a better football team.
New Lexington 41 @ Maysville 7
New Lexington rolls in the one with too much Will Hicks.
Wheelersburg 17 @ St.Clairsville 21
This Saturday night special will be airtight. Belmont County say hello to Wheelersburg QB senior Drew Spradlin. He is a good one, but an even better basketball player at 6-foot-5.
Buckeye Trail 34 @ Rosecrans 20
Rosecrans will prove better than most think in this match up of the unbeaten, but Trail has too many playmakers.
Garaway 28 @ Newcomerstown 13
The Pirates are much better than their 1-3 mark.
Shenandoah 34 @ Barnesville 14
Barnesville struggles to stop the run, and that isn’t good with Joey Wheeler in town.
Fort Frye 0 @ Monroe Central 17
The Noles toss a shutout over the Cadets.
Strasburg 0 @ Ridgewood 42
The Tigers have been outscored 189-6 thus far in 2007.
Leetonia 31 @ Wellsville 21
The Tigers have been a disappointment, and my streak of picking them is over.
Frontier 0 @ Beallsville 49
The Blue Devils have too much speed for the Cougars.
Valley (Wetzel) (WV) 7 @ Bridgeport 35
The Dogs cruise to 5-0, but the meat of the schedule is coming.
Caldwell 12 @ River 27
This should be another physical battle with Pilots possessing a little better offense.
Conotton Valley 7 @ Malvern 55
The Hornets keep putting up huge numbers behind junior quarterback Tyler Tucci, and running backs David Alexander and Jamar Stephens.
Glouster Trimble 12 @ Shadyside 38
The Tomcats will be welcomed rudely to Belmont County.
Van 29 @ St. John 6
Van has won two games this season, while the Irish have only won one in their last 14.
Weirton Madonna (WV) 20 @ Toronto 21
The Red Knights have a pattern of winning every other game, so I’m not sure why I’m picking them.