football updates, previews and predictions. Items of
note…Steubenville puts its 35-game win streak on the line against the state's No. 1 ranked D-II team Columbus Bishop Watterson; Union Local looks to continue to build momentum; and Buckeye Trail and Shenandoah meet in pivotal Region 19 tilt.
The Ohio High School football regular season is half way in the hopper. Conference races are heating up along with the playoff picture.
The picks were back on par this week with a record of 29-4. The season total has now reached 151 wins to just 30 losses. However, I did lose one very important game this week, but I will get into that in just a bit.
As for the upcoming week, a few key match ups headline the Eastern Card. Steubenville (5-0) will play host to Columbus Bishop Watterson (5-0) at Harding Stadium, while Shenandoah (4-1) will entertain Old Washington Buckeye Trail (5-0). Both games should prove to be outstanding.
Without further ado let us get to the meat and potatoes.
Who is Hot
-I won’t waste anytime getting to this one. The Union Local Jets delivered a statement to the rest of Division IV, Region 15 this past Friday in Morristown with a 39-7 throttling of previously unbeaten Martins Ferry. The Jets came into the game with just one loss in double overtime (27-20) to unbeaten St.Clairsville. If you read my column, one would know that I picked Martins Ferry to win 35-20 but was proven wrong in a big way.
Union Local has been a different team starting in the second half of the St.Clairsville game. Trailing 14-0 in the third quarter, junior quarterback Jordan Barbina began his evolution as a signal caller. Since that point, the Jets have outscored their opponents 98-35.
Coach Cisar and his staff have gotten better and better, and seem to be making all the right moves while the players have executed to almost perfection. In a game that featured a standing room only crowd the Red and White played as if they were use to that type of atmosphere when one would expect to the Riders to be more comfortable in that type of setting.
It was one of the hardest hitting efforts I’ve seen from a Union Local outfit. Defensive coordinator Mike Menges has done a great job, and it certainly showed. Senior stud linebacker Carl Perkins showed why he is the best in the Buckeye 8, while others are growing as household names. Seniors Chase Clark, Lewis Dunn, Adam Macy along with juniors Richard Shebovsky and Bo Olexo have stepped up into what has become a swarming defense. Early in the season the Jets had trouble tackling with too many kids standing around, but that isn’t the case anymore as they are really gelling as a unit.
The lone Rider touchdown was aided by 30 yards of Jet penalties on a personal foul and a face mask call. Kudos all around for an outstanding effort by the Union Local defense and coaching staff. They were prepared, intense, and hungry.
The usual suspects were making huge plays as well. Senior burner Zach Gust did everything but line the field. Gust scored on a 95-yard kickoff return that totally dashed the Purple’s hopes after the visitors briefly took the lead, 7-6. Shortly after, “lightning in a bottle” intercepted a Rider aerial and took it back 75 yards to the house. His final touchdown came on a 23-yard diving catch in the back of the end zone from Barbina.
The aforementioned Barbina was phenomenal. He opened the scoring with a 28-yard interception return of a Derek Edwards’ pass. The junior ended the first half scoring with from 2 yards out by walking into the end zone. His final touchdown of the night came on the Red and White’s last score and it was in electric fashion. Barbina raced around the left end and just blew past the Rider defense for a 68-yard trip to pay dirt. It appeared a Rider defender had an angle on the play, but the 6-foot-1 and 170-pounder just hit another gear and the back of his number 12 jersey was the only thing left to be seen.
Another contributing factor to the win was Union Local’s ability to get its running game going. Senior Zach Azallion rushed for 98 yards on 15 carries, while Barbina churned out 129 stripes on 17 carries and two scores. In what I considered to be a statement game for the signal caller the junior certainly answered my call out. Along with his big night rushing, Barbina completed 10 of 17 passes for 146 yards and another score. He was patient and confident in the pocket, which is a big sign the talented junior is on his way to becoming one of the valley’s best.
Gust finished by hauling in five aerials for 74 yards and a score, while junior Kyle Blackman had two sensational catches by coming back to the ball for 39 yards.
The win catapulted the Morristown-based school into the third spot in the computer rankings (Division IV, Region 15) from its previous position of eighth, but most of all it was statement game for a program in a dire need of a win of that magnitude. That win was for all the 7-3 squads in Union Local’s history, and 8-2 in 1982. The win was for the likes of Doug Butts, Mike Menges, Greg Cirudi, Justin Schafer, Ben McFarland, Mike Davis, Vaughn Butler, Willie Lane, and Corey Hall. It was for all of those who tried, and came up a little bit short.
It was supposed to be the “Showdown in Motown,” but as many people left the visitors stands completely humbled it was clear that it was far from a showdown. It was more of an ambush, and it sent murmurs of “hey Guru you were wrong.”
-The Buckeye Trail Warriors ran past the Bishops of Zanesville Rosecrans in a match up of the unbeaten this past Saturday. Senior tailback Steve Beros went over the 200-yard mark for the second consecutive week as the Blue and White pulled away for a 37-21 triumph. Beros finished with 229 yards on just 14 totes. The Warriors out gained the Bishops 427-256 in the total yards column. Coach Randy Thompson’s crew has little time to celebrate as it will travel to rival Shenandoah this Friday night in a huge contest.
-Tuscarawas Valley continues to win close games in the final minutes. The Trojans knocked off Massillon Tuslaw (32-25) this past week behind the running of senior Steven Spillman and throwing of senior quarterback Pat Kane. Spillman rushed 25 times for 135 stripes and a score, while Kane finished 15 of 19 through the air for 154 yards including two TD passes and one INT. The Red and Black is now 4-1 on the season and currently sixth in Division IV, Region 13.
-Steubenville Big Red rolls on with its winning streak, which is now at 45 consecutive regulars season wins and 35 overall. The Big Red scored 20 unanswered points en route to a 27-6 final over Beaver Local. Steubenville sophomore quarterback Dwight Macon is improving leaps and bounds. The talented offensive leader was 13 of 18 for 150 yards and two scores, while running 10 times for 71 markers. Many consider this a rivalry, but I know Coach Wright wouldn’t say the same until he figures out a way to get in the win column against the Red. Coach Wright is now (0-5) against Big Red. That isn’t something to be ashamed of, but the East Liverpool graduate is the type of guy that won’t settle until he is on top of the mountain.
-I stand by my prediction that Dover will win the East Central Ohio League after starting 0-3 (all nonconference games). The Tornadoes are well on their way after a 49-19 destruction of previously unbeaten Coshocton. Dover Trailed 13-12 before unleashing a furry of points on the Redskins. Junior quarterback Corey Lisowski is going to be another outstanding QB for head coach Dan Ifft. The junior completed 20 of 23 aerials for 284 yards including five TDS and no interceptions. Senior do-it-all Matt Rinehart hauled in seven balls for 125 yards including two scores and kicked a 42-yard field goal, while Michael Reneker snagged seven pigskins for 101 stripes and two trips to pay dirt. Remember, the Tornadoes will win the ECOL.
-Tuscarawas Central Catholic ended a 12-game losing streak by defeating Sandy Valley, 24-0. The Saints used a powerful running game to get by the Cardinals. Tusky CC rushed for 297 yards led by Quinn Cummings’ 178 yards on 32 totes including two scores and Trey Marcinko’s 105 lightings on 22 carries and a trip to “fun zone.”
-St. Clairsville has reached the half way mark unblemished. The Red Devils haven’t exactly put up uncanny offensive numbers, but they posses a defense that is stifling. I questioned their ability to stop the run early in the season, but Coach Stiles and his staunch defense have proven me wrong. The first unit has given up just 34 points this season, and 20 of those were to Union Local. This past Saturday they gave up just 112 total yards to a pretty good Wheelersburg team in a 21-7 victory. Senior Johnny Earliwine and junior Zane Butler are big reasons for the success.
-Along with Steubenville, Buckeye Trail, and St.Clairsville, the following teams have reached the midway point undefeated: Tri-Valley, Beallsville, Bridgeport, River, and Malvern.
Who is Not
The Indian Valley offense was only able to muster 100 yards of offense. The spread offense was good for just 14 yards of passing in a 48-0 setback to New Philadelphia.
-What happened to Wellsville? The Tigers had high hopes for this season especially after opening with a 51-6 drubbing of Strasburg. Since Week 1, the Black and Orange have dropped four straight. I for one thought this team was definitely playoff bound.
-The Bellaire Big Reds are finding times extremely rough. Steubenville CC posted a 33-0 shutout on the Big Reds. The Red and Black under new head coach Gregg Bonar is now 0-5. Bellaire has been dominated up front, which hasn’t allowed any opportunity to run the football to get the passing game going. Junior quarterback Tyler Rose is the leading ground gainer on the season with 98 yards. Ouch! It doesn’t get any easier with Harrison Central coming to Nelson Field this Saturday.
-Along with the above mentioned Big Reds these teams have reached the halfway point winless: East Liverpool, River View, West Muskingum, Strasburg, Frontier and St. John.
A look at Week 6:
Columbus Bishop Watterson (5-0) @ Steubenville (5-0)
The biggest game in the Eastern District for week 6 will take place in Death Valley. Not only is it a big game in the district rather the entire state. The Big Red will put their 35-game overall winning streak and 45-game regular season winning streak on the line against powerful Bishop Watterson.
Big Red and Watterson have met just once. The setting was the 1987 regional final in which the Red won 27-20.
The Eagles come into this game unbeaten with their closest contest coming last week in a 31-14 triumph over previously unbeaten Cleveland Benedictine. The Bengals had only given up 29 points the entire season, but the Eagles found a way to score 28 first half points.
Watterson resides in Division II, Region 7, however, the Eagles have defeated four Division I opponents. The Columbus-based school is second in the region behind Columbus DeSales who they play next week.
Watterson will come to Harding Stadium with senior quarterback Mason Takacs. The 6-foot-3 senior is being recruited by several Mid American Conference schools. In last week’s victory, Takacs threw for 161 yards on 7 of 12 passing including three TD strikes.
Junior tailback Jordan Gelhaus will be another featured player along with 6-foot-3 junior tight end Colin Boone and junior receiver Kevin Obyc.
Steubenville has yet to be tested playing teams with a combine 4-20 record, which is the main reason they are seventh in Division IV, Region 13. However, starting this week, the teams are a collective 19-3 the rest of the way.
I think it’s hard to gauge this Big Red team. They have a lot of positions with inexperience, but the first five weeks have allowed them to get comfortable to the varsity level. Sophomore quarterback Dwight Macon is getting better with every snap, and the running game has been by committee. The receiving cast is very good with seniors Stevie Davis and Anthony Gossett.
The Big Red defense has been outstanding giving up just 26 points thus far in 2007. Junior Branko Busick leads the way at middle linebacker. Seniors Mark Markakis, Jeremy Banks, Rolland Owens, Davis, Gossett, Keith Gregory and juniors Ryan Dugan, Brandon Carroll and Patrick Gilbert are also mainstays.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but this could be the week the streak comes to an end. This Big Red team is young and I think there are some holes that will be exposed this week. Watterson is a very good team, and will most likely not be intimidated by Death Valley and the atmosphere.
This is just another week for the Eagles who have four undefeated teams left on their schedule including Steubenville (DeSales, St. Charles, and Cardinal Mooney).
The last time Big Red lost on their home field was a 2001 opening round playoff loss to Columbus DeSales (38-8). They had a forfeit loss in 2002 to Ashtabula Lakeside a game they won on the field 55-6.
Friday night, the streak will come to an end with Watterson picking up a huge 24-14 triumph.
Buckeye Trail (5-0) @ Shenandoah (4-1)
This game is huge for the Division V, Region 19 computer rankings. Oh, but it’s huge for other reasons. Two rivals who have competed in games this past two seasons decided by one-point each year with Trail winning last year (35-34), and the Zeps winning in 2005 (22-21). Before Trail’s win last season, the Sarahsville-based school was winners of the previous three meetings.
Buckeye Trail is currently third in the point rankings, while Shenandoah checks in at number seven. The lone Shenandoah setback was a 21-19 loss to Union Local (4-1).
Coach Randy Thompson’s offense is scoring at 36 points per game, while giving up just under 15 points a night. The Green and White come in averaging 35.6 points per contents, while giving up just under 23 points per outing.
On paper, these two teams appear extremely close in terms of talent. Trail may posses a few more playmakers.
Coach Tim Wilson’s Zeps have a very good running game led by senior Joey Wheeler, but the Blue and White counter with its own star tailback in senior Steve Beros.
The quarterbacks are mirror images in senior Brock Davis of Buckeye Trail and junior Cody Johnson of Shenandoah.
The Old Washington-based school has more playmakers on the outside with Sam Bond-Zielinski and Bobby Beros.
Give Trail the edge on defense as well, but that may be deceiving as Shenadoah has played a little better competition. I’ll take Union Local, Meadowbrook, and Harrison Central over Caldwell, Massillon Tuslaw, and Rosecrans.
This game, to me, is so close that I don’t even want to pick this contest. I know, “the Guru” is shying away from picking a winner. Okay, I’ll do it. Give me Shenandoah at home 35-34. This will be the most entertaining game of the night. Count on it.
The Rest of the Slate for Week 6:
Tri-Valley 41 @ Morgan 14
Wing-T teams don’t fair well against pass happy offenses.
Logan 20 @ Zanesville 28
This game could go either way, but the Blue Devils are on another level right now.
Beaver Local 20 @ Canton Central Catholic 18
Beaver Local steals a big victory on the road, and makes a push towards the playoffs. Yes, if they get this win and win out the Beavers have a chance.
Oak Glen (WV) 6 @ Buckeye Local 20
The Panthers bounce back after a close loss to Indian Creek.
Dover 31 @ Cambridge 14
The Tornadoes expose the young Bobcats and their 4-1 record.
Carrollton 7 @ Louisville 35
The Leopards have two losses by a combine two points. Their opponents are a combine 20-5.
Coshocton 20 @ Claymont 21
A very close game on paper, but the Mustangs are playing very well right now.
Canfield 49 @ East Liverpool 7
The Cardinals are just better.
Union Local 41 @ Edison 7
The Jets are on a mission, and this game may be uglier than predicted.
Harrison Central 34 @ Bellaire 14
The Huskies have way too much speed for the Big Reds.
Indian Creek 0 @ St.Clairsville 28
The Red Devils have an outstanding defense, which will shutout the Redskins.
Thornville Sheridan 35 @ John Glenn 14
Adrian Balser is back and hitting on all cylinders. The senior speedster ran for 261 yards on just 12 carries including four TDS rushing and one receiving in a 48-7 win over Crooksville.
Meadowbrook 7 @ New Philadelphia 35
The Quakers got a wake up call two weeks ago, and will once again take out their frustrations.
Maysville 7 @ Philo 14
The Electrics will struggle if starting quarterback Scott Williams is unable to go after suffering a concussion in last week’s loss to Tri-Valley.
River View 13 @ Indian Valley 10
The Bears will get in the win column for the first time in 2007. Their opponents are a combine 19-6.
Ashland 28 @ West Holmes 27
This game is almost too close to call, but my gut is telling me to go with the Arrows.
Sandy Valley 6 @ Newcomerstown 27
The Trojans have Justin Stoffer and the Cardinals don’t.
Canton Timken 0 @ Tuscarawas Valley 35
The Trojans roll on to next week’s PAC-7 showdown with Akron Manchester.
West Muskingum 0 @ Martins Ferry 49
This isn’t a good week to be arriving at Purple Rider Stadium.
Garaway 22 @ Malvern 30
This will be a good football game, and don’t be surprised if the Pirates win.
Barnesville 13 @ Shadyside 48
The Orange and Black have too many playmakers.
Fort Frye 8 @ Frontier 16
The Cougars secure their first victory.
Monroe Central 15 @ Magnolia (WV) 14
This should be a hard hitting game, but the Noles get it done.
Ridgewood 41 @ Tuscarawas Central Catholic 6
The Generals will tune up for next week when the IVC title will be on the line versus Malvern.
Jackson-Milton 7 @ Wellsville 42
The Tigers roar after four straight L’s.
Caldwell 7 @ Beallsville 35
The Blue Devils are too athletic for the Redskins. Oh, and they have Eric Lucas.
Zanesville Rosecrans 34 @ Southington Chalker 0
The Bishops get back to their winning ways over the winless Wildcats.
Madonna 27 @ Bridgeport 22
The Bulldogs have five wins over teams that are a combine 6-17, while the Blue Dons have four wins over squads with a record of 3-16.
Toronto 6 @ Steubenville Catholic Central 28
The Crusaders will use a power running game featuring Justin Kaufman to roll up on the Red Knights.
Conotton Valley 21 @ Strasburg 13
The Rockets continue the Tigers woes.
Gilbert (WV) 17 @ River 21
This will be the Pilots toughest test to date. How much will Daniel Starr’s injury hurt the Pilots?
St. John 0 @ Linsly 55
The Cadets have way too much for the Irish.