Mohawk at Hopewell-Loudon
Records: Mohawk 1-4, 1-1 MAL; Hopewell-Loudon 4-1, 2-0 MAL.
Coaches: Mohawk, Erik Baker; Hopewell-Loudon, Jeremy Nutter.
Last week: Mohawk destroyed North Baltimore 73-15; Hopewell-Loudon beat Lakota 48-27.
Last year: Hopewell-Loudon topped Mohawk 41-19.
Outlook: After losing its first four games, Mohawk came up big last week against North Baltimore. Gunnar Johnson ran for more than 300 yards and for five touchdowns, and Eric Maskey had two interceptions, one of which he ran back for a touchdown.
Baker is hoping it's just the start of something.
"We are really working on constantly improving," he said. "In order for us to be successful, we need contributions not just from Gunnar Johnson and Eric Maskey, but also from our QB (Grant Gucker), wingback (Logan Stillberger) and split ends (Mitch Parker, Juston Morter, Ryan Strausbaugh). We need to build on what we are doing well and make defenses defend multiple players."
Nutter said he's impressed with Johnson.
"We watched film, he's an impressive running back, one of the top athletes in the MAL," he said.
H-L has a pretty good running back in Malone, who is the league's second leading rusher.
"Hopewell's pistol running game is very well-crafted," Baker said. "Their mix of zone, trap and counter plays in combination with the formations they use really put stress on your defense. Combine that with the talents of Cody Malone and they present quite a challenge."
For his part, Nutter said the Mohawk defense can cause problems.
"They're athletic all over the field and that concerns me," Nutter said. "That's something we need to prevent, we can't allow their defense to put us in a bad spot and put points on the board."
Galion at Buckeye Central
Records: Galion 5-0, 2-0 NCC; Buckeye Central 1-4, 0-2 NCC.
Coaches: Galion, Chris Hawkins; Buckeye Central, Jeffrey Niedermier.
Last week: Galion destroyed Crestline 63-8; Buckeye Central lost to Colonel Crawford 38-13.
Last year: Did not play
Outlook: The road just keeps getting tougher for Buckeye Central.
In the last three weeks, the Bucks have gone up against perennially tough Wynford, Colonel Crawford (the No. 11 team in Division VI) and now host Galion (5-0, No. 12 team in Division V).
"All very good teams," Niedermier said.
Niedermier singled out defending Dareian Watkins, the dual threat quarterback/receiver as a challenge.
"Watkins is a heck of an athlete, but they have so many threats and they're quick," he said.
Because of that, it's important for the Bucks that the Tigers have the ball as little as possible. Niedermier said to expect a big dose of the Bucks running the ball.
"As much as we can with a team like this we have to keep the clock moving," he said.
Wynford at Upper Sandusky
Records: Wynford 3-2, 2-0 NCC; Upper Sandusky 5-0, 2-0 NCC.
Coaches: Wynford, Gabe Helbert; Upper Sandusky, Jake Moyer.
Last week: Wynford edged Bucyrus 41-40; Upper Sandusky had an easier time with Riverdale, 54-7.
Last year: Wynford beat the Rams, 21-12.
Outlook: Upper Sandusky has won big in four of its five victories this season, but perhaps its biggest test comes Friday against the Royals.
"We knew this was gonna be one of the big challenges of the year. It's really not a secret," Moyer said.
"On the flip side, we feel like we should have won last year, and we beat ourselves. Our challenge this year is not to beat ourselves."
On the surface, Wynford doesn't appear to be quite the team it has been in past seasons, suffering two losses and just scraping by Bucyrus a week ago. But the Royals still have some playmakers.
Running back Corey Brown tops the list.
"The Brown kid is the kid we feel we have to stop, their halfback," Moyer said. "In order to stop Wynford, he's one of the main cogs of that wheel. Their quarterback (Brock Williamson), their offensive line is really a weapon. If we don't get after them they can dominate the game from their offensive line."
But Moyer said the Rams are ready.
"I think we've gained a lot of confidence and that's very important," he said. "We have several receivers and we have a good running game, and our defense is coming around where we're able to make big stops at big times."
North Baltimore at Seneca East
Records: North Baltimore 2-3; Seneca East 3-2.
Coaches: North Baltimore, Greg Bishop; Seneca East, Ed Phillips.
Last Week: Mohawk ran wild over North Baltimore in a 73-15 win while Seneca East beat rival Calvert 34-28.
Last Year: Seneca East beat North Baltimore 40-8.
Outlook: The excitement level is high right now in Attica as the entire nation is fired up - Tiger Nation that is.
"Our kids are really excited right now," Phillips said. "It's all due to the fact that you got a team in Calvert who our kids love to beat and we beat them the last time we'll get to play them.
"We put a student section in our end zone and our kids call it 'Tiger Nation.' It's become an exciting thing for the kids and our school as a whole. It's an exciting time right now. This is a fun group for us. They like to practice, they like playing, they like hitting. A let down, I don't think that's even an option. They're ready to roll."
It's time for the annual catfight where Phillips' Tigers take on North Baltimore's Tigers. Although this time around, Phillips sees the teams having more in common than just a mascot.
"They remind me a little bit of us when we were in the early stages of putting things in," Phillips said of North Baltimore's new system. "They spread you out and they throw the ball really well. They have one of the top receivers in the league and a skilled quarterback. They spread you out and get you in space. From an outsider's perspective it's a good system for them."
Seneca East and North Baltimore have the Midland Athletic League's top two passing offenses, top two quarterbacks and four of the top five receivers (two on each side). Seneca East's Ethan Caudill leads the MAL with 1,255 yards to go with 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions. North Baltimore's Lane Bishop has thrown for 1,078 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Seneca East's Adam Hall and North Baltimore's Gabe Del Los Reyes share the league's lead with 25 receptions, though Hall has outgained Del Los Reyes 448-233 and has scored 10 touchdowns.
North Baltimore's Sean Watson ranks third in the league with 23 catches for 231 yards. Alex Scheiber for Seneca East ranks fifth with 20 grabs for 283 yards.
Seneca East's preparation has been different this week from previous weeks where the team was getting ready for physical, power teams. This week getting ready for North Baltimore has allowed Phillips to have his scout team run Seneca East's own offense.
"It was really nice for our young guys this week because we've gone out and instead of having to run plays off a scout card, our young guys are running our offense pretty much," Phillips said. "I've really noticed the tempo in practice has been up. That's helping our offense. Our young guys had their best night of practice tonight because for the most part we're running our own stuff. That will really help us down the road as well."
Lakota at Fremont St. Joe
Records: Lakota 3-2, 0-2 MAL; St. Joe 3-2, 1-1 MAL.
Coaches: Lakota, David Vodika; St. Joe, Thomas Buckley.
Last week: Lakota lost 48-27 to Hopewell-Loudon; St. Joe lost 46-7 to Carey.
Last year: St. Joe won 41-12.
Outlook: A 3-0 start has turned into an 0-2 slide for Lakota, and Friday's game doesn't look any easier as the Raiders travel to St. Joe, a team looking to get back to winning after last week's lopsided loss.
It's the third week in a row Lakota will face a league foe with recent playoff experience (Calvert and St. Joe in 2012, Hopewell-Loudon in 2011) and Vodika said the Raiders are not only challenged by their foes but their own self-confidence.
"These are good teams, and I appreciate that, but it's the next step in the maturation of the Lakota Raiders. We have to believe we can go out on the field and play with those people. We have moments where we look like we believe and we have moments where we don't," he said.
"I think that for us, it's an issue of belief - believe that we're good enough, tough enough, strong enough to play with these people," he said. "The last two weeks, there's been times we were real pleased, but there are times it just looks like we're wondering what's going to happen. Our guys gotta believe. We're just trying to go about it."
St. Joseph stands in the way of that this week - specifically an experienced St. Joe line.
"They're huge up front. They have all those linemen back from last year. We have some size, but we're skinny," Vodika said.
"They have that ability, and the other thing they have is that they've been there, they want to get back there (to the playoffs)," he said. "We have to nose up to them and prove that we are good enough. It's going to be a battle."
But not a one-sided one.
The Raiders do have plenty of experience with 15 veterans, several of whom are seniors looking to turn things around for the program before they leave, Vodika said. But to do that, Lakota will need a bit more consistency when it comes to catching passes, he said.
"I think that our seniors are seeing this is the second half [of the season] and we've got to make a move somehow," he said. "The reality is, we need to catch the ball. We run the ball decently, but we can't be a run-only team.
"The passing game is a rhythm, and you've got to get that rhythm," he said. "We've just got to get in a rhythm and we don't have offensive rhythm and that's a huge issue for us.
"I just think this is another one of those opportunities to go against a quality opponent," Vodika said. "We've had good moments, we've just got to string together some more good moments."
Fostoria at Genoa
Records: Fostoria 0-5, 0-2 NBC; Genoa 5-0, 2-0 NBC.
Coaches: Jim Kelly, Fostoria; Tim Spiess, Genoa.
Last week: Fostoria lost 55-0 to Rossford; Genoa beat Eastwood 41-7.
Last year: Genoa won 58-7.
Outlook: It's the top of the conference hosting the bottom this week, and more than that challenges Fostoria.
The Redmen have only scored 28 points all year and face a team averaging a little more than twice that amount (58.6) per game. If that's not enough of a hurdle, FHS heads into the game minus a few injured players, chief among them junior Maurice Haskins (RB/LB), who has run for two of the team's four touchdowns and one of its two conversions. Classmate Alex Navarro (FB/LB) and senior two-way lineman Caleb Peace will also watch from the sideline.
That means a lot of youth will see the field, Kelly said.
"You take two juniors out of the equation, that only leaves us one junior who's gong to be able to play, and one of our seniors, Caleb Peace, is also out. For us it doesn't help us because it takes us back to seven, eight, sometimes nine freshmen on the field," Kelly said.
"Our young guys, they're football players. They're going out and preparing. They want to play. They don't want anything to keep them out," he said. "They're preparing as upperclassmen should. They're well aware they're not the same size or have the same experience as guys they're going to face, but they're still working to get better, and for that I'm very proud."
They'll face a tough task.
The unbeaten Comets are coming off a whipping of Eastwood, who they more than doubled in offensive yards (509-245). The lion's share of that came on the ground, where Genoa ran for 423 yards.
David Nutter (6-0, 227) had three scores and 302 yards on 41 carries, while Casey Gose (5-10, 174) ran 11 times for 76 yards and another touchdown. They followed the blocks by a dominating line, led by 6-foot-5, 308-pound senior Michael Deiter who has verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin.
"We certainly respect them. Right now they're the best team in the league," Kelly said. "The way they do things is the way we want to do them. And it's not just the X's and the O's, it's discipline and how to do things. Genoa's kids do their jobs and do what their coaches tell them to do.
"For us it's just about going up there and trying to play one play at a time and trying to get better," he said.
--- The A-T?Sports Staff