Records: Upper Sandusky 6-0, 3-0 NCC; Bucyrus 2-4, 1-2
Coaches: Upper Sandusky Jake Moyer; Bucyrus Aaron Eckart
Last week: Upper Sandusky shut out Wynford 26-0; Bucyrus lost to Colonel Crawford 20-10.
Last year: Upper Sandusky beat the Redmen, 34-21.
Outlook: After last week's win over Wynford, Moyer pointed out that the kids he has in the program right now have never been here.
The Rams are 6-0, 3-0 in the North Central Conference, sharing first place with Galion, which also is undefeated.
Upper Sandusky made the playoffs last season, but did so with a 6-4 record.
For Moyer's players, this is new territory. But he's comfortable they won't be overwhelmed by it.
"Not at this point," Moyer said when asked if the players were getting anxious. "I've tried to keep my finger on the pulse of the team; these kids are the same all the time, they don't show me any nervousness."
The Rams get Bucyrus this week, a team that - despite its 2-4 record - has been tough this season.
"They can be a very tough opponent," Moyer said. "Their kids are very physical."
Bucyrus has one of the best passers in the NCC in Cole Murtiff.
"He does a nice job," Moyer said. "(Bucyrus) took Wynford to the brink a couple of weeks ago, so we have to be wary."
Records: St. Joe 4-2, 2-1 MAL; Hopewell-Loudon 4-2; 2-1 MAL
Coaches: St. Joe T.J. Buckley; Hopewell-Loudon Jeremy Nutter.
Last week: St. Joe beat Lakota, 13-0; Hopewell-Loudon was beaten by Mohawk, 39-20.
Outlook: Nutter wasn't thrilled with what happened last week, when the Warriors' Gunnar Johnson ran wild against his defense, and Mohawk won.
But Nutter knows his squad - and five others - is still in a good position.
"As disappointing as last week's outcome was, we're in the same spot as everyone else," he said. "It's really neat that we're in a four week playoff for the league."
In St. Joe, Nutter sees an offense similar to the one he saw last week against Mohawk. St. Joe's leading rusher is Marcus Kerr, who has run for 777 yards. His teammate, Mitch Gonya, has run for 292 yards.
One other jarring St. Joe statistic? After years of being a pass-happy program, the Streaks have only completed 31 passes this season, a little more than five a game.
"It's kind of like, 'here we go again,'" Nutter said. "They run a lot of the same sets, a lot of the same plays [as Mohawk]."
Nutter said his team has to do two things to get a better result Friday.
"We just need to play better defensively and finish drives," he said.
Records: Seneca East 4-2, 2-1 MAL; Mohawk 2-4, 2-1 MAL
Coaches: Seneca East Ed Phillips; Mohawk Erik Baker
Last week: Seneca East outscored North Baltimore 49-34; Mohawk topped Hopewell-Loudon 39-20.
Last year: Seneca East beat Mohawk 33-12.
Outlook: Both coaches they've never experienced anything quite like it.
Three weeks into the Midland Athletic League's farewell season and six teams are tied for first with a 2-1 conference mark.
I don't think I ever seen that before at this point in the season," Phillips said. "Usually someone's undefeated or stepped out a little bit. It's kinda what a lot of us thought going into the year. There are a lot of good football teams in our league and a lot of balance and so far it's been showing that."
Baker called the logjam "great parity."
Things should clear up some after Friday. Mohawk and Seneca East are each riding two game winning streaks. A big reason for Mohawk's surge has been the running of Gunnar Johnson, who has run for more than 300 yards in each of the last two weeks and was named MAL Offensive Player of the Week twice.
Johnson has been running well all year, but the last two weeks have really stood out.
"We truly believe that changes we made in our conditioning program (cross fit) and adaptations we made to our offense in playing bigger schools in pre-league schedule have created opportunities and Gunnar has made the most of them," Baker said.
Phillips compared defending Johnson to going against St. Joe's Marcus Kerr.
"He's a slasher," Phillips said. "Give him a little bit of space and he can go a long way. It kinda seems like every (team) has one of those, but he's right up there at the top."
Seneca East has a big playmaker as well in quarterback Ethan Caudill.
"No one has really contained Ethan Caudill, maybe Mother Nature (on) a night or two," Baker said. "Coach Phillips and his staff at SE have done a great job in creating an offense around Ethan's skills. Their use of jet sweeps, zone runs and quick passing keep your defense spread and allow them to create match ups in their favor. It will be a great challenge for us."
Records: Carey 3-3, 2-1 MAL; Lakota, 3-3, 0-3 MAL.
Coaches: Todd Worst, Carey; Dave Vodika, Lakota.
Last week: Calvert beat Carey 44-14; Fremont St. Joe beat Lakota 13-0.
Last year: Carey won 59-0.
Outlook: Both enter coming off a league loss and both enter with recent passing success, the latter being a big surprise for each who have been much more prone to the ground game.
The aerial assaults came at the expense of Fremont St. Joe, with Carey's Matt Holsinger going 6 for 8 for 263 yards and four touchdowns two weeks ago in a 46-7 win, while Lakota's Colin Timmons set school game records for completions (25) and yards (323) in a 13-0 loss.
The defenses also enter in similar ways.
Carey sets third against the run (151.7) and second against the pass (107.7). In fact, the only better overall defense than Carey is Lakota, which comes in second against the run (107.7) and third against the pass (123).
But, despite the recent passing success, the offenses are further apart - Carey ranks second in rushing (239.2) and a surprising fourth in passing (154.5), while Lakota enters last overall, ranked eighth on the ground (99) and fifth through the air (148).
The Blue Devils have also shown an ability to bounce back, snapping a two-game losing streak to open the season with a three-game win streak while Lakota has lost its last three games.
Worst said he hopes the Blue Devils can bounce back again, although he thinks they played well below their potential in the loss to Calvert.
"I'm glad the kids are move resilient than the coaches are," he said. "I understand losing a game, but I just felt we didn't perform very well overall. Calvert did a good job, but I can't remember a time when we played so poorly, from one end to the other."
"We made so many mistakes last week in assignments and tackling and handling the ball," Worst said. "We just cut everything back to what we did in two-a-days and got back to the basics."
For the Raiders, those basics involve trying to find a way to return to their season's 3-0 start.
"I think our kids have a lot better attitude than they did a few years ago," Vodika said. "It's just one of those things where we're still waiting for things to come together and we're still trying to put things together. It's frustrating, but at least we're there. I think last week, a couple right moves and we're right there.
"We need to come out and play consistently and get the ball across the goal line," he said. "There's not much rocket science to it, we just have to score more points they than do."
Along with Carey, numbers could challenge that.
The Raiders began this fall with only 24 players, and find themselves without Jordan Jaso (72-410, 4 TDs), who suffered a gash on his leg requiring seven stitches in last week's loss.
"I don't know if we have any big advantage," Worst said. "We've got a few more guys to pick from and can get a few more guys some rest for the end of the game.
"I think they do a nice job up front, offensively and defensively. I know they don't have a lot of kids on the team, but you definitely can't overlook them," he said. "We're going to have to be ready to play a good solid game."
And the Raiders have to step up to stop that, Vodika said.
"We're trying to be a lot more formidable," he said. "Carey's a good football team, they're still hungry to get into the playoffs.
"We play good defense and we're going to try to maintain that and cross the goal line a few times. It's one of those challenges and one of the opportunities," Vodika said. "We've played pretty good, just haven't played good enough."
Records: Otsego 3-3, 1-2 NBC; Fostoria 0-6, 0-3 NBC.
Coaches: Matt Dzierwa, Otsego; Jim Kelly, Fostoria.
Last week: Rossford won 27-0; Genoa beat Fostoria 70-30.
Last year: Otsego won 22-7.
Outlook: When your team is winless, it's sometimes difficult to see the progress.
Fostoria tumbled through an 0-10 season last fall and enters this week still searching for a victory, giving up slightly more than 52 points a game this year while scoring just 58 total. The Redmen are also young, with sometimes seven or eight underclassmen on the field at one time, while two of their now-former veterans ran afoul of the law.
Added onto all that is this week is Friday is Fostoria's homecoming game, a cringe-inducing event for many coaches. Except for Kelly.
"With the season that we've had, the things we've endured, homecoming is a very small distraction. We just talked about what we want to do, what we want to achieve, which is go out and get a win," he said. "We want them to have fun, but we also want them to make good decisions and we talked to them about that."
And keep making progress, such as they did last week: their first points in the first half this fall, an interception returned for a score, twice being no more than one score behind Genoa in the first half, scoring more than two TDs for the first time this year, and one player who ran for more than 100 yards and another who passed for 175.
"We're the young team that keeps trying to build, and we'll keep doing that," Kelly said.
"When you have a young team like we do, anything you can do is a shot in the arm. We had some times when we made some plays against [Genoa's] varsity," he said. "That defensive touchdown with Juan Mendez was a big shot in the arm for us. That was pretty important."
Mendez's pick 6 got FHS within 13-6 of Genoa in the first quarter last week and sophomore Cordero Diaz tossed TDs of 68 and 78 yards to Jayden Stanton, with Stanton adding a 62-yard scoring run and Ryan Phillips galloping 45 yards for another touchdown en route to 119 rushing yards.
Kelly said he hopes that kind of play continues this Friday against Otsego. The Knights might not have Genoa's win-loss record, but he said they will still bring the challenges with a balanced offensive attack and a defense that just attacks.
"They like to bring a lot of pressure on defense. We're going to have to offset that with some things," Kelly said.
"We'll have to be efficient in the run game," he said.
Diaz should help.
He played last year for the Redmen's junior varsity before getting hurt midway through the season, then moving to Upper Sandusky.
The sophomore returned this fall to FHS, but OHSAA transfer rules required him to sit out the first five games, although he was allowed to practice.
His return last week helped the Redmen take some steps forward, which should continue for the rest of the year, Kelly said.
"He understands the system, understands what we want to do," Kelly said. "Cord gives us a lot of things in the running game and passing game."
Crestline at Buckeye Central
Records: Crestline 1-6, 0-3 NCC; Buckey Central 1-6, 0-3 NCC.
Coaches: Lee Hurst, Crestline; Jeffrey Niedermier, Buckeye Central
Last week: Crestline lost against Riverdale 48-27, Buckeye Central lost to Galion 46-0.
Last year: Buckeye Central won 36-7.
Outlook: A repletion of pride and integrity is the key for Buckeye Central heading into its home game against Crestline Friday night.
With both teams sitting at 1-6 and 0-3 in the NCC, respectively, being able to display a winning attitude is what Bucks coach Jeff Neidermier looks to instill in his young team.
After losing to undefeated Galion and going through a rocky road in the first half of the season, the upcoming game against Crestline could be a shot needed to move forward.
"Playing in the NCC and being such a small school, of course it's rough on us to lose, seeing that we've been in almost every game." Neidermier said. "Comprised of mostly sophomores and juniors, it's important to us to finish strong. Moving into the Northern Ten Athletic Conference next year, we are going to be competing with more division six-and-seven teams. To have momentum on our side and finishing strong, we can look to build on our program."