Hopewell-Loudon at Seneca East
Records: Hopewell-Loudon 3-3, 2-2 MAL; Seneca East 3-3, 2-2 MAL.
Coaches: Hopewell-Loudon, Jeremy Nutter; Seneca East, Ed Phillips.
Last week: Hopewell-Loudon lost to St. Joe 27-13; Seneca East fell to Mohawk, 34-27.
Last year: Seneca East beat Hopewell-Loudon 35-27.
Outlook: It's not as simple as Seneca East's passing against Hopewell-Loudon's running, even if the numbers pull one in that direction.
Hopewell-Loudon's Cody Malone has run for 946 yards, and is putting up 5 yards a carry. To Seneca East coach Ed Phillips, the directive for his defense is simple.
"We've just got to be more physical up front, that's the bottom line," Phillips said. "Their quarterback (Derek Runion) is underrated, he's done some good things, not to be forgotten in the equation."
Runion has thrown for more than 1,200 yards this season.
"Derek has made strides in the right direction," Nutter said. "We'll let Derek loose when need be."
Phillips said a key for the SE defense will be to get off the field. Nutter said his goal is to keep the ball away from an explosive Tigers' offense.
"When you play a team that's as explosive as they are, your best defense is to play good offense," Nutter said.
Phillips is expecting Hopewell-Loudon's defense to be aggressive.
"They attack you. They come after you at all times," he said.
In Ethan Caudill, the Tigers possess the league's most prolific passer, who has thrown for 1,810 yards and 21 touchdowns to just five picks.
"He's scary when he throws and he might be even scarier when he tucks and runs it," Nutter said. "You have to try to make him earn every inch he gets."
North Baltimore at Carey
Records: North Baltimore 2-5, 0-4 MAL; Carey 4-3, 3-1 MAL
Coaches: North Baltimore, Greg Bishop; Carey, Todd Worst.
Last Week: North Baltimore lost to Calvert 49-12; Carey beat Lakota 57-19.
Last year: Carey beat North Baltimore 62-8.
Outlook: On paper, this shouldn't be much of a challenge for Carey.
The Tigers are winless in the MAL, and those losses have been by lopsided margins. Carey has made a habit of feasting on MAL teams in the lower part of the standings.
Still, Worst said he's impressed with some of the things North Baltimore does, especially on offense.
"I think they do a pretty good job on offense, a nice job of running the spread the way it's supposed to be run," Worst said.
Quarterback Lane Bishop is a big part of that, having thrown for more than 1,300 yards and connecting on 12 touchdowns.
The key for the Blue Devils, according to their coach, is not to take the Tigers lightly.
"I think we need to come out and be ready to play," he said.
Fostoria at Woodmore
Records: Fostoria 0-6, 0-4 NBC; Woodmore 4-3, 1-3 NBC.
Coaches: Jim Kelly, Fostoria; Britton Devier, Woodmore.
Last week: Otsego beat Fostoria 48-8; Rossford beat Woodmore 35-7.
Last year: Woodmore won 60-33.
Outlook: Fostoria faces a Woodmore team in the midst of an up-and-down season.
The Wildcats have just one win in conference play, but each of those NBC losses has come against a 5-2 team. They also average just over 37 points per game, with last week's loss just the second time this year they've been held under 34.
Fostoria, meanwhile, has scored only 66 points all season, hitting double digits in a game just twice.
Quarterback Jake Matwiejczyk usually gives Woodmore that on his own, averaging 2.3 TD passes and 1.6 scoring runs per game. The senior has thrown for 1,335 yards and 16 touchdowns this fall, while running for 11 more scores and 628 yards out of the spread offense.
"Their quarterback, Jake Matwiejczyk, concerns us because he's their offensive identity," Kelly said. "He runs it extremely well, he throws it extremely well, he manages the game extremely well. He's one of the top quarterbacks in our league, for sure."
And spreads the ball around.
Tony Rozzi (66-580 rushing) and Malachi Brown (17-440 receiving) have each scored six touchdowns, with Evan Ulinski (27-417 receiving), Dan Sprinski (18-256 receiving) and Brad Bringman (11-96 receiving) all reeling in three touchdown passes.
"You have to account for everybody, and that's going to be challenge for us," Kelly said. "It's a difficult challenge because they're so efficient at both of them. They give you a lot to have to think about. You're defending the whole field, for sure."
Woodmore will also be tough on defense and bring pressure, Kelly said, especially after seeing how much success Otsego had last week against the Redmen; Fostoria ended with only 104 yards of offense.
"They'll bring pressure. We did not do a good job of handling that last week so we've got to be ready for that. We've got to be ready to handle that," Kelly said.
"For us it's really simple up front. We have to play well up front," he said. "We did not do that last week."
He's hoping the return of some experienced players will help all over. A handful return to the lineup after being out the past few weeks for disciplinary reasons. Kelly said he's not sure how much playing time those upperclassmen will see, but he said they will play and help bolster what has become a team heavy with freshmen and sophomores.
"Any time you can put juniors out there or seniors, that's a positive," he said.
Buckeye Central at Upper Sandusky
Records: Buckeye Central 2-5, 1-3 NCC; Upper Sandusky 6-1, 3-1 NCC.
Coaches: Jeff Niedermier, Buckeye Central; Jake Moyer, Upper Sandusky.
Last week: Buckeye Central drilled Crestline, 54-0; Upper Sandusky fell in overtime to Bucyrus, 37-36.
Last year: Upper Sandusky topped the Bucks, 32-20.
Outlook: It was disappointing, but Moyer wouldn't do anything different in last week's overtime loss to Bucyrus, where the Rams suffered their first loss of the season.
"They scored and went for one. We sputtered but scored," Moyer recalled. "Then every kid in the huddle after the score, put two fingers up. I said 'OK, you got us here, your call.'"
The two-point conversion failed and Upper suffered its first defeat.
"I'd do it again, if I had the choice," Moyer said.
Meanwhile, back in New Washington, the Bucks were picking up their first league victory of the season.
"It was homecoming week and the guys were really up for the game. We were really focused," Niedermier said. "They're going into this week with a little bit of confidence."
But he knows that it's going to take a bit more than confidence heading to Upper Sandusky this week.
"They're mad as a hornet I'm sure. I don't they'll be looking to slack off this week and looking to take it to us," Niedermier said. "They're very big up front and have great skills kids. All around they're a pretty good football team."
Moyer said the Bucks are no slouch either.
"Buckeye Central is playing fairly mistake-free football in the videos we've seen. They play a fairly conservative offense and a fairly conservative defense. They don't beat themselves," Moyer said. "If we take care of business, and play offense and defense like we know we can, we'll be OK. The danger right now is trying to out think yourself."
Both teams have their sights set on one thing: playoffs. And one thing needs to happen for both teams to even sniff that reality: perfection the rest of the way.
"We haven't spoken too much about it. Everyone knows intuitively, that's what it has to be," Moyer said. "To have a legit shot at the playoffs, we almost have to go 3 for 3."
Even at 2-5, Niedermier said his team has an outside shot yet.
"We're not outside the realm of the playoffs yet. If we were able to pull some upsets, starting with this week, and some things go our way, it could happen," Niedermier said. "We definitely want to get a few more wins before the season is done and send our seniors out with some more wins."
Lakota at Mohawk
Records: Lakota 3-4, 0-4 MAL; Mohawk 3-4, 3-1 MAL.
Coaches: Dave Vodika, Lakota; Erik Baker, Mohawk.
Last week: Lakota lost 57-19 to Carey; Mohawk beat Seneca East 34-27.
Last year: Mohawk won 35-12.
Outlook: Mohawk looks to continue its turnaround against visiting Lakota. After starting the year 0-4 and not scoring more than 19 points in a game over that span, the Warriors have won their last three games and scored no fewer than 34 points each time.
A run-heavy attack has helped immensely.
Mohawk leads the MAL in rushing (280.9), thanks to Gunnar Johnson and his league-best 163.1-yard average per game. Johnson, with 1,142 yards and 11 TDs, is the only league rusher with more than 957 yards on the ground so far this year. Eric Maskey has run for another 517 yards, but he also leads the MAL with 16 touchdowns.
Baker was asked what the key to the turnaround has been.
"As far as the last three weeks go, our kids are just growing up," he said. "We have embraced our strengths and focused on improving our weaknesses. We are trying to improve mentally and physically every day."
After its last three wins, Mohawk has moved up considerably in the computer rankings. But Baker said his team is not looking ahead.
"We are really just focusing on the moment," he said. "Our goal is to improve every week, to compete. If at the end of 10 weeks we are in the mix [for the playoffs], that would be great for the kids."
Lakota (84.9) is last among the MAL's ground game, with Jordan Jaso's 410 yards topping the Raiders.
Fortunes are reversed on defense, though.
Lakota is ranked third against the run (142.3), while Mohawk sits seventh (233.4) against the run, seventh against the pass (165.4) and last overall (398.9).
"Lakota is one of the most physically gifted teams we will see this year," Baker said. "They have as much size as Upper Sandusky on their lines and the big play ability of Seneca East. They have also used four different defensive fronts during the season. All of this adds up to a great challenge for our team."
--- By the A-T?Sports Staff