25 things on the local and national sports landscapes
Time again for 25 things, which is becoming an October tradition. At least to me.
1. Despite Columbian’s loss to Clyde Friday night, the Tornadoes still figure to be in good position for a postseason run. The Tornadoes sit third in Division III’s Region 10. With games remaining against Bellevue, Perkins and Norwalk, the Tornadoes figure to be tested. According to Joe Eitel’s website (a must for sports writers this time of year), Columbian does not control its own destiny. Still, if the Tornadoes can finish 8-2, it’s hard to see them missing the playoffs.
2. Judd Lutz probably won’t put much stock in this declaration, but he’s a strong candidate for Division III coach of the year. What he has done — turning a team that went 2-18 in his first two seasons — into a playoff contender is nothing short of remarkable. TC is 5-2, and faces Bellevue — or as Lutz calls it — “the B team,” next week.
3. Even though I see the game at Bellevue as a tough one for Columbian, I’m still picking the Tornadoes this week. This likely will come as a great disappointment to some of the players, who have each told me that my picking against the Tornadoes acts as motivation for them. Ah, well.
4. Did anyone know how good Calvert’s Trent Cooper was? You knew he was a good player, but he’s turning into one of the area’s best quarterbacks. The guy has a better yard-per-carry average than teammate Austin Jones (another area superstar) and his passes downfield are precise. He’s a big-time player on a playoff team.
5. Other top area quarterbacks include Columbian’s Chase Frankhauser, Mohawk’s Keith Jenkins and Seneca East’s Chase Foos. I also was really impressed by Carey’s Ethan Beringer when I saw him against Mohawk. Quarterbacks are the most scrutinized position in sports. Quarterbacks don’t win on their own, but it’s hard to win with a mediocre one.
6. Seneca East is 6-1. Looking at who the Tigers have played and the players they have, it’s tempting to say this may be coach Ed Phillips’ best team. His squad is heading toward its fourth-straight playoff appearance. But the goal, as stated before the season, wasn’t just to make the postseason, but to win a playoff game. I think Seneca East has the players — and the staff — to do it.
7. With McComb’s loss to Pandora-Gilboa Friday, and Mohawk’s win over Bucyrus, there’s a really good chance the Warriors will be the No. 1 team in Division VII in the upcoming AP poll. It’s impossible to say if Mohawk really is the best team in the state. But I will say that if you give a team Jenkins and that defense, you’d feel good going up against anybody. And I have to admit a potential playoff matchup between Mohawk and Calvert would be exciting for everyone: The two former Midland Athletic League rivals, the fans, and yes, area sports writers.
8. Upper Sandusky golfer Brett Montgomery is one of the best area golfers I’ve ever seen. I place him with Lakota’s Makayla Dull as the two best prep players I’ve seen. Montgomery and the Raiders’ Kyleigh Dull — Makayla’s sister, who is pretty great herself — will play in the state golf tournament next weekend in Columbus.
9. As for volleyball, it’s hard not to be impressed with what Mohawk has done. Coach Eric Hoover’s bunch is 16-2, 12-1 in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference. Led by Madi Chester and her league-leading 195 kills, one can’t help but wonder if the Warriors could be playing in Dayton in November. Hoover has state experience. He led the Warriors to the state semis in 2012.
10. How tough is Tiffin University football coach Gary Goff? Three weeks ago, he did a pregame and postgame interview from the hospital. And despite an illness that kept him from a game and caused him to coach the next two from the press box, the Dragons are 6-0, which included four straight road wins.
11. This Dragons team may have benefitted from getting out of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. They no longer have games with D-II powerhouses like Grand Valley State, or make day-long trips to the Upper Peninsula. But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, take away from what Tiffin has done so far. When you play four straight games on the road and win them all, and gain victories with all the adversity this program has faced, no apologies are necessary.
12. After the Dragons 38-21 win over Walsh Saturday, receiver Charles Holland was asked if this was the best version of the Dragons he had played on. Holland — the all-time reception leader in program history — played with quarterback Antonio Pipkin on a squad that went 8-3 in 2016.
13. “I would say this is the best team I’ve played on,” Holland said. “Other than that, my sophomore year… This team has more weapons offensively, as far as receivers, two, three running backs and a great quarterback.” It’s possible the Dragons will crack the top 25 in Division II, and soon.
14. In an interview with Heidelberg football coach Scott Donaldson, he said that while the Ohio Athletic Conference used to be known as the Big Ten of Division III, right now, it’s closer to the Big 12. That means more offense, less defense. He also said in the today’s OAC, your team is in good shape if it allows 25 points or less.
15. The comment has proved prophetic. The Princes are 3-2. In the three wins, Heidelberg is allowing an average of a little more than 23 points a game. In Heidelberg’s losses, it’s allowing an average of 36 points.
16. The Browns have so much more talent this year than the last two it is ridiculous. Yes, much of that is due to Baker Mayfield, who led the Browns to an exasperating 12-9 win over the Ravens Sunday. But I think the Browns best rookie is corner Denzel Ward. A shutdown corner with a nose for the football is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
17. Yes, Sunday’s game wasn’t a masterpiece. Browns kicker Greg Joseph missed an extra point, a potential game-winner in regulation, and his OT kick would have made Tom Candiotti, Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm proud. But winning ugly is how you win in the AFC North. And the Browns are not only 2-2-1 on the season, but they are 1-0-1 in the division. The Browns were never going to get much better until they started competing against the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. So far, they are doing that.
18. The Reds need a new manager. They’re supposedly talking to former Yankees manager Joe Girardi (great choice), former Mariners and Indians infielder David Bell (OK) and ex-Tigers boss Brad Ausmus (please, no).
19. The Indians were active in the offseason and during the season to improve their roster. They signed first baseman Yonder Alonso. They signed outfielder Melky Cabrera. Then they traded for reliever Brad Hand and third baseman (and former MVP) Josh Donaldson.
20. But for all those moves, the Indians’ chances in the postseason boiled down to one thing: How would Corey Kluber pitch? Kluber is one of the best pitchers in Indians history, and won 20 games in a season for the first time this year. But his horrible performance in the 2017 division series against the Yankees is the biggest reason that season ended prematurely.
21. In a best-of-5 series, Kluber got the ball in Game 1, and was mediocre, not making it out of the fifth. When he pitches like that, the Indians have no chance. Not only in the game, but in the series.
22. Not that Kluber is alone. The problem with this year’s Indians team is the roster seemed to be constructed based on the idea its key players would revert back to 2016 form. Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez all played huge roles on the Tribe’s drive to the World Series. This year, they have all been ineffective.
23. Even the players the Indians brought in — Donaldson and Cabrera and even Edwin Encarnacion — were needed to produce the way they did two years ago. They haven’t.
24. So today, the Indians season rests on the young right arm of Mike Clevinger. At this point, the Tribe can’t be thinking about winning the series, just extending it. The Indians need three one-game winning streaks. It’s not looking good.
25. My life is all about sports. But on Wednesday, my brother and I went to Akron to see former Byrds Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn — along with Marty Stuart and his band — perform the 1968 country rock album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” Because it was Wednesday, I had to interview Calvert coach Steve Reser a day later than usual. Reser didn’t seem to mind. Before we talked football Thursday, he asked “How was your concert?” It was great. Sometimes, you need to do something different.
Zach Baker is the sports editor at The Advertiser-Tribune.
Contact him at:
email@example.com or on Twitter @Zachthewriter