Category: Athens

Vikings, Bobcats open SOC I slate; Ironton @ Chesapeake, Trimble @ Waterford, Logan @ Athens


Photo by Robert Stevens

Symmes Valley vs Green

Don’t look now, but the Symmes Valley Vikings are quietly creeping up the Division VII, Region 27 playoff ladder.


They are also aiming – with the Oak Hill Oaks having moved up to the Southern Ohio Conference Division II – to significantly scale the totem pole of the SOC I.


But so too are the Green Bobcats – with their numbers and hopes on the rise and coming off their first winning season and state playoff appearance since 1990.

With Northwest now the largest SOC I school for football, and according to many observers the favorite for this season’s division championship, the 4-1 Vikings and 3-2 Bobcats will surely have something to say about that – as they open SOC I action on Friday night in Lawrence County.


Kickoff at Symmes Valley High School is set for 7 p.m.


The Vikings, whose lone loss was to archrival and Division V Chesapeake, have shut out Fairfield Christian (37-0) before steamrolling Fairview (50-6) and Sciotoville East (47-6) in non-conference clashes the past two weeks.


The Vikings vanquished South Gallia 14-12 in the opener, and are currently 10th in the official OHSAA Region 27 computer ratings.


The Bobcats are 12th in those same computer rankings, but Green is coming off a bad 26-22 setback at Fairview (Ky.).


Green will now likely need to run the table to qualify for a second straight playoff appearance, and it doesn’t help that the three teams it has defeated – Cincinnati Dohn Community (1-4), Manchester (0-5) and Federal Hocking (1-4) – are a combined 2-13.


That trio will also unlikely yield anymore possible playoff points.


The run-oriented Vikings are considered a heavy favorite, despite the Bobcats winning two of the past three meetings – albeit by a combined 11 points (32-28 in 2016 and 22-15 in 2018).


The series is lopsided in Symmes Valley’s favor with only those two victories by the Bobcats – besides Green’s only other win since the turn of century in 2006.


Oak Hill has dominated the division for the past decade, as the Vikings split the crown with the Oaks and Mohawks in 2014 – while winning it outright in 2011.

Northwest now wins the numbers game by being a Division V program – with the other five SOC I squads belonging to Region 27.

1Josh Ferguson20215-101751081111113230
2Ethan Patterson20226-001557155073330
3Jack Leith20206-03170904816000
4Luke Leith20216-0116014148451025
5Nick Strow20225-10160351350000

But numbers on the field are with the Vikings, as three backs (Josh Ferguson 51 carries, 426 yards and 4 TD; Jack Leith 46 carries, 236 yards and 4 TD; Eli Patterson 28 carries, 229 yards and 2 TD) have amassed at least 28 carries, 231 yards and two touchdowns.


Jack Leith has completed 9-of-14 passes for 156 yards and four TDs, as three players have at least three receptions – with Luke Leith’s three catches all going for scores.


Gavan Yates, a starting Symmes Valley offensive lineman, has successfully kicked 13 extra points and one field goal.


 Ironton at Chesapeake

Chesapeake vs Ironton


In another matchup of 4-1 at 3-2, but also along the lines of David vs. Goliath, Ironton (4-1) invades Chesapeake (3-2) for maintaining front-running status in the Ohio Valley Conference.


Kickoff inside Phil Davis Stadium in Chesapeake is set for 7 p.m.


The Fighting Tigers, the consensus preseason favorite for the OVC championship along with defending champion Gallia Academy, bounced back from their only loss of the season (16-10 in overtime at Ashland) – with an expected league defeat of South Point (38-2) last week.


Ironton is 2-0 in the league, and attempting to make it 5-for-5 against the Panthers in all of their meetings since joining the OVC in 2015.


The Fighting Tigers took the league championship in their first two campaigns.


The Panthers are 1-1 in the league, having lost 55-27 at Gallia Academy – before  winning a shootout at Coal Grove last week by a final score of 45-38.


Ironton, however, is a heavy favorite against the Panthers, which have remained much healthier through the first half of this year.


There is also a bevy of state playoff points at stake, as the Tigers (8.95 computer points average) trail only Minford (9.65 CPA) for the top spot in Division V Region 19, but have five more Level-2 points than do the Falcons.

Speaking of Minford, Ironton will benefit from a Wheelersburg victory over the Falcons this week, while Minford is rooting for a Panther upset of the Fighting Tigers.


Chesapeake’s only other loss is against the Falcons in week two, as the Panthers (5.6 CPA) currently occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in Region 19.


The top eight teams in each region qualify for the playoffs – with the top four squads earning first-round home bouts.


Trimble at Waterford

Waterford vs Trimble

So somebody, anybody, finally scored upon the undefeated Trimble Tomcats this season.


But while the Tomcats didn’t win that trivial battle, they did win their latest war – defeating the Worthington Christian Warriors 34-6 to move to 5-0.


This week, Trimble returns to Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play – and tangles with the host Waterford Wildcats, which will arguably be their toughest opponent in the remainder of the regular season.


Waterford, with only a lopsided loss against arch-rival but Division VI Fort Frye, stands at 4-1 – and welcomes the defending champion Tomcats for the inside track to the latest TVC-Hocking championship.


Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.


Both clubs are 3-0 in the TVC-Hocking, and while the Wildcats have allowed only 34 points in three conference tilts, the Tomcats – against 3-2 Belpre, 3-2 Meigs Eastern and 1-4 South Gallia – have not surrendered a single solitary one.


Waterford will need not only to score against the Tomcats, but they will need to do so several times.


They didn’t against Fort Frye in being blanked 49-0, and Trimble – like the Cadets – is considered one of the top Division VI programs in the entire state.


Zane Heiss has completed 22-of-54 passes for 496 yards and four touchdowns, as Nick Fouss has caught 14 passes for 372 yards and three scores.


Heiss has also been a primary running threat from the quarterback spot, rushing for 335 yards and four TD on 33 carries, while Holden Dailey leads the Wildcats with 369 yards and 10 touchdowns on 36 attempts.

Joe Pantelidis has the most carries for Waterford with 40, and has 290 yards with a trio of touchdowns.


Waterford will face Trimble’s vaunted wishbone rushing attack, as Connor Wright will enter Friday’s affair at four carries short of 100 – and already 99 rushing yards shy of exactly 1,000.


Wright also has 13 touchdowns.


Quarterback Cameron Kittle has rushed for 285 yards on 32 attempts and five trips to paydirt, while completing 15-of-21 passes for 354 yards with seven scores.


The Wildcats sit sixth in the Division VII, Region 27 computer ratings, so an upset win would open so many doors for them.


Waterford won back-to-back TVC-Hocking titles in 2016 and 2017, following Trimble’s run of three consecutive from 2013 thru 2015.


The Tomcats’ last league loss was at Waterford two years ago, as Trimble has captured 13 consecutive conference victories.


Trimble (8.8) trails only New Middletown Springfield (9.5) and Fort Frye (9.15) for the top spot in the Region 21 computer ratings.


Logan at Athens

Athens vs Logan

Talk about two programs really needing – and even craving – a victory, and against an old enemy at that.


That’s the setting for Friday night’s matchup at Rutter Field in The Plains, as longtime rivals Logan and Athens square off in an important and now non-league duel – despite both entering with losing records.


Kickoff at Athens High School is set for 7:30 p.m.


The Chieftains are 1-4 and the Bulldogs are 2-3 – something seldom seen or even heard of when the Route 33 rivals did battle during their former Southeastern Ohio Athletic League days.


Logan, now an independent program playing in Division II, landed its first victory of the season last week – an 18-7 Thursday night special over host Chillicothe.


The Chieftains had scored just seven points apiece in each of their previous four bouts, but snapped a school-record 11-game losing streak by stymieing the offensively-struggling Cavaliers.


Logan – whose four losses are to teams with a combined 16-4 record – turns its attention to the Bulldogs, which have won two consecutive in this series, which was renewed four years ago.

However, in the two-decade stretch from 1996 thru 2016, Athens lost 14 in a row to Logan, as the Bulldogs departed the SEOAL – and joined the Tri-Valley Conference starting in 2008.


It’s been an excellent move for Athens, which has won or shared six TVC-Ohio championships over the past decade, including its first last season since a four-year span from 2011 thru 2014.


But the Bulldogs began this season at 0-3, losing to 4-1 Waverly (30-27) and undefeated Jackson (31-26) by a combined eight points – before falling 42-20 at undefeated Parkersburg South in West Virginia.


As a result of those non-league losses, Athens must win out if it is to have any shot at qualifying for the Division III, Region 11 playoffs.


The Bulldogs, with a computer points average of 4.0, are only 17th in Region 11.


This week, Athens’ finesse and spread-the-field formation attack indeed will be tested against the Chieftains’ physicality.


Under the direction of first-year head coach Nathan White, junior Joey Moore is thriving at quarterback – having completed 86-of-137 passes for 1,204 yards and 14 touchdowns.


Moore is also the Green and Gold’s leading rusher, totaling 377 yards and four TD on 93 carries.


At least six Athens receivers have at least six receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown, as Nate Trainer is easily Moore’s top target – with 35 catches for 522 yards and four scores.


Look for Logan to try and play ball control, and keep Moore and company confined to the sidelines, as Caden McCarty (105 carries for 437 yards) and quarterback Braeden Spatar (100 carries for 350 yards) spearhead a 1-2 Chieftain rushing attack.


McCarty has scored six rushing touchdowns for 36 points – as the Purple and White have only scored 46 points all season.

Spatar has thrown just 51 passes, but has completed 31 of them for 286 yards and one TD, including 14 for 148 yards to Garret Mace.


Games of the Week: Ironmen, Bulldogs renew old rivalry, Minford @ Chesapeake, Portsmouth @ West


Photo’s by Kent Sanborn, Tim Gearhart

Truth be told, these two should always be on each other’s schedules.

Two long-time, and old-guard, Southeastern Ohio Athletic League rivals renew their series starting on Friday night – as the Jackson Ironmen and Athens Bulldogs square off once again on the gridiron.

And, as usual with these two tradition-rich programs, there is plenty of interest and intrigue.

In a key early-season and now non-league encounter, Jackson travels to Athens with the potential of plenty of playoff points at stake.

The two have not played since a home-and-home series in 2012 and 2013, in which the Bulldogs – with current LSU quarterback and 2014 Ohio Mr. Football Joe Burrow leading them – won 21-14 (2012) and 49-0 (2013).

The two schools were charter members of the SEOAL which formed in 1925, but Athens left the league for the Tri-Valley Conference after the 2007 season – and the question has lingered since as to why they don’t play as non-conference opponents every year.

They actually did in the 2011 Division III playoffs, as both clubs entered after perfect regular seasons, with the Ironmen capturing a 27-7 victory.

But enough with past history, the focus for Friday night is the here and now inside Rutter Field in The Plains.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

The new-look Bulldogs, with new QB Joey Moore, bolted out to a 27-14 second-quarter advantage against the host Waverly Tigers.

But the Tigers shut out Athens in the second half, scoring the final 17 points to prevail 30-27 in both squads’ season openers.

Moore did his part, completing 24 passes on 38 attempts for 278 yards and a hat trick of touchdowns with one interception.

He added 60 rushing yards on 26 carries.

But the Bulldog defense didn’t stop the Tigers, specifically Waverly standout running back Payton Shoemaker.

Shoemaker shredded Athens’ run defense for 201 yards and four scores on 25 carries, scoring from 25, 22 and 18 yards away.

Athens also allowed 160 yards through the air on 26 attempts and 15 completions by Tiger quarterback Hayden Shanks.

On Friday, that high-powered Athens offense – engineered by Moore and coordinated by first-year head coach Nathan White – faces an extremely stingy Jackson defense, anchored by returning senior Brice Parks.

Parks, the reigning Southeast District Defensive Player of the Year, returns to the Ironmen after serving a one-game suspension in the season opener.

But the Ironmen didn’t miss Parks against archrival Wellston, as Jackson – in the final meeting between the long-running Jackson County rivals – stymied the Golden Rockets to only 48 total yards and did not allow an offensive touchdown.

The Red and White won 23-6, spearheaded by three first-half interceptions of Wellston quarterback R.J. Kemp.

The Ironmen ended the series scoring when they sacked Kemp in the end zone for a fourth-quarter safety.

But Jackson’s offense struggled somewhat – outside of scoring on two long first-half runs.

Jayden Spires (156 yards on 18 carries) scampered for 52 yards for the first, followed by Brice Graham (98 yards on 15 carries) galloping 51 yards for the other.

Jackson coach Andy Hall hailed his Ironmen’s defensive play, but indeed acknowledged inconsistency on offense, which must be improved in order to succeed against Athens.

Many observers are predicting a close and competitive contest, with a final score ranging in the low 20s or even high teens.

Both clubs are quite capable of big plays, but the marquee matchup will definitely be the Bulldogs’ offense against the Ironmen’s defense.


Minford at Chesapeake

Chesapeake vs Minford

Two teams coming off injury-riddled 2018 campaigns opened on the right foot this season, setting up a key early-season affair on Friday night.

Minford travels to Chesapeake in a battle of week-one winners, as kickoff at Phil Davis Stadium in Chesapeake is set for 7 p.m.

This is the first meeting between the two since 2001, as both teams impressed in their season and home openers last week.

The Panthers, in head coach Todd Knipp’s debut, defeated the Oak Hill Oaks 35-13 in the final meeting of that series.

Chesapeake rolled up a massive 365 yards on 51 rushes, including 127 on only eight carries by two-year starting quarterback Donald Richendollar.

Richendollar attempted just two passes, but his lone completion was a 25-yard touchdown to Kamren Harless, which gave the Panthers the lead.

Harless added 73 yards and three TD on 21 carries.

Minford, meanwhile, rolled Rock Hill – where Knipp was the head coach for 13 years before spending the past two as an assistant at Chesapeake.

The Falcons took advantage of big plays en route to the 43-12 rout, starting with senior Ty Wiget returning the opening kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown.

Wiget, who closed the scoring with a 68-yard TD burst, rushed for 121 yards on 14 carries – and junior quarterback Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis threw for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-17.

Minford answered both of the Redmen’s touchdowns with scores of its own, and held strong for the most part against Rock Hill’s run-oriented two-tight end T-formation offense.

This week, the Panthers present an entirely different offense against the Falcons, while Chesapeake will try to slow down the Falcons’ spread attack and speed.


Portsmouth at Portsmouth West

Portsmouth West vs Portsmouth

The two proud Portsmouth-area programs enter Friday night off opening-week wins, only adding excitement to the annual Scioto County rivalry.

This year’s installment between Portsmouth and Portsmouth West will take place in West Portsmouth, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

The two teams have played continuous since 2001, with the Trojans holding a slim 10-9 advantage, while West won the 2002 playoff matchup – en route to advancing to the Division IV state championship game that year.

This year, the Senators are perceived to be in the midst of rebuilding, having graduated the likes of all-district first-team honorees Trevor Staggs (defensive lineman), Josh Berry (offensive all-purpose) and Garrett Hurd (running back).

West won its opener in easy fashion at Columbus KIPP Academy by 40 points (48-8), while the Trojans topped visiting Valley 32-27 in a Thursday night nail-biter.

As expected, Valley keyed on Portsmouth standout senior tailback Talyn Parker, limiting him to just 21 rushing yards on 17 carries.

However, Parker scored all five of the Trojans’ touchdowns for 30 points, including the game-winner with 38-and-a-half seconds remaining on a 10-yard pass, in which he broke an open-field tackle at the Valley 5-yard-line.

Parker also recovered a fumble in the end zone for a Portsmouth score.

Look for the young Senators to also key on Parker, and try to follow the Indians’ blueprint of surrounding and swarming him followed by gang-tackling.

An experienced West squad shut out the Trojans and Parker last season, 13-0.

But this year’s Trojans sport 14 seniors, several of which will play major roles in determining Portsmouth’s success.

However, its offensive line is young and inexperienced, and needs to improve based upon its performance against Valley.

It will face another tough test from the determined Senators, which like Valley are members of the Southern Ohio Conference Division II.






Games of the Week: Indians, Trojans open 2019 Season Thursday, Athens @ Waverly, Nelsonville-York @ Trimble, Wellston @ Jackson

Indians, Trojans open season Thursday



Photo’s by Kent Sanborn, Tim Gearhart & Shawna Ruckel

Also see game of the Week Wheelersburg @ Ironton 

As has become customary, the Valley Indians and Portsmouth Trojans are once again opening the football season in Southeastern Ohio on Thursday night.

And, with not only the one-night spotlight on almost exclusively themselves, the individual spotlight is on Portsmouth senior tailback Talyn Parker.

Talyn Parker
Current Team

Parker, the defending Division V Southeast District Offensive Player of the Year, leads the talented and highly-touted Trojans against the upstart Indians – as kickoff inside sparkling Trojan Coliseum in Portsmouth is set for 7 p.m.

Portsmouth is coming off a 7-3 regular season, and a berth in the Division V state playoffs, plus Parker returns after a 2,500-yard and 29-touchdown rushing campaign a year ago.

As part of Parker’s offensive onslaught last season, the Trojans topped the Indians 57-40 in the season-opening shootout in Lucasville, which was a back-and-forth affair for three-and-a-half quarters.

It was Portsmouth’s third consecutive victory in the series, as the Trojans have scored at least 32 points in all three.

Valley won the four previous meetings, including a 41-40 scorefest five years ago.

Thursday could be a repeat of such, as the Trojans turn to Parker – plus some other offensive weapons.

“Talyn Parker had an amazing year last year and set three school rushing records and gained all kinds of honors. But we have some other weapons than just him that we need to get the ball to if we’re going to be successful again,” said Portsmouth coach Bruce Kalb. “Let’s be honest, if you’re scouting us, you’re thinking I’m going to get eight, maybe nine, even a 10th guy in the box. We probably averaged only seven passes a game last year. We want to take some of that pressure off Talyn.”

The Indians – off a 4-6 season – were already thinking about defending Parker during Valley’s Media Day activities, per 30-year head coach Darren Crabtree.

Head Coach Darren Crabtree

Current Team

“If you guys (media) know of a way to stop Parker, please let me know,” said Crabtree. “He only rushed for over 300 yards against us last year. I know they lost some good linemen, but this is a game that we feel we can compete well in like we did last year.”


Athens at Waverly


Speaking of shootouts, Athens and Waverly will likely be just that in their season-opening affair at Waverly’s Raidiger Field.

Kickoff is set for Friday night at 7 p.m.

It’s a new opponent on the schedule for both, as both are coming off 9-1 regular seasons and state playoff appearances a year ago.

Athens is Division III, falling only at Fairland 35-31, before steamrolling through the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division and scoring no fewer than 39 points in each league tilt.

Waverly is Division IV, and only lost to Division V state semifinalist and Southern Ohio Conference Division II champion Wheelersburg.

The Tigers tallied at least 31 points in each victory.

While Waverly graduated wide receiver Easton Wolfe, the Southeast District Division IV Offensive Player of the Year, they return fellow first-team all-district all-purpose performer Payton Shoemaker.

Shoemaker, a second-team all-Ohioan, carried the ball 157 times for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns – while returning 24 kickoffs or punts for a combined 516 yards and one score.

In an anticipated up-and-down hurry-up battle, the Tigers may have a difference-maker in third-team all-Ohio placekicker Grayson Diener.

Diener averaged 53 yards on kickoffs with 22 touchbacks in 2018, and made 31-of-35 extra points and 3-of-4 field goals.

The Bulldogs have a new head coach in Nathan White, who has been an assistant since 2011 under the highly-successful Ryan Adams, who resigned after last year and with a coaching record of 96-27 in a dozen seasons.

Adams is the winningest football coach in Athens High history, as the Bulldogs advanced to the Division III state championship game in 2014, with that season’s Ohio Mr. Football and current LSU quarterback Joe Burrow calling the signals.

This season, Athens is replacing 19 seniors, including the TVC-Ohio Offensive Player of the Year and all-Ohio quarterback Clay Davis.

Several first-year varsity players are starting for the Bulldogs, but junior Joey Moore looks to become the next successful Green and Gold gunslinger.

Nate Trainer (46 receptions, 619 yards and 6 TD) and Peyton Gail (33 receptions, 462 yards and 1 TD) return as receivers.


Nelsonville-York at Trimble


Last year, the Trimble Tomcats torched arch-rival Nelsonville-York 34-7 in the season opener – an emphatic jump-start to their second Division VII state championship bout appearance in school history.

Only a one-point late loss in the middle of the march to Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (21-20) prevented a perfect regular season.

The Tomcats, now a Division VI program by the narrowest of margins, seek similar – even perfect – results again.

Nelsonville-York, meanwhile, must bounce back after a rare losing campaign – a disappointing 4-6 season.

In fact, the Buckeyes have endured just two losing seasons since the 1970s – the other being four years ago after opening with a win at Trimble.

The two Athens County archrivals renew their series Saturday night – this time at Trimble inside Glouster Memorial Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

Since 2000, the Buckeyes actually lead the Tomcats in the all-time series 11-10, as Nelsonville-York had won three consecutive prior to last year.

Trimble returns eight starters on defense, including the reigning Ohio Division VII Defensive Player of the Year Sawyer Koons.

Koons – a senior linebacker – collected a massive 136 tackles including 32 for loss, as end Ian Joyce joins him in triple digits in tackles (102 and 34 for loss).

On Saturday night, Trimble tries to bottle up Buckeye backfield standout Keegan Wilburn – the defending Division VI Southeast District Offensive Player of the Year.

Keegan Wilburn
Current Team

Wilburn, an Ohio University commit and first-team all-Ohioan, was a 1,000-yard running back which scored 21 of the Buckeyes’ 32 total touchdowns.

In his first three seasons of his decorated Orange and Brown career, he has amassed 2,674 rushing yards, 1,379 receiving yards and 55 trips to paydirt.

But Wilburn won’t be the only all-Ohio offensive player on the field.

Trimble senior quarterback Cameron Kittle – directing a wishbone attack – was a third-team all-stater last year, rushing for 1,018 yards and throwing for 750 more with 24 touchdowns.

He is joined in the backfield by Conner Wright, who rushed for 1,848 yards and 27 TDs.


Wellston at Jackson

All things, whether good or bad, must come to an end.

So too must the Jackson-Wellston football series, as the two Jackson County archrivals renew their matchup for the 106th and final time.

Saturday night’s series finale kicks off inside Jackson’s Alumni Stadium at 8 p.m.

It was announced exactly 18 months ago that with this year’s conclusion of the current four-year contract, the Ironmen and Golden Rockets would part ways with their week-one contest.

However, it’s been a series seriously dominated by the Ironmen, as Jackson owns a lopsided 73-26-6 advantage in the all-time tally, including winning 27 of the past 28 meetings.

Wellston’s win in 2010 snapped its infamous 19-game losing streak against the Ironmen, of which the program is traditionally two divisions larger than the Golden Rockets.

In the past 14 meetings, of Wellston’s losses, the closest the Golden Rockets got was a 21-7 decision in 2009 and a 14-0 shutout in 2005.

Since that shocker of nine years ago, the Ironmen have won every matchup by at least three touchdowns, including last season’s blowout by a count of 54-14.

On Saturday, the Ironmen are indeed heavy favorites again, as two returning all-Southeast District Division III players headline their 48-man roster, including the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in senior Brice Parks.

Brice Parks
Current Team

Jared Icenhower
Current Team
Fellow Jackson senior Jared Icenhower  – and fellow all-district first-teamer – returns as the Red and White’s quarterback.

Head Coach Andy Hall

Current Team
Jackson coach Andy Hall   begins his 11th season in the Apple City, while Mike Smith takes over the young Golden Rockets, becoming the 11th head football coach at Wellston since 1990, when the late Bill Fyffe concluded his five-year stint.

The Golden Rockets, under Fyffe in the late 1980s, won three of four meetings against Jackson, including Wellston’s last win AT Jackson in 1989.

Beginning in the 2020 campaign, the Ironmen open against Logan – and the Golden Rockets open against Oak Hill.

Also see game of the Week Wheelersburg @ Ironton