By PAUL BOGGS
Photo by Robert Stevens
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.
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
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
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
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.