PDT Sports Writer
With the way Minford and Oak Hill have played against each other over the years, it seems as if they both save their best for last.
The two teams will square off again Friday night in the final tune up before conference play begins as the Falcons invade Davis Stadium to take on the defending SOC I champion Oaks. Not only has this rivalry brought upon close encounters for both sides (most recently, a 31-27 win for Oak Hill in the 2010 playoffs and a 20-19 triple overtime Minford home victory last year), this series as a whole is close with the Falcons holding an 18-15 edge all-time.
“I think the playoff year, that was probably one of the best high school football games I’ve seen or been involved with in a while,” Minford coach Brent Daniels said. “That was a dandy (of a) ball game. Last year’s triple overtime ranks up there but I think that playoff game up in Jackson that year is probably one of the best games I can remember.”
For the second-straight season and for the fourth time in five years, both teams will come in with unblemished 4-0 records. The Falcons are coming off a short week in which they handled Portsmouth 34-6 last Saturday night at the Trojan Coliseum. While Minford has outscored its opponents 166-12 to this point in the year, the biggest question centered around the health of senior running back/linebacker Austin Carter.
In the third quarter of last week’s game, Carter was taken off the field on a stretcher and to an area hospital. Daniels confirmed earlier this week that Carter suffered a stinger and is cleared to play.
On the other side of the field, Nathan Dugan and his Oaks have played in two games decided by fewer than 15 points, including last week’s 22-15 win at Wellston. In an interview this week with the Jackson County Times-Journal, Dugan admitted that he took last year’s game more for playoff positioning instead of it being a fierce but typical Friday night and stressed the importance of not repeating history.
“My thought process is that we have to win this next game, there’s nothing beyond Friday for me,” Dugan said. “The most important thing right now is to get everybody to the point where we match up well with them and are comfortable with what we put on the field.
“And we have a lot of work to get there. Our game last week with Wellston did a lot to make us refocus on the things we need to emphasize this week.”
Oak Hill trailed the Rockets 7-0 at halftime before storming back for the win. In the second week of the season, the Oaks were facing a 12-7 scare with four minutes to go in the third quarter against Alexander before finishing with a 32-7 victory.
Quarterback Garrin Stiltner has been one of the constants of the Oak Hill offense and has garnered the attention from Daniels.
“He throws the ball nice and he’s able to run, he’s not afraid to run it,” Daniels said. “He’s a good quarterback.”
The offensive line as well as the Oaks team defense also were items of praise Daniels gave to Dugan, who was the school’s defensive coordinator before becoming the program’s third head coach in as many years after the 2011 season.
Not only will unbeaten records and pride be on the line Friday night, so will valuable computer points and perhaps recognition in next week’s Associated Press poll. According to the initial computer rankings released earlier this week by the OHSAA, the Falcons are ninth in Division IV, Region 14 while Oak Hill checks in at No. 4 in Division VI, Region 21. Minford is 19th in the latest Division IV poll while the hosts of this weekend’s encounter is 16th.
“That’s one thing that we’ve stressed to our kids, they’re ranked and this is a big playoff point game for both schools,” Daniels said. “That’s very important for down the road for both teams. Whoever’s able to get this game is going to get some nice playoff points, some nice second-level points from them.”
Jackson County Times-Journal Sports Editor Paul Boggs contributed to the report.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or email@example.com. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.