PDT Sports Writer
Sitting 10th in the latest Division IV, Region 14 rankings and a game back of the SOC II standings, Minford’s chances at making the playoffs or winning the SOC II crown are waning as the season comes to a close.
One of the Falcons’ final opportunities to make a statement comes Friday night as unbeaten and Associated Press Division V No. 1 Wheelersburg (7-0, 2-0) comes to town. Minford (6-1, 1-1) coach Brent Daniels knows a three-game losing streak coming into the encounter with the Pirates and current unbeaten Valley coming to town in two weeks bring a sense of urgency.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit, we always keep the playoff picture and the SOC in our mind (because) you still won’t know what’s going to happen,” Daniels said. “There’s still some pretty key games to be played here in the next three weeks. It’s like last year, it came down to Week 10 and we were playing for the SOC championship.”
The Falcons rebounded from Week 6’s 35-28 loss at West with a 60-7 blowout victory last Friday against visiting Northwest. Levi Jenkins and Matt Joyce each had a pair of touchdown runs in the win, one each going over 50 yards. Daniels felt the key was returning to assignment football, which will be the key in defending the spread this weekend.
Coming off a 54-0 win over Waverly, his team’s second-straight shutout, Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward knows his ball club is hitting the hardest part of the schedule as it is the Pirates’ final road game of the regular season.
“Coming out to Minford is always a tough place to go play,” Woodward said. “They’ve got very passionate fans, they’re going to be ready to play, they’re going to be physical and looking to make their mark as they’ve lost one in the SOC. I’m sure nothing would make them happier than the opportunity to try to come at Wheelersburg and we know that.”
Offensively, quarterback Eddie Miller has accounted for 2,203 of Wheelersburg’s 3242 yards of total offense. The numbers include his 14-of-17 performance through the air for 223 yards and three touchdowns. He also had nine carries for 63 yards and a rushing touchdown against the Tigers.
Woodward gave credit to his offensive line, which has fired off the ball and been physical at the point of attack.
“I thought they did a great job against (Waverly),” Woodward said. “We’ve been oversized in a lot of our games this year and it’s the same thing we’ll face this week.”
With many of his junior varsity players playing varsity minutes during easy contests the last two weeks, Woodward said the theme of practice has been maturity.
“We keep talking about how we’re a lot more mature team than what we were in the past,” Woodward said. “What are some of the mistakes that we’ve made in the past and how can we learn from those mistakes and improve as we move throughout the course of the rest of this SOC play?”
It’s games such as Friday night that Daniels knows his team really looks forward to during the year.
“It’ll be good for both communities and it’s just going to be a fun night of high school football,” Daniels said.
With all eyes on Miller, Daniels said one person that concerns him is receiver Tyler Claxon. The Pirate passing game will test the Minford secondary.
“I’ve watched him for two years and watched him on tape, the kid’s in the right spot at the right time,” Daniels said. “I think he’s just an outstanding little receiver, he catches the football and runs well.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Woodward knows the hype around left tackle Jared McCray is legitimate and feels just as highly about sophomore Cain Madden, who lines up at the right tackle position. The tackles, along with the fullback spots, are key positions in the Falcon running game.
“The two of them are two of the biggest tackles in the SOC and both do a great job of coming off the ball, being physical,” Woodward said. “McCray has a senior status behind him and Madden, only being a sophomore, is extremely physical and a very good football player.”
Turnovers may be a crucial element in the contest as Woodward admitted both teams probably experienced more miscues in the 35-7 matchup last year than what they had the entire season.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.