PDT Sports Contributor
It is said that the intensity of both teams can make all the difference in the world when rivalry games are played.
Two of the most storied programs in the SOC will get a chance to prove their intensity with bragging rights and even a playoff berth on the line as the West Senators will take on the Wheelersburg Pirates at Ed Miller Stadium.
Wheelersburg comes into the game with an 8-1 overall record and a 3-1 record in SOC II play. The Pirates will be looking to bounce back after losing to Valley by a scant three points.
Coach Rob Woodward said that Wheelersburg seemed to be just a play away from making a game-changing play throughout the course of last Friday’s contest against the Indians, but said that the Pirates just could not get it done.
“We played a hard-fought game,” Woodward said. “That’s two great teams battling it out. We came up on the short end of it, which is obviously a place where we didn’t want to be. We looked back and recognized a few areas where we needed to change things up a little bit, or do things differently. We got to try to make sure we clean that up as we move to this week and into the playoffs.”
Eddie Miller will look to put together another virtuoso performance in what will be his last regular-season home appearance at the stadium that adorns his grandfather’s name.
Even though Wheelersburg lost to Valley last week, Miller still starred as he broke the 2,000-yard passing mark in the loss against Valley by completing 12 of his 23 passes for 219 yards and a score.
Miller has put together a brilliant season, as he has completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,034 yards and 24 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions in 2013.
However, the 6’2”, 185-pound senior has starred on the ground as well this season, as he has rushed for 819 yards on 102 carries (an average of eight yards per carry) while adding 15 more scores to account for a total of 39 of the Pirates’ 54 touchdowns this season.
Wheelersburg has received excellent production from their receiving corps, as Dylan Miller, Tyler Claxon and Austin May have made their blueprint on the Pirates’ roster this season.
“When you have a great quarterback, you got to have people that you can get the ball to or (Miller’s) numbers are nothing,” Woodward said. “Those guys have done a tremendous job. You see the numbers on paper in regards to their catches, yards, touchdowns, and those kinds of things but a number of teams compliment on their ability to block out on the perimeter.”
Claxon leads the group overall as he has caught 54 passes for 810 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, including a 75-yard touchdown catch that accounted for Wheelersburg’s lone score against the Indians.
Dylan Miller is not far behind as he has caught 61 pigskins for a total of 752 yards and has added seven touchdowns of his own this season.
May, a junior receiver that also serves as a backup to Eddie Miller at quarterback, has added 15 catches of his own for a total of 280 yards and three scores.
Wheelersburg will look to get the trio involved early and often in its offensive attack as the trio has caught 22 of the Pirates’ 24 touchdowns this season.
Woodward added that defensively, Wheelersburg needs to limit West’s yards after contact in order to limit the Senators’ ball-control offense.
“We need to make sure that we limit the yards after contact as much as possible,” Woodward said. “If our guys get themselves aligned in the proper positions and play downhill and get four or five hats on the football.”
The Senators have seen their season go much differently than Wheelersburg’s. After starting the season 0-3, West has rebounded significantly and the Senators have proceeded to win four out of their last five games, which was highlighted by a 27-21 victory against Minford on October 4th.
The late-season run by West has given the Senators a chance to make the playoffs, as they sit less than a half a point back from Ironton in 10th place.
To advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2011, West will look to slow the Wheelersburg passing attack down as the Senators will look to establish their ball control offense that is led by seniors Austin Bricker and Dylan Koons. The pair combined to rush for 304 yards on just 17 carries in a 54-0 rout of Northwest last Friday.
With his 183-yard rushing performance against the Mohawks, Bricker now has 946 yards on 167 carries to go along with six rushing touchdowns on the year. Koons leads the team in yards per carry, as the 5’5”, 165-pound senior has rushed for 551 yards and eight touchdowns on just 60 carries.
West also features a defense that has come up big at key moments over the course of the season. Trevar Welch, a 6’1”, 190-pound senior, leads the team in tackles with 66. Bricker, Josh Davis and Tristan White are not far behind with 49, 49, and 48 tackles respectively.
The series has evened out over the past five years, with the Pirates winning contests in 2009, 2010 and 2012 and the Senators triumphing in 2008 and 2011.
Portsmouth West coach Merrill Triplett was not available for comment.
UNDER THE LIGHTS
Notre Dame at Green
The Notre Dame Titans travel to East Friday night to conclude the regular season. The road contest will be Notre Dame’s third straight game away from Spartan Stadium and the Titans’ fourth game on the road in the last five contests.
The 7-2 Titans are looking to complete the road sweep after defeating Green and Symmes Valley. The Notre Dame defense has been reliable all season but especially over the last four games as the Titans have held three out of their last four opponents to single digits on the scoreboard.
Jack Kasyer joined Notre Dame teammate Dakota Smith by eclipsing the century mark against the Vikings. Smith has 1,416 yards on the season while Kayser has 1,086 yards on the ground.
The 3-6 Tartans are coming off a 39-0 shutout victory over the Green Bobcats. This was the second meeting between the two schools as East traveled to Green during the third week of the season. The first match up was officially a nonconference game, which saw the Tartans blow an 18-point second half lead as the Bobcats left Franklin Furnace with a 41-38 victory.
The second meeting of the season provided less fireworks as East took care of business at home, shutting out Green 39-0. The Tartans have won two-straight games after losing three in a row.
Green at Oak Hill
Oak Hill returns home to face Green Friday after being stunned by the Ironton Fighting Tigers 20-14 a week ago. The loss drops the Oaks to 7-2 on the year.
Before allowing 20 points on the road to Ironton, the Oak Hill defense had held opponents to single digits in three-straight contests. The Oaks’ only other loss came at home against Minford, a 30-14 defeat.
The Bobcats (2-7) have lost six games in a row after winning two straight contests earlier in the year. In five of the last six games, Green has failed to score more than six points, which includes two shutouts.
Oak Hill will also be honoring Doug Hale before the match up kicks off. Hale, who earned All-Ohio honors in three sports as a member of the Oaks, will have his #72 jersey retired by the school.
Hale, who was a three-year starter on the defensive line for the Ohio Bobcats, will become only the second person in school history to have his jersey retired.
Ironton at Raceland
Ironton improved its record to 3-6 after beating Oak Hill this past week.
The Fighting Tigers had lost five games in a row before the Oaks came to town. Ironton has given up 307 points while scoring 149 points on the season.
The Raceland Rams are 7-2 on the season. One of Raceland’s losses came on the road, a 35-34 loss to Ashland Paul Blazer. The Fighting Tigers played the Tomcats on the road earlier this season, losing 42-20.
Symmes Valley at Buffalo
Symmes Valley tries to finish the year above the .500 mark as the Vikings travel to Buffalo, W. Va.
Symmes Valley has a 5-4 record after losing a home contest, 39-21, against Notre Dame. After suffering their first home setback, the Vikings look for their first road win to conclude the season. After winning four out of five games, Symmes Valley has dropped its last two contest.
The 0-8 Bison have given up at least 30 points in every game while allowing 40 plus points in six contests. Buffalo has allowed over 50 points in three games.
Chillcothe Southeastern at Piketon
Piketon concludes its 2013 season with a home date against Chillicothe Southeastern. The Redstreaks are 3-6 on the year.
Piketon is on a two-game losing streak, which includes a 22-9 home defeat against Paint Valley a week ago. Before the current two-game skid, the Redstreaks had won three out of four contests. Piketon has allowed 20 or more points per game over the past four contests.
Chillicothe Southeastern (4-5) is looking to finish the season at the .500 mark. In order to accomplish that feat, the Panthers will have to win their first road game of the season.
Northwest at Waverly
Northwest concludes its season with a road contest against Waverly. The Mohawks are 3-6 on the season, including 1-3 on the road.
Northwest has allowed at least 30 points per game over the last six contests, including 50 plus points per game over the last four contests. The Mohawks are on a four-game losing streak.
The Tigers are 2-7 on the year. Last week, Waverly took Minford down to the wire, narrowly losing to the Falcons 14-6. The Tigers have lost their last two games by a combined 13 points.
East Carter at Greenup County
Greenup County hosts East Carter in a match up of 2-7 squads.
The Muskeeters have lost four games in a row, including a 25-21 defeat to Boyd County a week ago. Prior to beating Greenup County, the Lions were winless on the season.
The Raiders are on a three-game skid, which includes last week’s 42-18 drubbing at the hands of the Russell Red Devils.
Information from the Jackson-County Times Journal was used in this report.