A good way to tell how successful a team will ultimately be at the end of the year is to see how said team performs as the season goes along.
And so far, the Wheelersburg Pirates and the West Senators are showing all signs of units that could very well be 9-0 when the pair get together for their annual Halloween Bowl — a game that could very well decide the SOC II Championship — but signs that also indicate the pair meeting up for a Division V, Region 19 Championship battle.
That matchup, however, is stored far away in the minds of both clubs as of now, especially considering that both units will be tested again when the pair host a duo of respectable Division V ballclubs in Oak Hill and Minford, respectively, after coming off 38-14 and 27-21 victories over Jackson and Raceland (Ky.) this past Friday to move to 5-0 and remain firmly entrenched in the latest version of the Division V Ohio AP Football Poll that was released on Monday evening.
Wheelersburg, who collected a total of 161 points and obtained three first-place votes from voters around the state, held the star rushing tandem of Blake McCoy and Caleb Storms to 119 yards on 33 carries and the entire Jackson team to less than 65 yards of total offense in the second half as the Pirates collected a 38-14 victory over Jackson behind 289 total yards from Trent Salyers, 103 receiving yards from Tanner Holden, 216 rushing yards as a team, and two big special teams plays, including an 11-yard pass from Xander Carmichael to Chase Stidham on a 4th-and-4 and a blocked punt by Stidham and Eli Ruby that was returned for a score by the latter.
For the year, Salyers has continued his outstanding play by collecting 1,565 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions, while Holden, who has caught 42 passes for 744 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017, heads up a strong receiving core that also includes Cole Lowery (26 catches, 290 yards, touchdown) and Carmichael (six catches, 117 yards). A strong rushing attack, which has run for 893 yards on 161 carries for an average of 5.5 yards per attempt, rounds out a complete offensive unit.
Defensively, Wheelersburg’s efforts, much like its offense, has put up a complete effort throughout the year. Carmichael’s and Evan Dahm’s 29 tackles head the charge, while Avery Donini (24 tackles), Alex George (23 tackles), Evan Horsley (22 tackles), and Bryson Keeney and Nic Parsley (21 tackles apiece) round out just a few of the many strong hands on the Pirates’ defensive unit. Carmichael, George, Horsley, Parsley, Ruby, Chris Bailey, Jeremy Cooper, Mason Johnson, and Caleb Varacalli have combined to collect nine sacks on the year.
However, West is certainly not a unit to slouch on at this point in time, either — especially after the Senators scored arguably its biggest victory of the year in a thrilling 27-21 road win over Raceland (Ky.) this past Friday. West used a 40-yard interception return for a score from Cody Staggs, two field goals of 23 and 37 yards, respectively, from Drew Cassidy, and several critical plays from Josh Berry, Dylan Bradford, and Garrett Hurd to emerge victorious despite doubling Raceland in penalties (10 to five) and nearly tripling the Rams in penalty yardage (84 to 30).
Not surprisingly, those results have West drawing rave reviews — and deservedly so — from the Division V AP Poll voters, as the Senators continued to soar in the overall rankings. West jumped to No. 5 from No. 7 in the rankings, scored 132 compared to 90 in the previous poll, and took back the first-place vote that it had previously lost.
For the contest, Bradford was able to collect 131 total yards of offense (83 yards passing, 48 yards rushing) while collecting two-yard and one-yard touchdown runs to keep the Senators alive. Hurd added another outstanding effort by collecting 112 rushing yards on 24 carries, while Berry obtained 107 yards of total offense (54 receiving, 29 rushing, 24 passing) to lead West to another resounding victory.
Defensively, Jakeb Guilkey collected 13 tackles (including seven solo stops) to lead the Senators. Brandon Weaver (nine tackles), Berry, Cole Staggs, Cody Staggs, and Sid Shifflet (eight tackles apiece), and Ryan Spriggs and Gabe Skaggs (seven tackles) proved to be vital throughout the course of the affair.
As far as the entire year is concerned, Bradford leads the way with his 475 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns. The junior signal-caller has only turned the ball over once in 2017. Hurd has added 607 all-purpose yards — 551 of those coming on the ground — while Berry has notched 498 all-purpose yards in 2017 to head the Senators’ attack.
From a defensive standpoint, Guilkey heads the charge with 48 tackles — including six tackles in the backfield — and two sacks, while Berry has added 46 tackles and two sacks of his own to go along with three interceptions. Weaver (43 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks), Skaggs (40 tackles), and Cody Staggs (four interceptions) round out a strong group that holds a plus-eight takeaway margin halfway through the season.
Ohio Division V AP Football Poll
1. Pemberville Eastwood (11); 5-0; 201
2. Canfield S. Range (5); 5-0; 195
3. Anna (2); 5-0; 182
4. Wheelersburg (3); 5-0; 161
5. Portsmouth West (1); 5-0; 132
(tie) Liberty Center (1); 5-0; 132
7. Marion Pleasant (2); 4-0; 101
8. Orwell Grand Valley; 5-0; 85
9. Sullivan Black River; 5-0; 29
10. Jamestown Greeneview; 5-0; 25
Others receiving 12 or more points: Genoa Area 20. Archbold 18. Milan Edison 14. Tontogany Otsego 12.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7