COLUMBUS – The 2023 Ohio high school football season is officially at its halfway point.
And the individual performances from all around the state continue to jump off of the page.
Let’s take a look at the biggest and best headlines presented by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association with this week’s high school football notebook.
* Gallia Academy quarterback Bray Rathburn completed eight of 11 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns in the undefeated Blue Devils’ 50-18 Ohio Valley Conference victory over visiting Portsmouth, which was making its first trip to historic Memorial Field in Gallipolis for the first time in four years. This game was cancelled two years ago because of COVID-19. Rathburn also completed three two-point conversion passes, as Hunter Shamblin completed a 32-yard touchdown pass, ran for a three-yard touchdown run, and made three receptions for 89 yards and one score.
* Williamsburg quarterback J.J. Miller was indeed a one-wan Wildcat wrecking crew on Friday night. Miller completed 16-of-23 passes for 324 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on only six carries, in the undefeated Wildcats’ 36-0 shutout at Portsmouth Notre Dame. Pierce Ayers made six receptions for 163 yards and two touchdowns.
* Minford senior running back Jeffrey Pica rushed for 192 yards and five touchdowns on only a dozen carries in the Falcons’ 63-21 Southern Ohio Conference Division II victory at McDermott Northwest on Friday night. Pica continues to close in on the Falcons’ career rushing records — for both touchdowns and yards. Peyton Caudill, the Minford sophomore quarterback, rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns on only six carries, and completed 9-of-11 passes for 137 yards and one score.
* Wheelersburg senior all-purpose performer Creed Warren had the Pirates’ first four touchdowns in their 35-0 Southern Ohio Conference Division II shutout victory at Lucasville Valley on Friday night. Warren had four rushes for 205 yards —including three for touchdown jaunts of 40, 75 and 91 yards. He also made one reception —a 23-yard touchdown catch. The 3-2 Pirates play host to 3-1 Harvest Prep this week, as the Warriors have defeated the Pirates in the Division V Region 19 playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
* It indeed was a memorable Saturday night for Portsmouth West senior standout and all-purpose performer Jeffery Bishop. Bishop returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown, made a 26-yard touchdown reception, and had four interceptions — all in the second half including his final in the end zone with only 16 seconds remaining — in the Senators’ 24-21 Southern Ohio Conference Division II win at Waverly. Bishop also made eight tackles, defended seven total pass attempts, and had a fumble recovery. The Senators are beginning defense of their first SOC II championship since the 2009 campaign.
* Waverly junior wide receiver Kody Swords had 10 receptions for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his team’s 24-21 loss to Portsmouth West on Saturday night. This is the third game in which Swords has racked up more than 100 yards catching the ball. He has 667 receiving yards and nine touchdowns through five games.
* The Eastern (Pike County) Eagles moved to 5-0 on the year heading into Southern Ohio Conference Division I play with a 50-49 triumph over the Southern Tornadoes on Friday night in Beaver. The game saw 99 points, a plethora of penalties, squib kicks, a pick six, and two-point plays. Of the statistical leaders from that game, quarterback Dylan Morton passed for 235 yards and four touchdowns, adding 46 rushing yards and another TD on the ground. Senior receiver Teagan Werner was the leading pass catcher, securing seven receptions for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
* Piketon senior linebacker Zane Brownfield piled up 19 tackles in his team’s 35-21 loss to the visiting Zane Trace Pioneers on Friday night. Brownfield also helped the team on offense — with six carries for 24 yards and one touchdown. Offensively, junior Mason Thacker had 112 receiving yards and a touchdown on 11 catches.
* Hillsboro senior Austin Barrett rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in the Indians’ 32-12 win over East Clinton, giving the running back five consecutive games this season with 100-plus yards rushing in a game. Hillsboro sophomore Jeven Hochstuhl totaled 11 carries for 133 yards with one rushing score, plus on defense he had a pick-six, returning an interception 95 yards for a touchdown against East Clinton.
* McClain senior quarterback Drake Stapleton rushed for 106 yards and scored three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 27-25 week-5 win over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Stapleton was also 11-of-16 passing for 91 yards. McClain senior running back Andrew Potts rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown.
* Marion Local extended its winning streak to 37 in a row with a 42-7 win over New Bremen in a matchup of last year’s Division VI (Marion Local) and Division VII (New Bremen) state champions. The Flyers, ranked No. 1 in the Division VII poll, faces Division VI poll leader Versailles on Friday night for a battle of two of the three undefeated teams in the Midwest Athletic Conference. The win also moves Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin to 298 career victories since becoming Flyers coach in 1999.
* In Massillon Washington’s big 15-13 win Friday against Lakewood St. Edward, the Tigers held the Eagles to 59 yards rushing on 31 attempts with an offensive line that includes three Power Five recruits to Ohio State and Michigan. Meanwhile, St. Edward played without senior quarterback and Davidson recruit Casey Bullock, who was hurt in the Eagles’ 34-33 win at Cincinnati Elder the previous week.