The following is a preview of all of the remaining football matchups that are occurring on Friday night. Wheelersburg-Ironton (Ben Spicer) and Notre Dame-Racine Southern (Kevin Colley) will be previewed in Saturday’s edition of the Daily Times.
With students back in the classrooms and the dog days of summer fully upon us, August serves as the beginning and end of many different aspects of life.
One of those beginnings that people look to, however, is the official commencement of the fall sports season, and the play that will go on across eight different sports during that timeframe. The football gridiron serves as one of those scores of inspiration, as a new crop of youngsters will to follow the traditions of old while creating new memories of their own to remember as Friday Night Football becomes a regular occurrence across the area.
So without further adue, we will preview the Week 1 matchups that lie ahead.
East at South Gallia
2016 result: East 49, South Gallia 16
When one looks at the East Tartans, it’s hard to believe that East could possibly be an improved football team from last year’s 10-1 record and SOC I title-winning campaign in James Gifford’s third season as the head coach of the East football program.
However, despite losing Akia Brown — who rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons with the Tartans — and Drew Lowe from that very roster, East could very well be positioned to do further damage in 2017 as the return of several gritty football hands, including Blaine Scott, Brady Douthat, Braiden Haney, Kyle Flannery, Ethan Carver, and Ethan Gifford, among others, could have East in line for another 10-0 campaign.
Douthat, who threw two touchdown passes in just three total passing attempts last season to go along with two interceptions on the defensive side of the football, will replace Lowe, who threw for more than 1,300 yards last season. He’ll have plenty of targets on the offensive side of the football, including Flannery (seven catches, 235 yards, three touchdowns), Gifford and JD Hatcher (eight catches, 179 yards, TD), who will all play an integral role in the receiving corps. Douthat, Flannery, and Gifford all combined to run for 378 yards last season while averaging at least 4.9 yards per carry or greater.
On the fronts, Scott, who returns after missing most of 2016 due to injury, and Haney, who accumulated 20 sacks last year, will anchor the offensive and defensive lines, while Carver and Gifford, who combined for 144 tackles last year, and Flannery, who picked off a team-high eight passes in 2016, will anchor the back seven.
As for South Gallia, first-year head coach Mike Smith will look to turn around a program that went 3-7 in 2016. Colton Bowers, Tanner Dennison, Austin Day, Jacob Neal, and Wyatt Rapp each bring more than 270 pounds to the offensive line.
Green at West Union
2016 result: West Union 38, Green 20
After falling to West Union by a 38-20 count last year during Week 7 of the regular season, the Green Bobcats will look to make amends for its loss during the opening week of the year, when Green travels to West Union to take on the Dragons.
The Bobcats, who sport a roster that has a nice mixture of youth and experience, not only feature an experienced Wyatt Mollette at the quarterback position, but have a pair of bulls for backs in Lonnie Smith and Tyler McClain, who each exceed 6-3, 180. Tim Perkins, at 5-9, 180, adds another dimension to the Bobcat backfield.
They’ll follow behind a line that that features seven players that are at least 6-0, 240 or bigger — with six of those lineman being of sophomore eligibility or greater. Green will return 20 of its 21 lettermen to the 2018 squad as Ted Newsome looks to continue to build the Bobcats’ football program into a contender at the SOC I level.
Millersport at Eastern
2016 result: Eastern 64, Millersport 6
In the eyes of most individuals, the Eastern Eagles are considered by many to be the sleeper in the SOC I race.
However, if one askes Scott Tomlison, he’ll tell that person, and anybody else, that the expectation is for the Eagles to be right in the mix with East and Oak Hill for the SOC I crown.
This expectation is largely due to the return of an offensive line that includes Dalton Tomlison, a 6-5, 295-pound offensive lineman that has offers from Central Florida and Iowa State, and a host of experienced and large offensive linemen that includes Cole French, Garrett Allen, Chase Tackett, Seth Williams, and Bryan Thompson, among others.
They will block for a talented blend of skill players that include Cole Haislop, Logan Clemmons, Parker Clemmons, Drake Myers, Ocie Jennings, and Wes Hodge, among others. The Eagles have an excellent chance to start the year 2-0 as Millersport and the Eagles’ Week 2 opponent in Clermont Northeastern tallied a combined 3-17 record last season.
Minford at Rock Hill
2016 result: Rock Hill 33, Minford 14
After losing their last four games in 2016, Minford will look to obtain an early statement win on the road as the Falcons will face a Rock Hill squad that is being led by new head coach Mark Lutz.
With competition at nearly every position, Minford’s lineup is still relatively up in the air, but don’t be surprised to see Kelton Kelley and Nathan McCormick taking snaps at the quarterback position on Friday evening. Casey Gaines and Mason Bricker, a pair of running backs who are physical linebackers, and Brayden Tilley, along with Darius Jordan and Caleb Dunham, are among the explosive threats that will play behind an experienced offensive and defensive front.
The efforts of each of those hands, along with many others, will be crucial for Minford, who will be playing each of its first three bouts (Rock Hill, Oak Hill, Nelsonville-York) on the road.
Northwest at Chillicothe Southeastern
2016 result: Chillicothe Southeastern 48, Northwest 12
After injuries decreased Northwest’s overall numbers in 2016, 2017 looks to be a much more promising year for Doug Montavon and the Mohawks, who return a slew of talented multi-sport athletes in Kyle Leslie, Garrett Rowe, and Ashton Hall among others. Bruce South will also be an excellent stronghold to have on the offensive line.
The Mohawks will look to use the efforts of the aforementioned players, along with several others, to overcome a 1-9 regular season showing in 2016, where Northwest was outscored 428-111. A fast start, and one that will have to occur away from home, will be crucial for the Mohawks: four of their first affairs are on the road, including the first two contests against the Panthers and Rock Hill.
Oak Hill at Chesapeake
2016 result: Chesapeake 40, Oak Hill 14
After recovering from two consecutive 0-3 starts to finish at or above .500 for the second straight season, the Oak Hill Oaks will try to accomplish a faster start when Oak Hill opens the season against Chesapeake on Friday evening.
With star quarterback Caleb Johnson fully healthy, along with an overall chemistry that head coach Nathan Dugan is very pleased about, it’s possible to see the Oaks making significant gains as far as the overall record is concerned. Johnson heads an offense that has experience all across the board, from the running backs (Zach Fisher, Walker Smith, Bayley Clutters) to the offensive line (Ramsey Sites, Leighton Maynard, Austin Detty, Hunter Fleming) and the receiving core (Cole Hanning, Daniel Stewart, Dalton Lewis, Nick Swann, Caden Hardin). Colin Hughes also brings solid experience to the quarterback position.
Defensively, look for Clutters, Hanning, Hardin, Swann, and Carson Russ — the latter of whom was moved to outside linebacker after totalling three sacks against Nelsonville-York — to head up a strong front seven. After Chesapeake, Oak Hill gets each of its next trio of affairs — including rivalry affairs with Minford and Rock Hill — at home, which could very well springboard the Oaks to a strong start.
Symmes Valley at Paden City (W. Va.)
2016 result: Symmes Valley 32, Paden City 0
After coming off of a 3-7 record in 2016, Rusty Webb, who is entering his 17th season as the head coach of the Symmes Valley football program, will look to start 2017 off in the same way that his Vikings did a year ago — with a victory against Paden City (W. Va.).
Expect lineman Ethan Stapleton and Brock Carpenter — the latter of whom plays at linebacker — to team with Nick Landers in forming a strong frontline, with Layken Gothard and Austin Webb proving a physical rushing tandem behind the pair.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7