When two teams maintain a standard of excellence from Week 1 all the way to the end of the regular season, those aforementioned programs deserve to sit inside any football ranking that is complied.
From beginning to end, the Wheelersburg Pirates and the West Senators have shown off their various talents en route to going 9-0 through the season’s first nine weeks. As a result, both programs will get to vie for what could very well be the most anticipated version of the Halloween Bowl in the history of the meeting between the rivals.
For now, however, both teams will have to settle for top-five rankings inside the state’s Division V AP Football Poll, as Wheelersburg tied Canfield South Range for second place in the poll — and garnered four first-place votes — while West remained right on the Pirates’ heels at No. 4 in the overall ranking.
Wheelersburg, who overcame two early interceptions to obtain a 31-7 halftime lead over Valley en route to a 38-7 victory, held the Indians to 96 total yards of offense on Friday evening, including 36 rushing yards on 19 carries, in its win. The Pirates obtained 256 yards passing from Trent Salyers, and got 176 yards receiving combined from Cole Lowery and Bryson Keeney, to open the gap up. Nic Parsley, Xander Carmichael, and Alex George added outstanding efforts on the defensive side of the football as the trio combined for 19 tackles and an interception — with Parsley adding five solo tackles on his own — in the victory.
For the season, Trent Salyers has led the Wheelersburg offensive attack as Salyers has completed 124 of his 187 passes for an astounding 2,341 yards, 25 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Salyers has added 321 additional yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 56 carries en route to collecting 33 total touchdowns on his own in 2017.
Despite missing the past two weeks with injury, Dominic Reyes’ explosiveness has allowed the senior to pace the team in rushing as the multi-sport standout has rushed for 384 yards and seven touchdowns on 69 carries. Ashton Clevenger, who has run for 237 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries, follows close behind, while Tanner Holden (52 catches, 1,066 yards, 16 touchdowns) and Cole Lowery (33 catches, 603 yards, two touchdowns) are among the main playmakers in the passing game. Jalen Miller has connected on seven of his nine field goal attempts with a long of 44 yards and has collected 19 touchbacks to round out the kicking game.
Defensively, Xander Carmichael leads the team with 47 stops and an interception, while Evan Dahm (43 tackles, INT) and Nic Parsley (41 tackles, three sacks) follow closely behind. Alex George (36 tackles, forced fumble, sack, three fumble recoveries), Avery Donini (32 tackles, INT), Keeney (32 tackles, INT), Evan Horsley (30 tackles, sack, forced fumble), and Makya Matthews (26 tackles, two INT’s) are among the top performers for a Wheelersburg defense that has held its opponents to 74 points (8.2 average), a 48 percent completion percentage, and 584 yards rushing on 259 carries. In addition to his team-leading amount of stops, Carmichael also holds an impressive 39.2 yard punt average in 2017 to round out a strong Wheelersburg unit.
As for West, the Senators continued to build upon its outstanding 2017 output by collecting its biggest victory, from a margin standpoint, in 2017 by annihilating Cincinnati Shroder, 64-14, in a nonconference victory at West Portsmouth.
The Senators obtained two excellent efforts from Garrett Hurd, who ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries en route to eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark, and Cody Staggs, who returned a 35-yard punt return and a 66-yard kickoff return for touchdowns in West’s dominating victory, while the defensive unit continued to make the most of takeaways by forcing three turnovers on the evening behind an Isaiah Norman interception that was housed and two forced fumbles by Gabe Skaggs and Joe Igaz that were recovered by Norman and Kyle Howell.
Offensively, Dylan Bradford has helped lead West in establishing a successful and balanced attack as the junior has thrown for 928 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 60 of his 104 passes in 2017. Bradford has also added 304 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 73 carries en route to collecting 1,232 yards of total offense and 17 touchdowns over the course of the year. With his 139-yard rushing performance against Cincinnati Shroder, Hurd now has 1,113 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 178 attempts in 2017 to set up a strong and balanced offensive attack. The third of three standout juniors in the offensive attack, Josh Berry, has proven to be diverse in multiple areas as his 538 yards of total offense has been critical for the Senators in 2017.
Defensively, Jakeb Guilkey has been nothing short of fantastic as the senior holds numbers well north of 80 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in 2017. Brandon Weaver, who leads the team in tackles for loss and holds 65 tackles on the season, has been a critical presence on the defensive line, while Berry (63 tackles, six for loss), Gabe Skaggs (59 tackles, four for loss), Ryan Spriggs (53 tackles, three for loss), Cole Staggs (51 tackles), Isaiah Norman (50 tackles), Cody Staggs (48 tackles, two tackles for loss), and Drew Cassidy (47 tackles) have also contributed heavily in 2017.
Berry, Guilkey, and Weaver, who sit north of two sacks on the season, Staggs and Berry, who have collected five and three interceptions, respectively, and Cassidy, who has connected 38 of his 39 PATs and has made seven of his nine field goals with a long of 44 yards, round out a strong unit.
Pick up a print copy version of the Daily Times later on in the week or check back online at portsmouth-dailytimes.com for a West-Wheelersburg preview later on in the week.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT