PORTSMOUTH — Believe it or not, fall evenings are right around the corner. With that territory, of course, comes Football Friday nights.
This coming weekend marks exactly six weeks until the official start of high school football season. With that being said, we decided to wet your senses by previewing five games on this year’s schedule we can’t wait to cover.
WEEK 3: Ashland Blazer at Wheelersburg, 7 p.m.
In a game that probably already has Pirates fans salivating, Ashland (Ky.) Blazer visits Wheelersburg on Sept. 13, just before a matchup against Ironton the following week. The Tomcats, who are coming off an 11-2 season, are a bunch that consistently makes deep playoff runs. Over the past five seasons, the program has amassed an overall record of 45-17 … and that’s not playing a cupcake schedule in the least bit. Wheelersburg can boast of a similar resume, one I’m sure you’re all familiar with. The Pirates’ non-conference schedule includes several high-profile opponents including Bishop Hartley and Ironton. But Ashland Blazer may top that list. Wheelersburg, even after losing players like Trent Salyers and Tanner Holden to graduation, is still the heavy favorite in the SOC II. That charge is led by running back Makya Matthews. He’ll be ready t to play in this one, and so will his teammates. Make no mistake about it; even in Week 3, you can expect a Week 11 atmosphere.
WEEK 8: Waverly at Wheelersburg, 7 p.m.
We all already know both teams have this game circled on their own calendars. In a game that pits, what many believe to be, the best two SOC II teams against each other, the Tigers make the trip south on Oct. 18. On their bus will be quarterback Hadyn Shanks, who completed 59 percent of his passes as a sophomore alongside 2,228 yards and 34 touchdowns. Waverly did, however, graduate more than one of Shanks’ top weapons, including receiver Easton Wolf. Nevertheless, if you mention Wheelersburg in Waverly, you know what you’re going to get. The two programs’ dislike for each other has been well-documented and, even though the Pirates have dominated the rivalry, both teams continually play hard in this game each year.
WEEK 9: Green at East, 7 p.m.
In a rematch of last year’s classic, a game the Bobcats won 16-8, Green travels to East on Oct. 25 for what promises to be a pivotal SOC I battle. Green brings back quarterback Trevor Darnell, who did anything that was asked of him in his junior campaign. Darnell rushed for 275 yards and passed for another 480. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Lonnie Smith, who was responsible for 801 rushing yards and nine scores last fall. The Tartans lost, what many believe to be, their two best players from a year ago in Kyle Flannery and Chandler Carver. But East seems to give Green a game anytime the two meet, no matter the roster members. The Bobcats, while trying to defend an SOC I crown, have to be careful not to trip in this one.
WEEK 10: Portsmouth at Ironton, 7 p.m.
There’s a reason this game is slated for Week 10, right? If you recall, the Trojans knocked off the Tigers last season by a 35-28 final … a score that propelled Portsmouth into the state playoff picture and put Ironton on the outside of that picture, looking in. In last year’s contest, Trojans running back Talyn Parker rushed for 298 yards and five touchdowns. He’ll certainly be the centerpiece of the Tigers’ defensive game plan once again this fall. That game plan, of course, is centered around linebacker Reid Carrico. Parker and Carrico are, arguably, the area’s two best players … and by a longshot. Portsmouth’s playoff appearance was the program’s first since 2007. With Parker in the backfield, there’s a good chance this Week 10 matchup will also have playoff implications. It doesn’t get any better than Portsmouth vs. Ironton, both with top-of-the-line college prospects on their rosters, at playoff time.
WEEK 10: Valley at Minford, 7 p.m.
Less than eight miles from one another, Valley and Minford will add another chapter to their classic rivalry on Nov. 1. Both teams will have a new signal caller, both teams are looking to make a return to the playoffs and both teams, of course, want to win bragging rights. No matter the records at the time of this contest, Kayden Mollette leading an Indians offense into battle with Elijah Vogelsong and the Falcons will always be intriguing. The Falcons were 6-4 last season, mark that was two games better than 2017 but one that still caused them to miss the playoffs. The Indians were 4-6, also a better mark than the year before, but also one that wasn’t nearly good enough for a playoff berth. Could either team sneak into the postseason with a win here? Time will tell, but the potential is there. We’re here for it.
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