SCIOTO COUNTY — Last weekend, the vibes were all about the respective Southern Ohio Conference football frontrunners — the Wheelersburg Pirates in the SOC II and the Northwest Mohawks in the SOC I.
For Friday night this week, the spotlight is on the immediate challengers — specifically Scioto County’s own Minford Falcons (SOC II) and Notre Dame Titans (SOC I).
That’s because both the Falcons and Titans take to the road, and take their shows out of county, for all-important conference clashes —and to both avoid elimination in the SOC championship chases.
Minford, at 5-2 and 2-1 in the SOC II, travels to Waverly’s rave Raidiger Field for a tangle with the 6-1 and 2-1 Waverly Tigers —while 6-1 Notre Dame ventures out to face undefeated at 7-0 Symmes Valley.
The Titans are 1-1 in the SOC I, while Lawrence County’s Vikings are 2-0 —and eyeing an outright league championship bout at 3-0 in the division Northwest next week.
Oh, and there’s a bucket’s worth of playoff points for this foursome —just aside from the division championship implications.
Kickoffs in Waverly, and in Willow Wood, are set for 7 p.m.
Minford at Waverly
With Wheelersburg winning 24-20 at Minford followed up last week with its 21-14 triumph over the visiting Tigers, the Pirates —at underdog Valley this week —positioned themselves to clinch at least a share of the SOC II with a win over the Indians.
Should Wheelersburg win over both Valley and West, then the outright championship is its once again.
Waverly won last season’s SOC II title for the first time since 2006, and snapped Wheelersburg’s 28-game league winning streak and six-year stranglehold on the division in the process — while Minford’s most recent of four all-time titles came clear back in 2009.
The winner will remain with a share shot for at least another week, as the losing club can turn its attention to the regular-season finale — and subsequent state playoffs.
Speaking of which, to the victor goes some spoils —and Ohio High School Athletic Association computer points.
Minford is now ninth in Division V Region 19, while Waverly sits fourth in Division IV Region 16.
With the expansion of the OHSAA state playoffs to 16 teams per region this year, and no bye weeks with that, the top eight squads secure first-round home games.
The Pirates provided also the perfect blueprint to top the Tigers — keeping Waverly’s prolific, lighting fast-paced and high-octane offense off the field for the majority of the contest.
Wheelersburg was willing to surrender rushing yards to Waverly running back Jase Hurd, who had career-highs of 27 carries and 142 yards and scored both Tiger touchdowns — but the pass-oriented Tigers only produced 14 points and 130 yards, which marked a two-year season-low in points.
The Pirates kept quarterback Wade Futhey’s 16 completions, 34 attempts and 130 yards in front of them —often disrupting Futhey’s rhythm and ability to strike deep downfield and over-the-top with his wide receivers.
Offensively, Wheelersburg was expected to play ball control —and did just that, especially in the first three quarters and building a 13-0 advantage.
Minford, most likely, will follow that script —as the Falcons perhaps play even better ball control than the Pirates, spearheaded by sophomore running back Jeffrey Pica and senior quarterback Devin Parker.
Look for the Falcons to showcase a steady diet of Pica carries, while defensively doing their best to keep Futhey and his receivers from burning them with explosive plays.
While Hurd has 549 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 91 carries, Futhey has completed 132 of his 203 passes for 23 touchdowns with five interceptions.
Penn Morrison (44 receptions, 842 yards and 10 TDs), Mark Stulley (36 receptions, 531 yards and 5 TDs) and Will Futhey (35 receptions, 515 yards and 7 TDs) form the triumvirate of Tiger receivers.
Notre Dame at Symmes Valley
The Titans, by losing to Northwest 26-20 on Sept. 24, put themselves behind the eight-ball right off the bat in the SOC I race.
Now, they need a win at Symmes Valley to stay in that hunt —even though a Titan victory combined with a Northwest win at Eastern would assure the Mohawks of at least a share.
A Viking victory eliminates the Titans from any SOC I championship consideration, and sets up a winner-take-all between themselves at Northwest in the regular-season finale —which would be a rematch of the last two outright champions.
Northwest has been in the SOC I since 2014, while Oak Hill —before moving up to the SOC II two years ago —had dominated the division for an entire decade.
The Titans can also load up on a bevy of Division VII Region 28 playoff points, as they are fourth (10.4302 computer points average) in that Dayton and Cincinnati-centric region —trailing only undefeated Marion Local (19.2525), 7-1 New Madison Tri-Village (12.1875) and 5-2 Cincinnati College Prep (10.432).
The Vikings, besides being undefeated, are seventh in Region 23 of Division VI.
Both teams, including the wing-T Titans, almost exclusively run the football — so don’t expect many, if any, say passing-game surprises come Friday night.
Notre Dame will feature Gavin Hart, Cody Metzler, Beau Hobbs, quarterback Wyatt Webb and even split end Dylan Seison carrying the rock —as the Vikings counter with four backs who have at least 42 touches, and two touchdowns, for 349 yards.
That quartet includes quarterback Grayson Walsh (67 carries, 606 yards, 5 TDs), Ethan Patterson (66 carries, 436 yards, 8 TDs), Levi Best (44 carries, 533 yards, 10 TDs) and Levi Niece (42 carries, 349 yards and 2 TDs).
Walsh has completed 18 of his 24 pass attempts on the year —for 302 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
Five separate Vikings have at least two receptions for 42 yards, including Best (four for 78), Patterson (five for 95) and Brayden Webb (seven for 78).
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved