Cincy Best Bets: Week 1

Time to lace ’em up. It has been a longtime since a season has started with so many great matchups. By midnight on Friday there will be plenty of buzz about what has played out earlier in the evening. An abbreviated six game campaign gives every week an accelerated sense of urgency, especially for the seniors. Here are the Best Bets to kickoff 2020.

No. 1 La Salle at No. 4 Elder
The 2019 Division I State Runner-up hosts the Division II State Champion in an epic GCL South throw down. On paper, La Salle has the upper hand in this one with a roster that is loaded with experience. The Lancers won the Greater Catholic League (GCL) South outright (3-0), allowed just 13.1 points per game and averaged 32.9 points per game with an average margin of victory of 19.8 points in 2019. The offense is big across the line and the skill position players are potent. They have arguably the best running back in the Class of 2022, RB/LB Gi’Bran Payne. Under center QB Zach Branam ran for and threw for more than 1,000 yards while accounting for 35 touchdowns (21 pass, 14 rush) on his way to Third Team All-Ohio honors last fall. The La Salle secondary has four Division I commits – Devonta Smith (Alabama), Jaylen Johnson (Ohio State), Iesa Jarmon (Cincinnati) and Jaymar Mundy (Miami – OH).

Elder WR Drew Ramsey (photo by Dan Beineke/

Don’t count Elder out of this one too early. The Panthers seniors have been to the regional finals and the state championship game during their careers. They have bided their time behind some outstanding talent that came before them. Now they get the opportunity to write their final chapter in the program’s history book. Junior ATH Drew Ramsey will play a major role in the offense. He is one the league’s top playmakers.

No. 7 Fairfield at No. 14 Mason
A clash between two teams that went from being GMC cellar-dwellers to perennial playoff squads. Both schools have made the playoffs in each of the last five years. Closing out games will be the difference between a good season and a great one for Mason. The Comets went 2-5 versus playoff teams and 1-3 in games decided by eight points or less in 2019.

Fairfield head coach Jason Krause (photo by Justin Sheldon/

The offensive lines will be the strength of both teams. Each school returns three All-GMC linemen from last season. Fairfield’s Jason Krause calls this the best o-line that he has had in his 24 years as a head coach. The Indians senor ATH Jaydan Mayes is primed for a big senior campaign.

No. 9 Princeton at No. 10 Hamilton
An experienced Hamilton squad looks to take the program to a new level. The Big Blue looks to make history with back-to-back playoff appearances and the school’s first-ever postseason win. They are led by the talented backfield tandem of senior RB Keyshawn Stephens and junior RB Kaleb Johnson. The Division I prospects have combined to run for 3,695 yards and 35 touchdowns at the varsity level. Hamilton will have no trouble putting points on the board.

Hamilton RB Kaleb Johnson (photo by Dan Bieneke/

Stopping the potent Big Blue offense will be a top priority for Princeton. The Vikings struggled down the stretch in 2019 giving up 30 points or more in three of their final four games. Princeton has many holes to fill but the talent is there. It is just untested and against a veteran team like Hamilton it could be a long and frustrating night. The Vikings are looking to make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 1992-93.

No. 12 Lakota East at No. 15 Sycamore
Both of these teams like to run the football. Expect a low scoring game that will be over in a hurry. Possessions will be precious. Squandering them is not an option for a victory.

Lakota East went 4-3 in games decided by 12 points or less, last fall. The Thunderhawks are led by a trio of juniors in the backfield, RB Charlie Kenrich, RB Tavier Lugo-Flowers, QB TJ Kathman along with senior RB Josh Thornhill. The running backs combined for 1,838 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing in 2019.

Lakota East RB Tavier Lugo-Flowers (photo by Dan Beineke/

Sycamore started eight sophomores a year ago. They had trouble closing out games. The Aviators played five contests that were decided by seven points or less. Sycamore went 2-3 in those affairs. On offense, QB Andrew Fehr set the school record with 1,573 yards passing in a season as a junior. Getting his chance to handle the workload running the ball will be junior RB William Ingle.

No. 5 Winton Woods at Kings
Winton Woods has found a new home in the ECC after spending the last eight years as an independent. Despite two wins over eventual state champions in 2019 the Warriors did not make the playoffs. They will be out for blood. Unfortunately, Kings is the first team on the schedule in their vengeful path. Offensively, QB MiChale Wingfield fuels the engine. He has all the tools to be the ECC Offensive Player of the Year. Winton Woods is stacked on defense with four Division I prospects – LB Daylon Long (Miami – OH), DE/OLB Andrew Booker (Maryland), DB Tamarion Crumpley and Caleb Tubbs (Miami – OH) leading the way.

Kings RB Ty Stylski (photo from

Kings will look to combat the Warriors defense behind the legs of RB Ty Stylski and arm of QB Jackson Kwasniewski. Stylski who is also a candidate for ECC Offensive Player of the Year racked up 2,301 all-purpose yards (1,401 rush, 361 rec, 542 ret) with 28 receptions an 24 total touchdowns (23 rush) as a junior. The Knights averaged 37.5 points per contest a year ago. Kings lost the time of possession battle in eight of their 10 games. That led to the defense giving up 337.4 yards per tilt. That trend must change if they want to hang with Winton Woods.

BLITZ 5 GAME OF THE WEEK: N0.6 Lakota West at No.2 Colerain
Make sure to check out the COMPLETE PREVIEW for this week’s featured game: Lakota West at Colerain

Other games for teams ranked inside the Blitz 5 Top 25:
No. 11 Moeller at Bishop Hartley
Badin at No. 17 Ross
No. 18 Anderson at Little Miami
No. 19 Turpin at Loveland
No. 22 Harrison at Chaminade Julienne
Reading at No. 25 Wyoming

No. 3 St. Xavier at Brownsburg (IN) – Saturday
No. 23 Mount Healthy at Lawrenceburg

No. 13 East Central at Bishop Chatard

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