Best Bets: Conference battles heating up

Roger Bacon RB Corey Kiner, the 2019 OPSWA Division IV Southwest District Co-OPOY. (photo by Dan Bieneke/

Two weeks into this condensed 2020 season, we have seen a lot of surprising outcomes, including some eye-opening ones. Playoff teams from last year have struggled, while teams who haven’t done much winning recently are going into Week 3 undefeated. In a season of uncertainty, it’s best to expect the unexpected. Here are the games to pay close attention to in this week’s edition of the 5 Best Bets.   

Here is a look at the Best Bets across the Tri-state this weekend:

No. 8 Princeton at No. 6 Colerain
For the first time in almost two decades, the Cardinals are not the team to beat in the GMC. That distinction belongs to the team that beat them at Cardinal Stadium in Week 1, Lakota West. Colerain got back on track in Week 2, shutting out Oak Hills 30-0. The Vikings have had a suspenseful, yet successful start to their 2020 campaign, winning one-score games against Hamilton and Sycamore. Could the tides finally be changing for Head Coach Mike Daniels? In recent years they have had a difficult time closing games and playing up to their competition. With two nail biters under their belt, this Viking team seems to be much more confident under pressure. For Colerain, the determining factor for this game and the rest of the season will be the offense. After looking abysmal and getting blanked at home, they came back with a 30-point performance in Week 2. The defense is exceptional as they usually are and could win them a lot of their games. Although if the Cardinals have aspirations of yet again making a deep playoff run, they need better quarterback and offensive line play. Tyler Prater and Freddie Johnson have been splitting time, and the front is completely new and inexperienced. This game will show us a lot about both teams.

No. 4 Lakota West at No. 12 Sycamore
Tom Bolden has his magic working yet again, as the Firebirds could be debated as being the best team in the Tri-State after two weeks. Handling his old school a 10-0 loss in the opener and thumping Hamilton 40-13 has West flying high. The defense, led by Ohio State commit Jyaire Brown and Jackson Kuwatch, has been stifling, allowing a combined 344 yards and 13 total points through two games. Mitch Bolden is only a sophomore and will get better behind center. Throwing three touchdowns and only one interception last week is a good sign. Once he starts taking the next steps in his development, look out. Coming off a tough last-second loss to Princeton, The Aviators look to get back in the win column. Defeating the other Lakota school in Week 1 (East), Sycamore is a team that never stops battling. They play the best teams tough, and head coach Scott Datillo always has his teams ready for battle. William Ingle will have to have a good game on the ground to help set up quarterback Andrew Fehr in the passing game. Fehr doesn’t take many risks, as he’s thrown for under 150 yards in both games. With a secondary as good as Lakota West, expect that to be the case again. The Week 2 contribution from Cairo Ford rushing could be the determining factor in the Aviators being able to move the ball or not. His twelve rushes for 131 yards against Princeton was eye opening. A 1-2 punch of he and Ingle would be a headache to prepare for and stop. West is a heavy favorite here for good reason, but don’t write Sycamore off too soon.

No. 24 Ross at No. 17 Talawanda
After two weeks, Talawanda stands as the only unbeaten SWOC team. Head coach Larry Cox’s defense has been the story, allowing only six points in Week 1, and seven points in an upset of a Harrison team that was in the regional finals just a year ago. Deandre Bothast-Revalee has turned into a star and is the engine of this offense. He ran for 116 yards In Week 1, followed by 170 yards against the Wildcats. Braden Wright still has a way to go at quarterback and limiting turnovers, but that should come with more reps. Ross has been a bit underwhelming to start the season. A blowout loss to Badin yet again, then allowing Northwest to score 36. The defense for the Rams has been traitorous to say the least, and that has to change quickly if they want to make a playoff run. The offense is full of experience, from the O line with Kaden Rodgers, Quarterback C.J. Boze, and workhorse fullback Jackson Gifford. Stopping DBR will be the main priority for Ross, as they look to play their first complete game of 2020. With first place on the line, expect both teams to be ready.

No. 16 Simon Kenton at No. 19 Highlands
Northern Kentucky football begins this week after delaying the start of the season due to COVID-19. The games get started with a bang as these two powerhouses do battle. Last year Highlands defeated Simon Kenton 28-7 in Week 4. The Pioneers return sophomore quarterback Chase Crone, who had an excellent year as a true freshman. Twenty was the magic number for the Pioneers in 2019. In four of the team’s five losses, they scored under 20 points. They were 7-1 in games they scored more than 20. If the offense continues to roll, they will win a lot of games. For Highlands it’s about consistency. They couldn’t put a long stretch of good football together last season. After a quick three-game winning streak and outscoring their opponents 149-7, they went on to lose three of their next four and were outscored 93-49. Highlands is very talented, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and slowing down the high-powered Simon Kenton offense will be the key to starting off their 2020 season on the right foot.

Norwood  at Roger Bacon
There’s been no bigger surprise in 2020 than the Indians. Starting the season 2-0, Norwood will be playing for first place in the conference. They won both games in contrasting ways, winning a 32-26 grinder against Lockland in Week 1 and thoroughly handling business in a 49-13 rout of Summit Country Day in Week 2. This is a team that went 0-10 in 2019. The difference has been the potency of the offense. In 2019 they scored over 20 points just one time, while also being held to single digit points four times. Quarterback Ryan Peter and wide receiver Kevin English have led the charge. Peter has accounted for 737 passing yards with 10 total touchdowns. English has 292 yards and five touchdowns through two weeks and is averaging more than 15 yards per catch. With all the positives of Norwood this season, they face their toughest matchup by far, and arguably the best player in the state of Ohio. When discussing Roger Bacon, it starts and ends with running back Corey Kiner. The LSU commit had 238 rushing yards and three scores in Week 1, followed by 180 yards and five scores in Week 2. The Spartans have been nothing short of dominating, outscoring their first two opponents by a combined 76-14. It will take an absolute perfect game for Norwood to come out with a victory. The offense has to continue to score in bunches, and Ryan Peter needs to protect the ball. He has five turnovers in two games, if that happens here, it will get ugly quick. This is a David vs. Goliath matchup, and the Spartans have no plans to let the Cinderella Indians move to 3-0. 

Make sure to check out the COMPLETE PREVIEW for this week’s featured game on the Blitz 5 Tour presented by

Other games for teams ranked inside the Blitz 5 Top 25:

No. 2 La Salle at No. 15 Lakota East
No. 5 Winton Woods at West Clermont
No. 7 Covington Catholic at Dixie Heights
No. 9 Mason at Oak Hills
No. 11 Fairfield at No. 14 Hamilton
No. 17 Turpin at Little Miami
Chaminade-Julienne at No. 18 Badin
No. 20 Kings at No. 25 Middletown
No. 21 Anderson at Lebanon
23 Wyoming at Madeira

Franklin County at No. 10 East Central

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