Best Bets: Rematches highlight week

The East Central defense (photo by Linda Lyness Maxwell)

The dust has mostly settled and things are getting down to the nitty and gritty in OHSAA playoff action. Many regulars are back again, while we have a select few who are in unfamiliar territory. Regardless, every team has made it this far for a reason. The hunger, drive, and conviction has stayed with players and coaches throughout these controversial times. We have highly anticipated rematches, paired some stylistic matchups that will be a treat to watch. Here are the games to look forward to in another edition of our 5 Best Bets.

The two GMC foes get to run it back with a state semifinal appearance on the line. Head coach Tom Bolden will coach against the team he had in this very position for so many years. The matchup in Week 1 favored the Firebirds as they won 10-0. Both teams played excellent defense in that game, and carried that over for the rest of the season. Lakota West allowed only four points per game while the Cardinals ceded just 12 points per contest. Both teams are vastly improved offensively, which will be the ultimate x factor in this game. Whoever can move the chains and take care of the ball will move on. Although there will be some wrinkles thrown in with the passing. Isaiah Myers is a mismatch for the Cardinals every play. Standing at 6-foot-4 with a basketball background, if Colerain can isolate him and give him one-on-one chances, he can open up the offense immensely. Running Back M.J. Flowers came into his own of late, averaging 123 rushing yards per game while scoring nine times in the last four weeks. For Lakota West, sophomore quarterback Mitch Bolden has continued to get better running and throwing the ball. Junior running back Cameron Good has established himself as a game changing player just when the Firebirds needed him, rushing for over 100 yards in two of the last three contests. Bottom line, these teams mirror each other in play style, their strengths, and how they win. This will be a flat out brawl, with points coming at a premium.

For the second consecutive week the Bombers collide with a GCL South rival. They took care of business last week, throttling Moeller 45-14. Don’t look now, but this Bomber offense is as dangerous as it’s ever been. They have tallied at least 40 points in their last four wins, including a 60-point effort against Cleveland St. Ignatius. Quarterback Brogan McCaughey threw for 272 yards and four touchdowns all in the first half against the Crusaders. This team is peaking at the right time, and a nightmare for anyone and everyone moving forward. For the Panthers, it has been a stressful, yet successful first two postseason games. They played two GMC opponents in Fairfield and Princeton, and won both of those games by a combined 8 points. Elder can score at will and have playmakers everywhere, but defense is where the Panthers need to get right if they want to play in the state semifinals for the second straight year. Fairfield gashed them on the ground, rushing for 307 yards. The Vikings gashed them through the air, passing for 229 yards. The Bombers can thoroughly attack and beat you throwing and running the ball. In the first matchup it was the running game disparity that brought the bombers over the edge, as they outgained Elder 158-21 on the ground. If these two continue to trend in the directions they are going, the Bombers could win, and win big here. Although a GCL South battle with high ramifications should have us expecting the unexpected.

How about those running Rams? Coach Kenyon Commins and his squad continue their magical season, clinching their first ever SWOC championship, and now playing in the regionals semifinals for the first time ever. They won their playoff game emphatically last week, defeating Monroe 52-14 and rushing for 522 yards. C.J. Boze, Jackson Gifford, and Brayden Frassman all went well over 100 yards and each found the endzone twice. This offense is experienced, physical, and playing their best ball of the season. For New Richmond, they played Goshen in back-to-back games, in the regular season finale and the first game of the postseason. The Lions went 1-1, but won the game that mattered most last week 38-20. New Richmond’s offense is extremely potent as well, getting it done running and throwing the ball. They average 226 yards per game rushing, and 221 yards per game passing. The key in this game will be possession time and situational defense. Ross wants to eat the clock and wear the opposing defense down with their running game. New Richmond has to establish their run game to match what the Rams do, and then open up the pass game. Neither of these defenses wows you, so expect there to be a lot of points scored here. The line of scrimmage will be everything in this game which favors the Rams, but the balance of the Lions could be the equalizer.

Any questions about the Colonels slow start have been put to bed in a big way. They have won their last three games by a combined score of 134-7. The defense hasn’t given up more than 20 points since Week 3 of the 2019 season. Winners of 20 consecutive games, it goes without saying that the class 5A state championship will once again go through CovCath. Conner has an excellent season so far. Winners of three of their first four, this team has thrived when the defense sets the tone for the offense. In their only loss of the season to Highlands, they allowed 36 points and the tone of that game was set early. In their three wins the Cougars allowed an average of eight points per game. Unfortunately, they run into arguably the best team in the state of Kentucky, and barring a miracle will handily lose their second game of the season.

Coming up on the short end of an instant classic last week against Roncalli, things don’t get any easier for the Trojans as they play the undefeated Dragons in the first round of the playoffs. Led by senior Ben Landers, Silver Creek averages 292 rushing yards per game. They also have two high-level athletes in Lashun Mays Jr. and Trey Schoen, who have gamereaking ability. On defense they are even more impressive, allowing no team to score over 20 points this season. The Trojans’ defense has been just as impressive, but following last week’s emotional loss, their response will be the deciding factor. They must run the ball effectively and focus on stopping the run. East Central lost in the first round of the playoffs last year following an outstanding regular season. They look to avoid that from happening again this year and they have a tough task ahead of them.

Make sure to check out the COMPLETE PREVIEW for this week’s featured Blitz 5 Game of the Week – No. 13 Turpin at No. 13 Kings.

*All rankings above are the team’s current rank inside the Blitz 5 Top 25.

Here are some other games for ranked teams this week:

Stebbins at No. 3 La Salle
Edgewood at No. 4 Winton Woods
Tippecanoe at No. 18 Badin
No. 19 Anderson at Piqua
Graham at No. 21 Wyoming
Valley View at No. 22 Indian Hill
Greenon at No. 23 Roger Bacon
Bethel-Tate at No. 24 Clinton-Massie
Cooper at No. 25 Highlands

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