Best Bets: Week 15

Lawrenceburg RB Teegan Bennett (photo by: Sandy Mahoney/Twitter: @InMotionBy Sandy)

High school football season is nearly over which means the lights are getting brighter for the small schools still standing. In Northern Kentucky, an unexpected juggernaut has emerged to take on the giants of the class for a ticket to the title game. In Ohio, a team that won by scoring only once last week is one win away from another title appearance. And in Indiana, two of our local teams can be hoisting trophies this time next week.

What can we realistically expect? Here are this week’s Best Bets.


It’s a lot easier to make the state championship game when you knock out the defending state champions. That’s exactly what the Kings Knights did two weeks ago when they beat Winton Woods. The Knights followed up that performance by putting up 46 points on another Eastern Cincinnati Conference foe Anderson to punch the ticket to the semifinals against a gritty Toledo Central Catholic team that also narrowly blew a lead in its regional final game.


The story of the Kings Knights has been the same all season: Will Kocher. In the regional semifinal win over Anderson, Kocher threw for a modest 245 yards and three touchdowns. However, he also meant business on his legs, rushing for 169 yards and three touchdowns. It was an offensive battle to say the least, with the Kings defense battling the statistical best quarterback in the ECC in Griffin Scalf. The Knights defense was able to force two fumbles in the win as well, putting the ball back in Kocher’s hands.

There are several things Kings will have to clean up before taking Toledo Central Catholic. First, Kocher has to take care of the ball. Kocher has thrown five interceptions over the last three playoff games. If the Knights can limit turnovers and win the turnover battle by creating turnovers on defense, they will be able to control the game script. The Knights will also have to play disciplined, penalty-free football. Kings committed 12 penalties for 109 yards in the win over Anderson last week. These penalties may not have hurt Kings up to now, but eventually, the laundry on the field will catch up with the Knights.

Kings will have to remember that Toledo Central Catholic’s defense will not be as porous as Anderson’s. Will Kocher will need to cook to beat an Irish team that narrowly beat Avon 28-20 despite having a 28-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. The 20 points given up to Avon was the most Toledo Central Catholic had given up since its Week 1 loss to St. Edward when the defense gave up 23 points. The Irish have only given up double-digit points five times in 14 games this season. The Irish’s offense can also pack a punch. Running back Chris Edmonds rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns in the regional semifinal win.

It’s coming down to the wire in Division II. The Kings Knights have never won a state title while Toledo Central Catholic is looking to win its fourth title, and its first since 2014. This will be without a doubt Kings’ toughest matchup of the season. If Kings can clean up the penalties and win the turnover battle, it has a good shot of playing for its first state title.


The Wyoming Cowboys continue to be on a roll. Not just in victories but also in defensive prowess. The unit tied the state record for most shutouts in a season with 10 by not allowing a single point in the team’s regional final victory over Taft. The Cowboys are outscoring their opponents 126-7 in the four playoff games so far.

PREGAME INTERVIEW: Aaron Hancock, Wyoming

Offensively, the Cowboys didn’t get much going against a stout Senators defense. Wyoming could only muster 183 yards of total offense. CJ Hester accounted for 137 yards of those on the ground, which included a 59-yard run that happened to be the only points scored in the game. Hester was bound for a down game after coming off a 369-yard and five touchdown performance against Clinton-Massie the week before.

Steubenville is coming off an impressive 41-7 win over Indian Valley that saw the Big Red cruise to an early yard advantage at halftime 386-31 and ended the game with 487 yards of total offense. Big Red quarterback Phaeton Hill leads the offense and threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns. He threw two interceptions. In order to have a chance against Wyoming, Hill will have to take care of the ball and not turn it over, both in the air or on the ground. The Wyoming defense is among the best at taking advantage of turnovers. Steubenville’s defense, meanwhile, can also force turnovers, accounting for three of them in its regional final win.

On paper, Wyoming is just too dominant. The Cowboys defense is elite and among the best in Ohio history. Expect Steubenville to have trouble moving the ball and Wyoming to easily move the ball. The Cowboys have an excellent shot and opportunity to make it back to the state finals for the first time since 2018.


The good news? The Northern Kentucky area is guaranteed at least one team in a state title game due to Lloyd Memorial and Beechwood facing off in the state semifinals. This is made possible by the new playoff format and reseeding. This is also a rematch from a regular season matchup that saw the Tigers knock off the Juggernauts 34-7. However, now Beechwood is without Mitch Berger and the Juggernauts have not lost a game since.

PREGAME INTERVIEW: Noel Rash, Beechwood

The Lloyd Memorial Juggernauts are riding a magical run through the playoffs, which has included scoring at least 41 points in every playoff game so far. The ground game is where the Juggernauts do damage. The team has rushed for 3,120 yards in 2022 compared to 875 yards through the air. Kaiden Zulager leads the rushing attack with over 1,400 rushing yards on the season. Despite a hiccup last week on defense where they gave up 32 points, Lloyd rarely gives up more than 22 points. The only other time? Beechwood. If Lloyd’s defense can play up the level of competition that Beechwood will bring, it could give Lloyd’s offense enough opportunities to make plays and keep it close.

Beechwood has been able to keep going and put up big numbers without Mitch Berger. In the playoffs so far, they’ve scored 49, 62, and 55 points. Clay Hayden has stepped up big time in the role of quarterback while Chase Flaherty is putting up big numbers on the ground. This balanced attack gives defenses fits and wears them down in a fast fashion. And if there are three assurances in life, they are death, taxes, and Noel Rash having his team prepared for the playoffs.

Lloyd is a great team with a lot of special moments this season. The Juggernauts should be proud of everything they accomplished. But Beechwood is still too powerful and Noel Rash will have his team ready and hungry for another shot at another championship.


The Lawrenceburg Tigers are in the state championship game after going on a 13-game win streak following a season-opening loss to East Central. Both the Trojans and the Tigers are now playing for a state title with the Tigers playing a battle-tested Bishop Chatard team at Lucas Oil Stadium.

We’ve discussed elite defenses a few times so far in this column and Lawrencebug is one of those teams. The Tigers have only given up double-digit points twice this season, both of which happened within the first three weeks of the season. Since then, the defensive unit has pitched seven shutouts, including six in a row during the regular season. The offense is also clicking, scoring nearly 500 points this season. The Tigers have two rushers over 1,000 yards this season in Teagan Bennett and Alex Witte. Logan Ahaus is the leader under center for Lawrenceburg.

Bishop Chatard has four losses on the season, one of which is to Elder. That game was a close 21-16 win for the Panthers. Lawrenceburg is also battle tested and has a great shot of being one of the first teams in the area to hoist a championship trophy.




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