Hopewell-Loudon at Carey
Coaches: Hopewell-Loudon Jeremy Nutter; Carey Todd Worst.
Records: Hopewell-Loudon 4-4, 3-2 MAL; Carey 6-2, 4-1.
Last year: Hopewell-Loudon 29, Carey 15
Outlook: Carey's offense may be a bit different than in past seasons, but recently, there has been one constant: The Blue Devils have scored plenty of points.
In its last two games, Carey has outscored its opponents - North Baltimore and Lakota - by a total score of 121-8.
Hopewell-Loudon's Nutter, whose team has lost a pair of tight games in the last two weeks, said it's becoming more difficult than usual to plan against Carey.
"There was a day when they broke the [wish]bone you were shocked," Nutter said. "They've evolved to the point where they do a lot of the same things out of different formations. They're getting better at that stuff and it makes you more flexible defensively."
As for H-L's defense, it gave up 35 points last week to a wide open Seneca East team.
"We're a couple plays away," Nutter said, "especially in the secondary."
And while Carey has modified its offense to include shotgun and some passing, the Blue Devils are far from a wide open offense.
"It's kind of a neat thing about our league," Nutter said. "You can see double tight bone and you can see empty backfield. We'll have to buckle up."
Worst said it will be a challenge for the Blue Devils against the H-L defense.
"I don't know. They look like they're good-sized up front," Worst said. "We're gonna have to execute; a tough task this week. Maybe we score on defense."
Worst said he is impressed with the Chieftains' offense, and with quarterback Alec Gregg.
"He manages the game pretty well," Worst said. "He does a nice job of running the option."
Bucyrus at Upper Sandusky
Records: Bucyrus 4-4; Upper Sandusky 5-3
Coaches: Bucyrus, Aaron Eckert; Upper Sandusky, Jake Moyer
Last Year: Upper Sandusky 34-25
Outlook: With two weeks to go in the regular season, Upper Sandusky sits 14th in the playoff race in Division IV Region 14. However, if enough dominoes fall the right way, the Rams could sneak into a playoff spot. However, that's far from the minds of Moyer and his staff.
"We really haven't talked to the kids much about it. If it happens, it will be a big surprise and it'll be very nice, but we have to focus on the business on hand and that's Bucyrus. If we look past that, that's when you're putting your tail in the ringer."
In the Redmen, Moyer sees a team that stylistically is very similar to his own.
"They played well in spurts. Their offense and our offense are almost a mirror image of each other," he said. "It's a lot same formation, a lot of the same plays. They have a dynamic quarterback who can run and throw. Their running back is pretty good. We have to stop ourselves basically."
Upper Sandusky is coming off a 54-24 throttling of Lucas, in which Moyer said his offense was as sharp as he's seen. He praised the efforts of quarterback Tylor Pritchard and his growth.
"He did three things I was very pleased with," Moyer said. "One, when he scrambled and got all the yards he could, he got out of bounds. Another time when he was running and got all the yards he could, he hook-slid. And the third, we ran a bootleg pass close to the end zone and he wanted the touchdown pass. He threw to a spot where only our guy could catch it and it couldn't be intercepted. Those are the three things I've been looking for from him all season."
Moyer also said he's pleased with how his team has been playing on the defensive side of the ball, though there are a few areas they need to fine tune.
"I think our defense is playing really solid," he said. "I'm impressed with our defensive line play, and our linebackers are growing with experience. Those two areas I'm happy with. We got to shore up the secondary and do a little better job tacking in space."
Elmwood at Fostoria
2012: Elmwood 3-5, 1-4 NBC; Fostoria 0-8, 0-5 NBC.
Coaches: Elmwood, Brian Cooper; Fostoria, Jim Kelly.
Last year: Fostoria won 21-8.
Outlook: It's not the last game of the year, but the last time before the home crowd, and Kelly hopes that gives his team - seniors especially - a big incentive to get that first win.
"If you can't get yourself for this game, I don't know what will do it for you," he said.
Having a couple senior rejoin the playing ranks should help.
Bryson Shaver slides over from center to guard after leaving last week's game early with a thumb injury. Also back is quarterback Adonis Cousin, who's been absent for the past few weeks with a high ankle sprain.
"Hopefully if you have those guys back that will help," Kelly said, with a caveat.
"That only makes 11 on the injured list now," he said.
Injuries certainly won't be welcome Friday.
The Redmen host what Kelly calls a big, physical team that will present many challenges on offense and defense for a young FHS squad.
However, he also said Fostoria needs to draw upon its history and pride as it goes up against a team that has allowed a tad more than 50 per game over the past four weeks while plugging the holes on its own defense that is allowing an average of just over 62 points per game over the last three weeks.
"For us it's about the tradition, the respect for tradition at Fostoria," he said.
"We've got to look in the mirror. We can't settle for the way we've played in the past," he said. "We've got to demand that we play better."
Lucas at Buckeye Central
Records: Lucas 1-7, 0-5 NCC; Buckeye Central 2-6, 1-4 NCC
Coaches: Scott Spitler, Lucas; Jason Ratliff, Buckeye Central
Last year: The Bucks blanked Lucas, 46-0.
Outlook: While Buckeye Central is still mathematically alive for the playoffs, the Bucks have two chances to make the postseason for a third straight year: slim and none.
But Ratliff is hoping his team just doesn't play out the string.
"We hope that our seniors finish strong. We hope that the seniors step up and play like it's their last two games which it's going to be," he said. "The underclassmen's job is to help the seniors out with a couple wins and get more experience for next year as well."
Finishing the season with two wins starts Friday night at home with a Cubs' team that Ratliff says is no slouch, despite a 1-7 record.
"With Lucas, we have a team that's very similar to us and they like to run the football," Ratliff said. "They move the football, even when they're blown out. They're a ball control offense. They're just looking to keep the chains moving and the clock running."
Seneca East at Lakota
Records: Seneca East 6-2, 3-2 MAL; Lakota 2-6, 0-5 MAL
Coaches: Ed Phillips, Seneca East; Dave Vodika, Lakota.
Last year: The Tigers mauled Lakota, 48-14.
Outlook: One would have thought the shoe was on the other foot, but here's Vodika talking more about the Tigers playoff chances than the coach of the Tigers.
Seneca East enters the game on the outside looking in, sitting at No. 11 in the computer ratings with the top eight teams advancing.
"Seneca (East) is right on the edge of the playoff hunt. They have good players and a good scheme. It seems like a lot of long, tall farm boys. It's a good challenge for us," Vodika said. "(But) We don't worry about the other team. We just focus on us. I want us to come out and compete and play at a high intensity level. Then what happens, happens. It's the last home game for our six seniors."
Phillips said they don't talk about it.
"I don't talk about it. Every game to me is a playoff game. We really want to win badly. We just want to take care of today," Phillips said. "Last week after we beat Hopewell-Loudon, I wanted the kids to enjoy the moment. This Friday night, I want us to go out enjoy the game, win the game and have that same feeling. You don't want to look back and regret."
Phillip acknowledges that the game matters though.
"With what our kids have done so far, it makes this an important game so we want to win this game as much as any game in the past or as much as any game in the future," he said.
His counterpart, while realizing what it means for the Tigers, doesn't want to scare his squad.
"What we keep them looking at what they're doing. How are you coming off the ball? Are you executing your assignment," Vodika said. "You don't want to talk the deer into the headlights. To say anything about them could blow up in our face as much as it could inspire them."
Despite the record, Phillips said Lakota is no cake walk.
"I see a lot of skill and playmakers. Offensively, they have three playmakers in their backfield in their quarterback, halfback and fullback. Up front, they have some big guys," Phillips said. "They have some good pieces of the puzzle. They came out against St. Joe and Hopewell-Loudon and did some good things. They're a team that may have a record that may not be great but they have done some really good things. They're better than their record shows."
-- By the A-T sports staff