Records: Hopewell-Loudon 5-3, 3-2 MAL; Carey 5-3, 4-1 MAL
Coaches: Hopewell-Loudon Jeremy Nutter; Carey Todd Worst
Last week: Carey shut out North Baltimore 65-0; Hopewell-Loudon got past Seneca East 27-19.
Last season: Carey beat Hopewell-Loudon 35-14.
Outlook: Last week was a big win for Nutter's team, as Cody Malone carried the ball on the majority of H-L's plays and the Chieftains held on to beat the Tigers.
But Nutter said the key to the win was defense.
"I think the difference is,we made plays that got us off the field," he said. "[We made plays on] third down, fourth down or [forced a] a turnover, that's been lacking. (The Blue Devils) are a well balanced team, they're good at what they do, good at what they do; have to limit the damage."
Because Carey has run the wishbone for so many years, the perception may be that they usually wear teams down. But as MAL Offensive Player of the Week, Bryan Powers showed last week, the Blue Devils have big play potential.
Powers only touched the ball six times last week, but put up almost 250 yards of offense.
"If you bust an assignment, they'll make you pay for 60 yards," Nutter said.
Carey looks to keep H-L out of the MAL hunt with a win Friday, admittedly being a tough match up.
"Offensively we are going to take what they give us. We need to look for mis-matches and capitalize on every play," Worst said. "It is all about who makes the fewest mistakes and catches the lucky breaks. Everything that happens is going to dictate the end result, including the weather."
at Upper Sandusky
Records: Colonel Crawford (7-1, 4-1 NCC); Upper Sandusky (7-1, 4-1 NCC)
Coaches: Colonel Crawford Ryan Teglovic; Upper Sandusky Jake Moyer
Last Week: Colonel Crawford topped Wynford 20-14; Upper Sandusky beat Buckeye Central 26-8.
Last year: Colonel Crawford beat Upper Sandusky 34-6.
Outlook: Two playoff teams from last season.
Likely, same goals.
Moyer is in his final season as coach, and as he said, this is why you get into the profession. The Rams have a daunting task in front of them. They play the Eagles Friday, then finish with Galion next week.
Win those games, and the Rams will win the NCC and almost certainly reach the playoffs.
"We tell our kids, 'Don't worry about the playoffs. We want to win the league," Moyer said.
The Rams coach said Colonel Crawford is "very experienced," and he's impressed with their quarterback, Nate Klingenberger.
"Klingenberger, he can just throw the ball in the bucket," Moyer said. "He has great touch on the ball, and is a much better runner than many people think."
Moyer said he has been concerned over the last two weeks - a loss to Bucyrus and a win over Buckeye Central.
In those games, the Rams struggled to play complete games. They fell way behind the Redmen before a late charge sent the game - one Upper Sandusky eventually lost - into overtime. Last week, Moyer thought the Rams put up a strong first half against the Bucks, but didn't have a great second half.
The Rams won that game, but Moyer said his team will need 48 minutes of focus to defeat the Eagles.
"We cannot have an off period," he said. "we have to play two halves, four quarters of a game solidly."
Records: Eastwood 6-2, 4-1 NBC; Fostoria 0-8, 0-5 NBC.
Coaches: Jerry Rutherford, Eastwood; Jim Kelly, Fostoria.
Last week: Eastwood beat Rossford 64-17; Woodmore beat Fostoria 69-0.
Last year: Eastwood won 61-6.
Outlook: When you're winless, down in numbers and playing a lot of youth, challenges aren't hard to find. When Eastwood comes calling, they're right in front of you.
The Eagles bring an explosive wing-T offense Friday into Fostoria, a system which has scored at 64 points in its last two games and hit 40 or more in three others this year.
"They're just quick. That offense is tough enough to stop, let alone when you've got speed everywhere. It's going to be a challenge for us," Fostoria coach Jim Kelly said. "One of the things we're telling the kids is keep going out and battling."
Doing that against Eastwood's offensive options will be difficult.
Five separate Eagles ran for touchdowns in last week's blowout win and two others each caught a TD pass.
Devin Snowden scored on runs of 71 and 18 yards on Eastwood's first two plays to jumpstart an offense that led 30-0 at the first break after running only nine plays. Snowden (127) and Brent Schlumbohm (104) also each topped 100 rushing yards.
Meanwhile, the defense forced four turnovers in the first half and two more in the second, with Michael Glaze running an interception back 23 yards for a touchdown.
"They're good. Jerry's over there, they've run the wing-T for years and they're very good at it. He's got a nice group of athletes," Kelly said.
"The one thing that hits you when you watch them, .... they've really got some fast kids," he said. "We've got to play good assignment football, attempt to keep things in front of us; good, fundamental things for us."
Records: Buckeye Central 2-6, 1-4 NCC; Riverdale 1-7, 1-4 NCC.
Coaches: Jeff Neidermier, Buckeye Central; Jeremy Kloepfer, Riverdale.
Last week: Upper Sandusky beat Buckeye Central 26-8; Galion beat Riverdale 48-12.
Last year: Riverdale won, 21-20.
Outlook: Bragging rights are on the line for two very similar teams. This should be a close one. In last year's meeting you couldn't get a closer score when Riverdale edged Buckeye Central by one point. "We went up a touchdown with three minutes left but missed the extra point, then (Riverdale) returned the following kickoff for a touchdown," Neidermier said.
That missed extra point was the difference maker and with these teams boasting similar records one should expect another tight game. Riverdale plays host this week, which many would call an advantage, but the Falcons have yet to win at home.
Buckeye Central, on the other hand, has tasted victory on the road this season in Week 2 when it blanked Cardington-Lincoln, 26-0.
Home or away in a contest this close doesn't really matter, what matters is who is going to step up, make that big play, the difference maker, and both defenses will need to step up and stop the run. "They've (Riverdale) got a good football team, we both have similar offenses," Niedermier said. "we run the ball well, it should be a good match."
The difference could come in the form of passing as BC quarterback Kameron Jones is expected to be at 100 percent.
"We've been testing the waters with Kameron Jones for a few weeks and we think he's healthy and ready to go," Niedermier said. "I wouldn't expect any shootouts or blowouts in this week's game, just some hard nose, grinding out the yards, rough and tough football between two evenly matched teams."
at Seneca East
Records: Lakota 3-5, 0-5 MAL; Seneca East 4-4, 2-3 MAL.
Coaches: Dave Vodika, Lakota; Ed Phillips, Seneca East.
Last week: Mohawk beat Lakota 57-26; Hopewell-Loudon beat Seneca East 27-19.
Last year: Seneca East won 27-0.
Outlook: Passing should prove important in Friday's game, both for those throwing and those trying to stop it.
Seneca East leads the league in passing (266.8 yards per game), has the MAL's highest-ranked quarterback in Ethan Caudill (137-213, 2,101 yards, 24 touchdowns) and suits up two of the league's best receivers in Alex Scheiber (40-594, 4 TDs), Adam Hall (35-595, 13 TDs).
The Raiders enter third in passing (176.3), nearly 100 yards behind the Tigers. However, that's a vast improvement over last fall's season total of 388 yards.
Colin Timmons has hit on 94 of his 234 passes for 1,390 yards and 10 touchdowns for Lakota. Jack Raymond has caught 37 passes for four scores and an MAL-best 607 yards and Dakota Bowling has 35 catches for 458 yards and four TDs.
"I think Colin and the receivers are only now starting to see what we can do. Jack has turned into quite a tight end. There are some things that are getting better," Vodika said. "We just have to turn it all in together in one night."
The Tigers have had more success with that.
Though Seneca East has just one more win, two of those have come in league play, a place Lakota hasn't managed to win since Week 8 of the 2009 season.
Having a good balance of skill players and linemen has helped Seneca East, Phillips said.
"Coming into the year, we thought we had some good targets out there who could make some plays," he said. "Probably the biggest component of that is the offensive line. We've had some guys come along and play well. Any offense that's successful has to have the guys up front, and we we have the guys up front."
Along with passing success, each defense is similar. Both allow a little more than 185 yards rushing (Lakota 189.6, Seneca East 187.5), 120 yards passing (Lakota 129.1, Seneca East 123.8) and 310 yards of total offense (Lakota 318.8, Seneca East 311.3).
However, Seneca East's Josh Waggoner was named last week's MAL defensive player of the week after recording 18 tackles, four solo tackles, three tackles for a loss and a pass breakup.
Phillips said he wants to see more of that effort from more Tigers this week.
"We're going to to what we always do. We talked to guys about being more physical because they're going to throw the ball," he said.
"We need to be good in third down. When we get teams in third down, especially long, we need to get them off the field," he said. "When we get the ball out of their hands, we have the ability to score points."
Vodika said his Raiders have the same ability, only they've seen leads and close games with Carey (57-19) and Mohawk turn into blowout losses while dropping a 13-0 game to Fremont St. Joe.
"We're just trying to get our guys to stay together and give us great efforts. The last couple games, we got gouged a little at the end. For three quarters, we're standing toe-to-toe," he said.
"When we got to the school [after the Mohawk loss], I told the guys 'I don't know how much more effort you can give us. I can't fault your effort.' We're just trying to hold it together," he said. "I'd like to think at some point we'd get there. It isn't like they aren't giving effort; they are. I'm certainly proud of that. At the same time, that only holds water for so long. It's getting a little discouraging for them to go out and give good effort and not get a win."
--The A-T sports staff