Feel the air chilling more? The leaves slowly drifting from the trees? The distant sound of pads cracking? The regular season of high school football is nearing its end.
Ridgewood and New Philadelphia still remain as the two unbeatens from the Tuscarawas Valley. And they kept their streaks alive in dominating fashion.
Carrollton found the win column for the first time this year, while Sandy Valley pushed their way to the cusp of playoff contention.
Buckle your chinstrap tight and get loose, as we run through Week 9 of the high school football season.
Recaps brought to you by Pretorius Insurance Agency.
New Philadelphia 48, Zanesville 21
For starters, have you ever seen a potential SportCenter Top-10 play in person?
You did if you were in attendance at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium Friday night.
Quarterback Baron May dropped back in a clean pocket, looked down the left sideline and lofted a pass to receiver Jent Joseph, who promptly snagged a catch off his shoulder pad, helmet, and defender. If you have yet to see this highlight moment, please refer to the footage below.
It was a Player of the Week worthy night for May, tallying 415 yards and six total touchdowns. Joseph contributed six catches for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including his showstopping grab in the first half.
Zanesville quarterback Ben Everson found some success with over 300 yards and a touchdown. However, he handed the ball to the Quakers on three occasions with a trio on interceptions.
New Phila has steamrolled everyone since edging Steubenville, and carries all the momentum they could possibly want into their 116th meeting with Dover next week.
The one negative for coach Matt Dennison? His team missed out on a special teams score this week. Guess you can’t always be perfect.
Ridgewood 56, Claymont 0
In the lone performance that rivaled that of May’s, Ridgewood quarterback Gabe Tingle had a near-perfect night, throwing just nine passes, completing eight, for 217 yards and three touchdowns. He even added a rushing score as well.
A complete blowout from the start, the Generals tallied 471 yards with their reserves playing the second half, while holding the Mustangs to 112 yards on 50 plays.
Ridgewood forced a pair of turnovers and allowed a single yard on 19 carries.
What’s frightening about the Generals is they have yet to have a final score within 22 points in nine games this year, with Indian Valley being the one team to even come within three scores by the time the final whistle blew.
Their last test will be against Newcomerstown, a 5-4 unit hungry to find their first truly shocking upset of the year. Credit the Trojans for their turnaround this year, but the likelihood of an upset in Week 10 is extremely slim, given the body of work from coach John Slusser’s troops.
Sandy Valley 28, Buckeye Trail 8
Pressed into must-win games due to playoff rankings, the Cardinals were up to the task.
Make no mistake, the Warriors are as tough as they come. Just ask Indian Valley, who nearly got put on upset alert a few weeks ago.
Sandy Valley is used to lighting up the scoreboard, but Friday’s duel was a little more old school. Neither side eclipsed 300 yards, with each side barely earning 100 pass yards. Quarterback Cam Blair was efficient, completing 75 percent of his passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
The tandem of he and Brendan O’Bradovich, however, was the real engine that powered the well-oiled machine. O’Bradovich chipped away at the defense for 92 yards on 15 carries, while Blair gashed the defense for 83 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns.
Perhaps the biggest catalyst was Demetrius Evans, however, who returned a first-quarter punt 80 yards for a touchdown before haling in a 40-yard touchdown reception.
Defensively, Elijah Eyster deserves a shoutout, picking up four tackles for loss.
As for Buckeye Trail, Isaac Hickman compiled 139 yards and a touchdown, while throwing an interception. A normally stout rushing attack was reduced to 113 yards on 48 carries, an average of just 2.3 yards per tote.
Ready for a strange stat? Sandy Valley converted just one of their six 3rd-down conversions, while Buckeye Trail was successful on 8-of-15. Football knowledge tells us the score should be in the other direction with those numbers, but things work out in mysterious ways.
The Cardinals are on the edge of a playoff berth now with Malvern ahead, coming off a big win over Tuscarawas Central Catholic. Buckeye Trail has East Canton on tap next, having been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, even with a 6-3 record.
Dover 42, Marietta 6
Care for some more drama for the 116th Dover-Phila Game?
Dover picked up their most convincing win this season, dominating Marietta from the onset. The Tornadoes, now sitting at No. 7 in Division III, Region 9 [as of this writing,] must win on Friday night against the Quakers.
New Philadelphia, on the other hand, hopes to secure a No. 1-seed with an undefeated season. No added tension needs to be inserted into one of Ohio’s oldest high school football rivalries, but consider the ante-upped.
Possibly the oddest part of Dover’s 42-6 drubbing was how Dan Ifft deployed his offense. Leaning heavily on the run, the Tornadoes saw a five-touchdown night through the trenches, with Keaton Hall picking up four on 19 carries. For the first time in who knows how long, Dover actually more than doubled their passing attempts with rushes.
It is almost Halloween, so it must be spooky-season at Crater Stadium as well.
The Tornadoes suffocated the Tigers offense all evening. They’ll need a similar stout performance to edge their most hated rival next week.
Garaway 35, Newcomerstown 7
Billed as a potential upset bid for Newcomerstown, Garaway was not about to let a third-straight game slip away.
The Pirates enjoyed a comfortable win, even with their offense putting out less than 250 total yards. Quarterback Garrett Newsome was a cool 12-for-21 for 163 yards with three touchdowns, connecting with his favorite target Matthew Mullin seven times for 137 yards. Mullin tacked on four carries for 33 yards and an additional score, bringing his total to four.
Garaway pushed ahead to a 21-0 halftime lead before coasting the rest of the way.
Newcomerstown found the end zone with Wyatt Conner who put forth a solid 150 yards performance. Outside of Conner, the Trojans were plagued with inconsistency, converting just one of their 10 3rd-down conversion attempts.
Coach Jason Wallick and company have not technically secured a playoff spot for certain yet and will hope to pick up a Week 10 win against Tusky Valley, who knows something about upsetting their conference foe in do-or-die games.
Indian Valley 48, Tusky Valley 17
Kind of like Ohio State races out to bonkers leads in the second quarter, Indian Valley left little doubt about their ability right before halftime.
The Braves trailed 3-0 in the first, but capitalized on three-errant passes from Trojans’ quarterback Tanner Phillips, earning a touchdown each trip following the turnovers. Shane Thorton and Zach Love were the perfect tandem, combining for 21 carries for 228 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterback Ty Myers looked solid in the pocket again, dropping a dime into brother Trevor Myers’ hands for his lone touchdown of the night and going 5-for-8 for 130 yards.
Mason Love continues to boast his defensive prowess, picking off two passes, while freshman linebacker Breyden Parsons got his hands on his first career pick as well.
Tusky Valley was stonewalled in the run game, gaining under 100 yards on 29 carries. The Trojans did convert three of their four 4th-down conversions, but the drawback is having to go for it four times to try and get back into the game.
The Braves now have the Mustangs of Claymont at home in their last regular-season game ever at Kelly Field, while Tusky Valley hopes to spoil Garaway’s playoff aspirations in Week 10.
East Canton 34, Strasburg 19
The Tigers were close to getting back on track, but a fourth-quarter to forget was too much to overcome.
Strasburg found themselves tied with a proficient East Canton squad at halftime, 13-all. Trailing 20-19 heading into the fourth, the Tigers defense lapsed in the final frame, giving up two touchdown runs of 36 and 55 yards.
East Canton quarterback Nate Suntheimer found the end zone four times, with 173 yards on the ground. Controlling the ball for less than 18 minutes, a quick-hitting attack caught Strasburg by surprise at times.
The Tigers saw touchdowns from Tayshaun Curtis and Lucas Lindsay, the latter churning out over 100 yards rushing and a score while the former punched his ticket to paydirt twice.
Lindsay got some time at quarterback with a two-score deficit, but a late interception sealed the deal.
East Canton gets the “joy” of facing Buckeye Trail’s defensive front-7 in round out the year. Strasburg is tasked with Tuscarawas Central Catholic in a proverbial dance of two very different offenses.
Malvern 42, Tuscarawas Central Catholic 27
Speaking of the Saints, they had their own worst nightmare in the fourth quarter.
Leading 24-12 heading into the final frame. TCC saw 30-straight points fly onto the scoreboard, thanks to two pick-6’s, two rushing touchdowns and a field goal.
Quarterback Alex Price shipped the ball 45 times for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns, but his four picks cast a shadow over an otherwise positive night. Ryan Dick added 53 yards a touchdown on the ground.
Malvern had two 100-yard rushers in Adam Moser and Derk Hutchinson. Hutchinson does it all for the Hornets defense, and Friday was no different.
Surprisingly enough, Malvern was guilty of over 100-penalty yards on 10 infractions, but were unphased late. Even with 21 first downs, TCC could not get past their five turnovers, a majority of which came after the halftime break.
In a classic rivalry showdown, TCC now faces Strasburg.
Carrollton 9, Canton South 7
Like an old, rusted out truck gets the job done while not looking the most glamorous, Carrollton’s first win of the year was far from pretty.
Neither team averaged more than 3.5 yards per play. Each school was guilty of two turnovers and six penalties. Both had to punt five times while converting 3rd-downs at a rate well below 50 percent.
But it was likely a beautiful performance for coach Jim Tsilimos, getting his first win with the Warriors.
Joe Beard pounded his way into the end zone early for Carrollton, before a costly Canton South fumble gave the Warriors two free points. With time fading away, the Wildcats got on the board. After the ensuing kickoff, quarterback Austin Colleti got to do the one thing all signal-callers hope to complete with time expiring — kneel.
If you’re an older fan, a 9-7 grudge match fought most mostly in the trenches is likely your favorite. Carrollton provided that nostalgia, all while finally finding a win.
The Warriors could even end the year on a winning streak, with 1-8 Minerva ahead, who recently got their first win after a more than 40-game losing streak.
Ashland 49, West Holmes 24
Halftime deficits are often difficult to overcome.
Arrows quarterback Mitch Heilman had five total touchdowns and was integral in helping Ashland amass a 28-10 lead at the midway mark.
Add on a 95-yard kickoff return by Declan Rohr in the second half and it’s clear it simply was not the Knights night … that’s a strange phrase.
In just over a minute span, Ashland had two long scores to stretch out to a 21-10 lead.
West Holmes sophomore quarterback Noah Clark was dynamite, albeit in a loss, going 413 yards on 23-of-29 passing. But a team cannot simply allow 525 yards and expect to come out on top.
Credit where it’s due, coach Zach Gardner has produced fireworks on offense of a team full of youth. Defensive growth and a more consistent rushing attack will be next, as the Knights gained just 35 yards on 31 attempts.
West Holmes draws Mt. Vernon to round out the season.
Conotton Valley 28, Clay-Battelle 22
Capping off the year in their new stadium, the Rockets launched themselves into the winner’s bracket.
Quarterback Braden Caldwell had a two-touchdown evening with 121 yards, but it was his defensive play that proved to be most memorable, picking off a late pass in the last minute to ice the contest.
James Burleson added 77 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The Rockets trailed 22-7 in the third, before ripping off multiple scores to enter the fourth with a tie score. Ethan Mauge’s strip-sack set up a Caldwell touchdown rush from short-range before the Conotton Valley defense locked this up for their fourth win of the year.
A tough Weirton-Madonna team in West Virginia is next for the Rockets, who could get their first .500-season since 2012.
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