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Prep football’s second half should be entertaining

September 24, 2012
By SETH STASKEY - Times Leader Sports Editor (sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

Where does the time go?

When prep football teams return to the field this week, they'll begin preparations for the second half of the season.

The first five weeks have seemingly flown by, like they always do, and this half of the season will probably seem like it moves even quicker.

If the playoffs began this week, 10 Ohio Valley Athletic Conference teams would be part of the dance. Since they don't, there's still time for teams currently on the outside of the top eight in their respective region to make a push, but that means there's also time that teams could fade if they get caught looking ahead or resting on their first-half success.

A few of the non-surprises thus far have been the dominance of the St. Clairsville Red Devils, who've won all five of their games by an average of 31.6 points, and the continued solid play of the Shadyside Tigers, who are 5-0, and have really only been challenged by Linsly.

A surprise to some, but not me, is the Harrison Central Huskies. Coach Justin Kropka's squad is good with a strong defense and a balanced offense. It'll be interesting to see how well they bounce back after last week's loss to St. C. The Huskies appear primed for a strong second half.

A semi-surprise would be the play of the Martins Ferry Purple Riders. Dave Bruney liked the make-up of his team in August and at 4-1, they've answered the bell pretty well. The Riders have been hit by some injuries, but they just keep on keeping on. That's a sign of a well-coached team and a program that just does what it does year in and year out.

Another mild surprise is the Bellaire Big Reds. Everyone knew they had a talented quarterback in Spencer Badia, but head coach Jose Davis was concerned about the lack of experience in the other skill spots. Other than last Saturday's loss to Indian Creek, the Big Reds have responded. It'll be interesting to see how they handle the next two games, which include road trips to St. C. and Harrison Central.

The biggest surprise - in my eyes - is the play of the Barnesville Shamrocks. They came into the season with a new coach in Matt Johnson and very little expectations because of how the 2011 season ended (with three straight losses) and a lot of graduation losses.

However, Johnson's Shamrocks have won four straight and will be favored this week against winless Caldwell. Barnesville was routed in week one by John Glenn and also hit hard by injury that night, but guys like Colton Pritchard and Kyle Yaquinta have developed into key playmakers and have responded.

Their second-half schedule gets tougher with the likes of Shadyside, Monroe Central, Steubenville Central and Magnolia lurking.

Another surprise has been the River Pilots. I really expected the Pilots to be one of the area's premier teams this season. It's tough to get a handle on how they're just 3-2 at the midway point and needed a walk-off field goal from Colton Wright to earn the third victory.

Coach Mike Flannery's team makes another lengthy road trip this week, heading to Zanesville to meet Rosecrans on Friday night. Rosecrans is 4-1 and currently on top of Region 23. It's almost to the point where you may have to list this as a must-win game for the Pilots if they hope to be around in Week 11.

Well, folks, settle in because the second half of the season should be just as entertaining and interesting as the first half.

PERSEVERANCE IS KEY

Last week, the Beallsville Blue Devils were in this space as a team that's snakebit.

The Blue Devils proved to be the ones doing the biting last week at Frontier when they handed rookie head coach Paul Kanzigg his first victory.

Often times in sports, getting the first victory is sometimes the toughest. In looking at the Blue Devils' schedule, they've got an extremely tough challenge this week in Shadyside.

However, after the game with the Tigers, we firmly believe the Blue Devils will be favored to win out. That would be a heck of an accomplishment for a team that's in transition that lost its first four.

It's all about sticking together, buying in and finally getting something to go your way.

The Blue Devils have talent on this team, so you just had to have a feeling that they were due to break through.

FIRST-YEAR COACHES

Our weekly check on the first year coaches started above with Johnson and Kanzigg, but we feel the biggest victory of the past week by a rookie coach was produced by Kevin Gunn at Cambridge.

The Bobcats, who were 2-2 after being hammered by New Philadelphia, bounced back with an impressive victory against previously unblemished Thornville Sheridan. Cambridge didn't just win. It doubled up the Generals, 40-20.

John Marshall head coach Rick Goodrich is already working wonders as many expected with the Monarchs. Don't look now, but that's two victories in a row for JM. The road gets tougher this week with Wheeling Park looming before entering a bye week.

The job being put forth by Buckeye Trail's Dale Broomhall deserves major recognition. He took over a Warriors' program that had been struggling for several years. Trail is now 3-2 on the season after thumping Bridgeport, 47-7.

While those three guys have things going at their respective schools, Weir High's Tony Filberto and Brooke's Sean Blumette are still searching for their first wins.

Again, all of these schools that had coaching changes are works in progress. Patience is a virtue in many of these situations.

FAMILY OVER FOOTBALL

Rightfully, so you often hear coaches and athletes talk about how their families are their number one priorities.

That was never any truer than at Shadyside Friday night. Both head coach Mark Holenka and offensive coordinator Mark Bonar spent much of the halftime of a scoreless game with Linsly on the field.

They escorted their respective daughters - Hayley and Karli - at halftime for Homecoming festivities.

Holenka even slipped on a sports coat over his usual coaching attire.

Shortly after the announcing of the queen, which was Karli Bonar, the coaches got into the lockerroom and their message worked because the Tigers ran their record to 5-0.

Speaking of families, it's actually great seeing the young coaches in the area who shortly after addressing their teams immediately hug and kiss their kids. Justin Kropka and Brett McLean are two guys who are greeted by their kids and wives moments after the game. Jose Davis has his two sons as managers with him at Big Reds' games.

Dave Bruney - one of the veterans of the Ohio Valley - always said to coach football - or any sport - you'd better have great family support because the time demands are extraordinary.

It's great to see that family isn't lost on these young coaches, which means they very well could be coaching for a long time.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

It's been a few weeks since I've saw some Twitter postings from Ohio Valley players that really jumped out at me.

After helping the Blue Devils earn their first win of the season, Beallsville senior quarterback Teryn Jarrett tweeted, "the soreness feels so much better after a win."

I am guessing that that feeling is echoed all over the football - and for that matter the sports world - by every winning player.

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

We'd like to extend our thoughts and prayers to Bellaire assistant football coach Ed Miller and his family.

Ed's wife, Mary Ellen, is battling cancer. Ed has been away from the Big Reds' football team the last two weeks tending to her.

We're definitely keeping them in our prayers and hoping for a speedy recovery.

CHECKING ON THE LOCALS

OVAC STANDINGS

The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference standings are contained inside today's edition and there are just four remaining schools in the conference without a loss.

Those teams yet to taste defeat this season are St. Clairsville, Shadyside, Clay-Battelle and University.

On the flip side, five teams have yet to post a victory. That list includes: Brooke, Caldwell, Hundred, Shenandoah and Weir.

The St. Clairsville Red Devils moved into first place in Class 4A. Their victory against Harrison Central, coupled with Steubenville's loss at Massillon, lifted the Red Devils into the top spot.

Shadyside still holds a comfortable lead on the CeeBees for the top spot in Class 2A. Of note, it's Class 2A's turn to coach the all-star game next July.

The Class 1A title could be decided in two weeks when Madonna and Bishop Donahue clash in Moundsville on Oct. 5.

Bellaire still paces the 3A race. The Big Reds have a tough stretch of games with road trips to St. Clairsville and Harrison Central and finish with Martins Ferry.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

 

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