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Close games abound during opening week

September 3, 2013
By SETH STASKEY - Times Leader Sports Editor (sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

Fans had better get to area high school games early and plan on staying for the duration.

Through the first week of the prep season, my thoughts that this could be one of the most balanced seasons in quite some time seems spot on. Obviously, there's a long way to go and a lot can happen, but there are going to be good games abounding each week.

There simply doesn't seem to be a super team. A lot of teams with similar numbers and similar talent locking horns each week equals good games.

That was the case this week as there were very few blowouts.

No fewer than five games were one possession contests. Bridgeport, Shadyside, St. Clairsville and Union Local all won tight games. River was on the short end of a tight game at Fort Frye.

Just wait until there are more head-to-head matchups between area teams down the road and the games will be even more exciting because the atmospheres will be enhanced due to the rivalry.

Fans, players and media enjoy the close games, but something tells me the coaches could age significantly as the season moves along if the games are all down to the wire.

STORIES OF THE WEEK

These weren't difficult choices and it didn't take much thought.

Union Local's victory at Monroe Central and Bridgeport's thrilling come-from-behind victory at home against Columbiana were certainly the top moments of the first week.

The Jets -- playing their first game under new head coach Bruce Stiles -- were on the road against one of the area's premier programs in Monroe Central without several players who either didn't come out or who are injured.

Stiles, who was the defensive coordinator at St. Clairsville, got his team to buy in during the month of August and the rewards were reaped on Friday. The key to getting things turned around at Union Local is going to be getting the kids to believe they can win.

Last Friday in Woodsfield will certainly play a role in helping to do that. The Jets trek to Buckeye Local, which was routed, 40-0, by Westinghouse, Pa., in its opener on Saturday night.

Obviously, matchups and weeks are different and weeks, but there's certainly a legitimate chance the Jets could be soaring at 2-0. Wouldn't that be something?

As for the Bulldogs, what an impressive victory against the Clippers. The Bulldogs allowed a two-score lead slip away, but they didn't wilt.

Rudy Vavrock's club made play after play down the stretch as they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by scoring with 1:08 to go.

Junior quarterback Bailey McGrath made winning play after winning play and Colt Charlton made multiple big catches on the final march.

Similar to Union Local, that kind of win could certainly catapult the Bulldogs into a solid season. They visit Toronto this Friday to face a Red Knights' club that was drilled in its debut by Wellsville.

WAS HE IN OR NOT?

That's the question that Harrison Central and Wheeling Central certainly have differing opinions of now three days removed from their opening-night game at Wheeling Island Stadium.

The Huskies, from the visual evidence that has been seen in different media outlets, including The Times Leader, appear to have scored a go-ahead two-point conversion late in the game Thursday night.

However, the official didn't see it that way and ruled the Huskies' ball carrier down just shy of the goal line and the Maroon Knights escaped with 7-6 victory.

There's really not much Harrison Central head coach Justin Kropka can do. The call is strictly a judgment call. The official has the last word.

As unfortunate as it might be, the Huskies will have to move on as best they can. It's only week one and that kind of sour taste in your mouth is one that can linger over the course of an entire season.

Kropka and his players got back to work to prepare for this week's trip to Weir on Monday and they'll have to erase last week quickly.

Harrison Central, while it wasn't looking for any moral victories, did play extremely well and probably better than most had expected with so many new faces.

While it won't totally cure the feeling of last week, I'm guessing a win against the Red Riders will go a long way in aiding the psyche of the Huskies' players.

WHAT'S ON TAP

They say football season is the fastest 10 weeks, well week two is almost upon us already.

Another slate of interesting games are on tap. In Wednesday's Xs and Os section, we'll take an in-depth look at Bellaire's visit to debuting John Marshall; Shadyside's trip to Monroe Central; Union Local venturing to Buckeye Local and Saturday's tussel between Bishop Donahue and River.

The Jets and Panthers are a Buckeye 8 encounter. They're the first game in the new Buckeye 8 scheduling format that allowed teams to adjust from the original weeks 4-10 format to help alleviate the quest to find three non-league games.

NEXT BIG THING?

Wheeling Park lived up to its pre-season hype with an impressive dismantling of defending Class AA runnerup Keyser last week.

The Patriots used a stingy defense and overcame the absence of talented tailback Bryce Ingram by handing the ball to sophomore Savion Johnson.

Johnson, who was making his first varsity start at tailback, is extremely talented. The son of former Oklahoma State and Park running back Daryl "Boogie" Johnson, Savion ran for more than 140 yards in his debut.

Something tells me that Johnson is just tapping into his potential and he's prime for additional big games down the stretch.

Could this be the year the Park goes on an extended playoff run in Class AAA West Virginia? Obviously, there's a lot of football to go, but dates with Morgantown and Steubenville could give the biggest tests.

BEAT THE CRAMPS

It didn't matter what field you were at this weekend, whether it was a high school game, Ohio State or somewhere in between, cramps were an issue all over the place. It was getting to the point where many thought the schools' training staffs were going to need tended to for cramps as well.

That happens when temperatures and humidity were as high as they were on game night after a month of August when temperatures were cool and humidity levels were low.

However, another issue is the players must take care of their bodies. I am guessing that coaches told their teams, until they were blue in the face, about hydrating properly and making sure they're ready for the games.

The players need to start hydrating early in the week and drink water basically by the gallon and not just on Friday or during the games.

I've talked to a few coaches since their respective games and they upped their conditioning already this week.

Fortunately, temperatures are slated to go down this weekend and humidity levels don't appear as if they're going to be quite as high.

Still, though, players must take the proper measures to make sure they're ready for the games.

SCRIMMAGES

I am really starting to believe more and more that teams need to scrimmage more under game situations. I can't even begin to count how many delay of games, procedure calls and special teams mistakes I saw this weekend.

I think that if the teams would scrimmage more without the coaches on the field, having to send plays in from the sideline, these mental things would be worked out prior to the start of the season.

It just seems that scrimmages need to be treated more like games. I am all for resting the starters, but give them not only a look at a defense other than their own, but allow them to adjust to the scenarios that come when the lights go on.

The teams that do three scrimmages are really wise. They get two scrimmages to get the kinks worked out and then the third scrimmage is treated like a game, for the most part.

CHECKING IN ON THE LOCALS

JOHN MAGISTRO and his Westerville Central Warhawks began their season in grand fashion last Friday with a 29-7 victory against St. Francis DeSales. Central hosts 1-0 New Albany this week.

TODD FILTZ, the Steubenville Big Red graduate, has his Canton McKinley Bulldogs sitting at 1-0 after a 35-0 blanking of Akron Buchtel last week. The Bulldogs will host Sir Frederick Banting, from Ontario, this week at Fawcett Stadium.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

 

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