Buckeye 8 League play kicks into full swing this weekend.
While Union Local and Buckeye Local actually kicked things off in week 2 under the altered system, the remaining six teams get things cranked up this week.
So, what can you expect in the league this year?
Your guess is as good as mine because it appears as balanced as it's been in several years.
Four teams - Indian Creek, Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville and Union Local - have made it to week four unscathed. Edison is 2-1, while Harrison Central and Bellaire are 1-2. Buckeye Local is 0-3.
I actually think each week could provide a lot of excitement and down-to-the-wire games.
It doesn't take long for things to get interesting as the previous week nine encounters move to week 4 and everything else bumps back a week. So, one of the aforementioned unbeatens is going to fall as St. C. travels to the Dave Bruney Football Complex to tangle with the Purple Riders.
Union Local visits Harrison Central, Buckeye Local treks to Indian Creek and Edison visits Bellaire on Saturday.
On top of the intrigue of the balance in the league, this is the final football season of the league as we currently know it.
Bellaire is leaving the league after this school year.
However, some very interesting changes could be on the way for the Buckeye 8 that could go a long way to preserve the long-term future of the league that's crowned a football champion every season since 2006.
Until there's more to share on the future, enjoy the league for the next seven weeks because there will be games you don't want to miss!
KEEP ON, KEEPIN' ON
The Union Local Jets continue to be the story of the early season. Rookie head coach Bruce Stiles has his Jets soaring high at 3-0.
After edging Monroe Central in its debut, Union Local has ran roughshod over Buckeye Local and Barnesville. The Jets are now beginning the rough part of their schedule with dates against Harrison Central, Martins Ferry, Indian Creek, Shadyside and St. Clairsville still looming in the next seven weeks.
However, there's something to be said about confidence. I'm getting the feeling that the Jets are believing they're supposed to win. Barnesville grabbed the lead on Union Local, but the Jets responded in impressive fashion en route to claiming the Milk Bucket.
The Jets have a bunch of options when they run the football and their defense is playing at a high level.
Union Local's trip to Harrison Central Friday night will be interesting because both teams are physical and want to run the football.
ANOTHER GOOD STORY
Beallsville has some 20 players on the team. After three weeks, the Blue Devils find themselves at 2-1 with a trip to Cameron looming.
The Blue Devils have consistently fielded a winning team and program, so it's really not that big of a surprise. Beallsville believes, which as I said earlier is important. The Blue Devils were handled by Madonna on opening night, but have been solid in beating Conotton Valley and Paden City.
Coach Paul Kanzigg's team is getting solid play at the quarterback spot from sophomore Chase Mercer, who had the unenviable task of replacing highly successful quarterback Teryn Jarrett.
Plus, the Blue Devils have an impressive and big offensive line. I've felt for many years that teams can usually find someone to run it and catch it, but the line is the ultimate key to a team's success.
We'd be remiss if we didn't offer congratulations to Martins Ferry head coach Dave Bruney who recorded his 250th victory at the helm of the Purple Riders last Friday.
To win 250 games is hard to believe when you consider you're only promised 10 a season. That means you've been highly successful for many years.
Bruney has built the Riders into one of the state's most respected programs. He's already a member of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame and I'd be willing to bet he's on a one-way ticket to the OVAC Hall of Fame when he calls it a career, whenever that might be.
On the field, Bellaire's Spencer Badia etched his name into Ohio Valley history as the eighth quarterback to eclipse the 6,000-yard mark in his career. Badia has been a three-year mainstay in the Big Reds' pass happy offense.
Along with being talented, he's also got the leadership qualities a quarterback needs. I was taking photos on the Bellaire sideline Saturday afternoon and witnessed him encouraging his teammates the entire game. That's exactly what you'd expect from a senior leader.
As most expected, the renewel of the Bellaire and Shadyside grid series proved to be a cash cow on Saturday afternoon.
A standing-room only crowd flocked to Nelson Field for the first meeting between the two neighboring communities since 1950.
While the schools won at the gate, the Bellaire support groups were highly successful at the concession stand, parking and program sales. The 50-50 drawing was worth more than $1,200.
It's such a novel idea of local teams playing local teams. Sometimes, I realize, logistics don't allow such matchups to work out, but it would create some special games and memories if more and more teams can find ways to play each other.
Plus, on top of the memories for the players, the schools can make money, which is paramount. The football revenues help the other sports that don't generate as much money, help with busing and other expenditures throughout the season.
I'm hopeful that more and more teams can reach agreements on contracts and play area teams.
It can only be beneficial.
If there was any doubt that Madonna is for real, those should have been erased after Saturday night's thumping of Wheeling Central.
The Blue Dons are big and fast. I saw them scrimmage at Bellaire late last month and came away highly impressed. They've gotten better each week and are now 3-0.
Ross Comis is one of the premier players in the Ohio Valley, regardless of division. The kid is a flat-out player. He can beat teams in a myriad of ways and he's a tremendous leader.
Wheeling Central headed back to Ohio County with not only a bruised psyche, but also a banged up squad. From all reports, the Maroon Knights suffered a handful of injuries against the Blue Dons.
It'll certainly be interesting to see how they regroup, but I have a feeling Mike Young and his trusted staff will have the Knights back up and ready to go, at least mentally, for a big game against city-rival Linsly this Saturday.
IN CASE YOU'RE WONDERING ...
The first Associated Press high school football poll comes out this week. It'll certainly be interesting to see if any area teams crack the top 10 in their respective divisions. I wouldn't be surprised to see Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville and Shadyside appear in the rankings.
The first Ohio High School Athletic Association computer poll comes out following this weekend's games. That might even be a bit too early for those. After the midway point of the season would make things much easier to get a feel for.
CHECKING ON THE LOCALS
CANTON McKINLEY and head coach Todd Filtz improved to 3-0 on the season. The Bulldogs allowed their first points of the season, but still posted a 26-17 victory against Dublin Coffman. Filtz, who is a Steubenville High graduate, will take his team on its first road trip of the season this week when it treks up the road to North Canton Hoover.
WESTERVILLE CENTRAL, which is coached by former Bellaire High mentor John Magistro, rebounded from a setback in week two to handle Independence. The Warhawks are now 2-1 after the 54-32 victory. Magistro and company visit Dublin Scioto this week.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org