As the high school football season enters the second half, Monroe Central finds itself as one of the hottest teams around.
Veteran head coach Jay Circosta's Seminoles have won three straight contests after opening the year 0-2. They will look to make it four in a row Friday when they travel across the Ohio River to New Martinsville's Alumni Field to meet Magnolia (2-3) in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
What has been the big key?
A change in personnel that switched senior tailback Curtis Nixon to quarterback and allowed classmate Levi Brown more carries in Monroe Central's smash-mouth offense.
The Seminoles have been nearly unstoppable since the new alignment, with Nixon taking snaps in the pistol and then reading the defense. They have scored 143 points in the three victories.
Brown leads the two-headed backfield with 551 yards and 10 touchdowns on 73 carries, while Nixon has racked up 365 yards and five TDs on the same number of totes.
When Nixon has gone to the air, he has completed 33 of 57 passes for 531 yards and half-a-dozen touchdowns. He has only thrown three picks.
When Nixon was shifted to quarterback, that meant senior Zach Jorris headed to a wideout. He has eight receptions for 201 yards and a pair of six-pointers. He is one catch behind team leaders Gavin Morton (9-134-td) and Bryan Duffy (9-133-td).
"The move has helped us in several ways," Circosta said. "Curtis had never played quarterback before in junior high or jayvee games, and it allowed us to move Zach to receiver where he has helped. Levi has also done well."
But Circosta said this week will tell how far Monroe Central has come.
Buckeye Trail at Shenandoah
Both teams are coming off lop-sided losses last week as the Warriors were manhandled 34-0 by state-ranked Meadowbrook, while the Zeps were grounded by then-winless Barnesville, 28-6.
Travis Pontius is one of the area's leading rushers with 465 yards and six touchdowns on 117 carries.
St. John Central at Toronto
The Irish have had trouble with mistakes this season. They turned the ball over three times last week and a very good Clay-Battelle team made them pay.
Dario Paolina has shown signs of promise while running the ball, but he has been harassed so much when attempting to pass.
SJC will be without the services of senior Devin Hennessey who suffered a broken ankle early in last weeks homecoming loss to the Cee-Bees.
Bridgeport at Weirton Madonna
The Bulldogs snapped a three-game losing skid with a convincing homecoming triumph over Conotton Valley last week at Bill Jobko Stadium in Brookside.
Junior quarterback Bailey McGrath was a catalyst for Bridgeport as he ran for 133 yards and three TDs on nine carries, while also accumulating 144 stripes on 7-for-8 through the air. He has 551 yard passing thus far.
Buckeye Local at Edison
The Panthers have had trouble on both sides of the ball, as well as special teams for head coach Phil Pest.
Chase Hopkins has seemed to settle in at quarterback. He has 437 yards on 29 of 66 in three games. However, he only has two TD passes compared to five INTs.
Barnesville at Caldwell
The Shamrocks will be looking for win No. 2 after defeating Shenandoah last week.
Sophomore Dylan Burkhart ran for a career-high 234 yards and two TDs on just eight carries. He now has 349 stripes.
Rosecrans at River
This should be a game in which the Pilots can compete as senior tailback Jordan Sapp has continued his solid pace on the ground with 362 yards and five TDs on 103 lugs.