A week from now when you're reading this, the regular season of Ohio high school football will be in the past.
There will be 224 schools returning to the practice field and the others will be headed to basketball, wrestling, swimming or bowling practice as November kicks into full swing.
Even though it's called the fastest 10 weeks of the year, it really is hard to believe how quickly the season's gone again.
Obviously, it's tough on the seniors, who aren't heading to the postseason, knowing that this will be their final week of preparation. Rather than getting depressed, make the most of the final week. Utilize the preparation time wisely, leave it all on the field and go out Friday night and see where the chips fall.
For four area teams, they already know they'll be practicing next week at this time. Bellaire, Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville and Shadyside have had spots clinched for the last couple of weeks.
Of those four, Ferry and Shadyside have already clinched home games.
Only two - Monroe Central and Beallsville - are still alive mathematically in our immediate area. Both teams will be favored to win this week, but plenty of scoreboard watching will be ongoing to see where they may be heading next week.
One of the long-standing rivalries in the state of Ohio comes to a head this week for the 107th time when Martins Ferry visits Bellaire.
This game doesn't need much additional hype, but there's plenty surrounding this showdown.
Other than getting into the postseason, there isn't much you can think of that's not involved in this game. Included are things like the Buckeye 8 title, the OVAC Class 4A and 3A titles and of course SPARKY, which goes to the winner.
It's going to be another packed house at Nelson Field. Four of the biggest games of the season have been played at Nelson Field. Can you say cha-ching? Bellaire hosted Steubenville Central, Shadyside, St. Clairsville and now the Riders.
Along with Bellaire and Ferry going at it, Harrison Central visits Buckeye Local with the relatively new VALES Trophy at stake. Edison and Indian Creek meet in the Route 43 bowl and St. Clairsville hosts Union Local.
Cambridge and Meadowbrook clash this weekend as do New Philadelphia and Dover.
Two of the five OVAC championship trophies are headed to the respective schools. The two undefeated team in the area - Shadyside and Madonna - have officially clinched the 2A and 1A titles, respectively.
Both clinchings were basically a formality. The Tigers and Done have been on top of the standings in their class all season.
Now both teams will try to close out perfect seasons.
Shadyside will host 2-7 Barnesville as it seeks its second consecutive 10-0 campaign. Madonna has two games remaining. The Blue Dons meet Toronto this week and welcome Clay-Battelle, which is also unblemished, in week 11.
Wheeling Park and Morgantown have a heck of a battle going on for the top spot in the 5A division. Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville are in a close-knit battle for the 4A title and Bellaire - on the strength of Madonna's come-from-behind victory against Steubenville Central - is inching closer to winning the 3A title.
Though Ohio wraps up its regular season this week, West Virginia has that additional week, so there could be some late shuffling.
It seems like there's been a watch for Spencer Badia records almost every week for the last month.
He's been a model of consistency during his three seasons as the Big Reds' quarterback. Last week in a win against Union Local, Badia became the Ohio Valley's third quarterback to surpass the 7,000-yard mark in his career.
Currently, Badia has 7,302 yards and he's just 47 yards behind Nate Davis for the school record. He's also 73 yards behind Davis in total offense. Davis finished with 7,938 yards. In Ohio history, Badia ranks 21st in yards.
On top of the yardage, Badia has thrown 77 touchdown passes and is just four behind Davis' record in that department. That total is tied for 17th best in Ohio history.
While Badia's marks are getting most of the hype, senior wide receiver Nick Patrone passed Ben Taylor for the career catch mark at Bellaire with 136 career catches.
HOME RUN HITTER
Every team needs one, really good teams have multiple big-play threats.
Early in the season, Martins Ferry's running back position was somewhat by committee, but of late, sophomore Arjay Burress has developed into the Purple Riders' big-play guy in the ground game.
Burress had another big night as the Purple Riders rallied from 21 down to beat Edison. He carried the ball 20 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns.
The Riders have a plethora of guys who they feel comfortable handing the ball to, but Burress has really seized the opportunity of late. He's got a good combination of speed and power. Plus, he's a patient runner, working behind an impressive offensive line.
Monroe Central is not just playing for the playoffs this weekend when it treks to Old Washington to take on Buckeye Trail.
The Seminoles will also be seeking the outright championship in the Pioneer Valley Conference. Currently, Monroe Central is 5-0 in the league. Its closest competitor is Caldwell, which has just one loss, which came to the Seminoles on Sept. 20.
A rationale person would think Monroe Central has the title clinched because it owns the head-to-head tie breaker against the Redskins. However, from what I've learned, the PVC doesn't recognize the head-to-head meeting as the tiebreaker, which makes little sense to me.
Obviously, in leagues or conferences where all of the teams play each other, the head-to-head meeting is of ultra importance.
Unless, it's the PVC, evidently. So, if Monroe Central loses, it shares the league title with the Redskins.
I was sitting at my computer last Thursday night, watching the World Series, flipping to some college and pro football during inning breaks and monitoring Twitter and the Internet for high school football scores.
It's actually amazing how many high school games are played on Thursday.
It got me thinking!
I think the OVAC - through its marketing partners - needs to somehow organize an OVAC Thursday Game of the Week. It would be the only game scheduled that night, it could be a television game, attendance would be huge if the matchups are done properly.
One thing that could be done is holding off on scheduling them until two weeks out. That way you get the best matchups possible. For instance, how big of a crowd do you think Steubenville at Wheeling Park would have drawn had it been on a night when the entire area could have came and witnessed it?
For many schools, football has to pay bills for many other sports. This would be just an added way to generate revenue.
On top of that, you'd get the premier officials. I heard Dave Clutter speak last Tuesday at an OVAC athletic directors' conference and he indicated the OVAC's plan is to assign the "best officials" to games on Saturday. He actually encouraged the A.D.'s in attendance to consider playing a Saturday game because of that. Obviously, a Thursday game would garner the same type of officials.
Coaches might talk about the short preparation week. Well, it's one day shorter and you make that up on the flipside.
Quite simply, the more football you make available to people, the more they're going to watch. That's the model of the college and professional game. I am not going as far as to talk about games playing on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Even though, West Virginia schools could do it if they scheduled their bye weeks around it. Without a bye week, Ohio schools would never be able to consider such a measure.
It's kind of like the famous line from the movie, "Field of Dreams," which says, "if you build it, they will come." However, it's "if you play football, they'll come and watch."
ON THE LOCALS
CANTON McKINLEY wrapped up a berth in the Division I, Region playoffs with a victory against Youngstown Boardman. The Bulldogs, who are coached by Steubenville High graduate Todd Filtz, are now 9-0 and have locked up a home game. McKinley will try to close out a perfect season Saturday against bitter rival Massillon.
JOHN MAGISTRO'S Westerville Central Warhawks are headed back to the Division I tournament. The Warhawks prevailed, 35-21, against Hilliard Darby. They'll take on 4-5 Dublin Jerome on Friday.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org