When it comes to high school sports, northwestern Ohio has some of the strongest fan support in the state.
The local team obviously draws the most interest in this rural-rich, small-town area of the state. But there are also some games every week that coaches counting Harbin points and fans lining the fences and packing the stands from schools across the area will want to check the morning paper for, just to see “Who Won?”
Here’s a look at a few of them:
Findlay (1-3) at Toledo St. Francis (3-1)
Findlay has dominated this series since the formation of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, winning four straight and six of the last seven matchups. Friday’s game finds the Trojans and Knights progressing in opposite directions, though.
St. Francis is off to its best start since going 8-3 during its playoff season in 2013. Findlay is looking to halt and turn around a Murphy’s Law kind of season in which everything that could possibly go wrong, has.
Not only did the Trojans suffer overtime losses in Weeks 1 and 2, but Fremont Ross rallied for 22 points in the final 5:30 minutes of regulation to come away with a 43-42 victory in last Friday’s TRAC opener. The Glass Bowl on the University of Toledo campus will serve as a big-time stage for this matchup and concludes a rough first half of the season for Findlay, which has been on the road for four of its first five games.
McComb (4-0) at Arlington (4-0)
Two of the winningest programs in Blanchard Valley Conference history square off in a mid-season battle of unbeaten, state-ranked teams. McComb, which climbed to No. 1 in the Division VII state poll this week when previous No. 1 Minster was beaten by Coldwater, has outscored its first four opponents 197-42 behind the efforts of three returning all-state players. All-Ohio linebacker Brice Markel (8 tackles for loss) and end Andrew Smith (11 tackles for loss) spearhead a defense that has given up just 190 rushing yards and 592 yards of total offense in four games.
Tanner Schroeder is a jack-of-all-trades on offense. He’s fifth in the BVC in passing (28-40, 537 yards, 7 TDs, 0 ints.), fifth in rushing (427 yards, 5 TDs), he’s caught a touchdown pass, has booted three field goals, converted 26 PAT kicks and leads the league in scoring (95 points).
Arlington, ranked No. 6 in the latest state poll, has been led by a deep and balanced backfield. Senior quarterback Jacob Russell has been deadly accurate, completing 41 of 54 passes, a league-leading 75.9 percent accuracy, for 523 yards and six touchdowns. Running backs Evan O’Rear (237 yards, 3 TDs), Carter Essinger (224 yards, 3 TDs) and Connor Foust (145 yards, 1 TDs) all average around 6 yards per carry; Devin Plunkett has rushed for 135 yards and five 5 TDs in two games and tight end Ivan Berry has 15 receptions for 229 yards and four scores.
An interesting sidelight is the return of McComb coach Kris Alge to his alma mater. Alge was 1-1 against McComb when he was Arlington’s starting quarterback in 1980 and ’81. He’s gone 17-3 against Arlington in BVC games as head coach at McComb, but just 1-2 against the Red Devils in playoff matchups.
Seneca East (4-0) at Mohawk (4-0)
Like the Arlington/McComb game, another key midseason matchup between two unbeaten state-ranked teams in a battle for Northern 10 Conference bragging rights. Mohawk is ranked No. 3 among Ohio’s Division VII programs; Seneca East is No. 15 in Division VI. Statistically, Seneca East has a slight edge on Mohawk. The Tigers lead the N-10 in total defense, allowing just 8.3 points and 137.8 yards per game and are No. 2 in the league in offense (34.5 ppg, 436.3 ypg). Mohawk is No. 2 defensively (9 ppg, 182.8 ypg) and No. 3 offensively (30.3 ppg, 342.8 ypg).
Two hard-hitting teams that like to run the ball, Seneca East boasts the N-10 leading rusher in Blaine Swartzmiller, who has rushed for 623 yards and nine touchdowns in four games. Mohawk counters with the two-headed rushing attack of senior running back Bryce Kirian (375 yards, 1 TD) and senior quarterback Keith Jenkins (371 yards, 4 TDs). The Warriors also feature one of the top receivers in the league in Zach Hayman (15 recps., 337 yards, 5 TDs).
Win or lose, neither team will have much time to celebrate or moan, with Mohawk facing Colonel Crawford (3-1, 1-0 N-10) and Seneca East hosting Wynford (3-1, 1-0 N-10) next week.
Van Buren (1-3) at Pandora-Gilboa (4-0)
The records say mismatch but the schedules say otherwise. P-G’s 4-0 record has come against opponents with a combined 3-13 record. That’s one reason why the Rockets, despite a 4-0 record that includes three wins over bigger Division VI programs, are just seventh in the Region 26 Harbin rankings.
Van Buren is 1-3 against four teams who are a combined 11-5. And despite its one-win record, Van Buren fell a last-minute turnover short of possibly knocking off a strong Leipsic team in a 25-20 loss last week.
Still, P-G returned a number of veterans from a 10-3 team, including all-Ohio quarterback Jared Breece (39-55, 558 yards, 12 TDs, 1 int.), running back Peyton Traxler (442 yards, 6 TDs) and receiver Travis Maag (11 recs., 225 yards 7 TDs), and the Rockets have so far lived up to expectations. Friday’s matchup with Van Buren will likely be P-G’s toughest test to date as they continue to prepare for a pivotal October 5 matchup with McComb.
Celina (3-1) at Ottawa-Glandorf (2-2)
Ottawa-Glandorf enters the mid-point looking to establish consistency and continuity in what has been an up and down ride so far. A Homecoming win over a 3-1 Celina team would do just that. The Titans opened the season with a 21-19 win over Eastwood, last year’s Division V state runner-up.
Understandably, a young O-G team lost (49-6) to St. Marys Memorial, last year’s WBL champion and currently Ohio’s No. 1-ranked Division IV team, and then beat winless Lima Bath (35-10). The Titans had opportunities against Van Wert last week, but failed to convert late in regulation and lost in overtime, 40-34.