It’s hard to believe but the football season’s now 30% complete. Even harder to believe? The teams that make you want to believe what you didn’t think you could.
Nobody else is gonna’ write this. You might offend someone when you say, “I’m not so sure you’re as good as you look…so far.”
People, you know, get their pants in a wad these days when you on one hand compliment, while questioning on the other.
It reminds me a bit of my days as a college student when you take the first mid-term in a course, thinking you know what you’re doing, and then frustrated when what you studied isn’t even on the test. That feeling of being duped…deceived!
But for the purpose of this page, and the fact of the record through three weeks of the high school football season, there are at least five teams within 30 miles of this computer that have not only achieved…these five teams have probably over-achieved.
And best, for the sake of the reader and those who will yet come out to see them play…they portend some added excitement over the next seven weeks of otherwise business-as-usual football.
I’m writing about teams about which it can truly be said…nobody saw this coming. And I’m gonna’ tell you why.
Starting with the Troy Trojans, who without question pulled a Houdini last Friday with their 41-36 win, on the road, over Bellefontaine.
The Trojans, of course, are now 3-0…coming off a 2-8 season a year ago under first-year coach Matt Burgbacher.
And we warned in last Friday’s ‘picks’ page that Bellefontaine, which had taken down Sidney the week before, would be no pushover. The Chieftains have benefited from a cycle of good athletes in recent seasons and many consider them the cream of the crop of what’s been a good football league for years, the Central Buckeye League.
Down 28-7 at halftime, somehow Burgbacher and his crew resurrected themselves, found their offense, and put five scores on the board over the last 24 minutes of play. And I remind you that they did this on the road, to the cynicism of coaches and colleagues alike that continually tell me that playing on the road is a non-issue in high school, compared to college and the NFL. But I don’t believe that.
“I told the kids at halftime…I’m not worried about whether we win or lose the game,” said Burgbacher. “I just want to see you go out and leave it all on the field in the second half. And that’s what they did. I can honestly say…I just enjoyed watching them.”
Now…this is a team (Troy) of intrigue, as I like to say. Now…this is a team that bears watching because fate seems to be playing into their hands as they enter GWOC play against a suddenly-crippled GWOC North, with major injuries in Piqua and Sidney.
Now…the Tipp-Troy game awaiting down the road really becomes intriguing, all because both teams have thus far done what none of us thought probable just three weeks ago.
And what about the Tipp Red Devils? Outscoring opponents by outlandish margins, Joel Derge’s offense (and defense, for that matter) is nothing at all like what you’d expect from a team that lost every starter on the field from last year’s playoff group.
They remind me of Al Hetrick’s old teams at Versailles. You know they’re going to run the ball every down…and you still can’t stop them. Why? Because the pace of their offense actually supersedes the diversity of their offense…and they simply wear teams down in their resolve to stop the likes of Cole Barhorst, Aaron Hughes, Niles Davidson, etc. And mentally, it’s hard to react with the kind of instinct necessary for forty eight minutes!
They’re so good, and so committed with their ground game that when they throw the ball it really is front-page news…and it’s gonna’ be open because teams are bringing nine men to the box to stop the run.
Their only issue? They haven’t played anyone yet. No offense to Graham, Shawnee, and certainly to a revitalized Milton program under Mark Lane. But the real season for Tipp now starts Friday when they travel to Trotwood. After that…a steady diet of Fairborn, Sidney, Greenville, Piqua and Butler – with Troy out there waiting on week 6. Hmmmmm….!
Scoff at me now when you read the name Coldwater, because it’s hard to feel sorry for any team that’s won four state titles in a row…and six in the past eleven seasons.
But like Tipp and Troy, Chip Otten’s Cavaliers are 3-0, they beat one of the state’s three most prohibitive teams last Friday in Marion Local, and they’re doing it with players who for the most part had never started a varsity game in their lives previous to this season. The Cavaliers graduated 27 seniors last year and those who have taken their places had only played in reserve roles – in mop-up duty.
Trust it, Zach Klosterman (6’5, 215 pounds) and Nate Rindler (5’8, 150 pounds) are seniors, but NEWBIES. But they’re been around the system, they know the expectations, the know how Coldwater wins and gets things done, and they haven’t missed a beat. It’s expected!
Worse for upcoming MAC and post-season opponents, if they stay healthy these new faces are gonna’ play like the same ol’ faces that won those four straight Division V titles. That’s how they do things in Coldwater. NEXT MAN UP!
People generally expect Covington to be 3-0 at this stage of the season because outside of Miami East (and occasionally a surprise from Preble County), there’s no one to actually challenge the Buccs in the Cross County Conference.
But they do deserve attention presently for the fact of a coaching change (Ty Cates), an offensive change (the spread compared to the triple option), and the manner in which the kids on Chestnut Street have adapted to so much, so quickly, so enthusiastically. Well done.
And we don’t talk about Bethel much, or haven’t in recent years, but suddenly the Bees have come ‘abuzzing under third-year coach Scott Clodfelter, have outscored their first three opponents 142-27, and play with that old Bethel edge from the days when they actually challenged Covington or Miami East for league supremacy. But 142-27 against who?
Uh, guess who they play this Friday? Covington! So the challenge is to convince people that 142-27 is legit. But still, this is a team that can go 8-2 (or better) this year if they stay healthy. And how long’s it been since you could say that…about Bethel?
By the way, there’s other teams that portend their own intrigue between now and the next seven weeks. Teams that are 2-1 (Marion and Delphos St. John), and teams that are 1-2 (Lehman and Piqua).
Marion, you know, will take Friday’s loss to Coldwater as little more than incentive and resolve to improve.
And what about Delphos St. John’s, Coach Todd Schulte, and the quick start of one of the state’s best small-school traditions? They’re within one point (28-27 opening night loss to Lima Bath) of being 3-0.
And Troy Christian, without Steve Nolan as coach, actually is 3-0!
Of course the season’s still young and there will yet be one or more emerge.
But for the sake of the first testing period of area football, these words identify where you might watch between now and the next mid-term to come after week 6.
Words that give rise to the question: When that times comes…will there be any reason to worry about the final?