Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
As we dive deeper into the postseason, opponents get tougher, wins are more difficult to come by and truly the best survive and advance.
We’re entering Week 9 and just five area teams remain standing in Waverly, Wheelersburg, Valley, Adena and Paint Valley.
As those five programs prepare for battle once again, here’s a look at matchups throughout SOSA’s coverage area.
Division IV, Region 16
Archbishop McNicholas (5-2) at Waverly (7-0), 7 p.m., Oct. 24
Last week: McNicholas beat Unioto 27-0, Waverly beat Norwood 62-14
All-time playoff records: McNicholas (10-11), Waverly (5-8)
If you’ve read it once, you’ve read it a thousand times … Waverly is and has been the best team in the area. Why? Look no further than quarterback Haydn’ Shanks and a stable of capable receiving options. The Tigers absolutely dismantled Norwood last week while Shanks threw for 273 yards and five touchdowns, becoming the program’s all-time leading passer. Now, a different challenge awaits against a team that shutout Unioto in its playoff opener. After a 27-0 victory, McNicholas has now surrendered just 72 points in seven games, averaging 10.3 points per game. But they haven’t faced an offense as dynamic as Waverly’s. The Tigers head into the matchup averaging 49.1 points per outing. It’s no joke. Shanks has the luxury of throwing the ball to Will Futhey, Phoenix Wolf and Penn Morrison while Zeke Brown and Jaxon Poe anchor the running game. Meanwhile, Waverly’s defense will have to key on the Rockets’ backfield duo of Tyler Snyder and Pierce Taylor, who gashed the Tanks last week. But the bottom line will be strength vs. strength in Waverly’s offense against McNicholas’ defense. Whoever wins that matchup moves on to play either Clinton-Massie or Bethel-Tate.
Division V, Region 19
Bishop Ready (6-2) at Wheelersburg (6-1), 7 p.m., Oct. 24
Last week: Bishop Ready beat Northwest 52-3, Wheelersburg beat West 47-13
All-time playoff records: Bishop Ready (16-14), Wheelersburg (40-28)
If you’re looking for a game that features two storied playoff histories, look no further. When the Silver Knights and Pirates meet this week, they’ll do so with 56 combined playoff victories. Last week, Ready dominated Northwest in a 52-3 win … one where the Silver Knights out-gained the Mohawks by a 385-123 margin. In that win, Brian Fitzsimmons rushed for 120 yards and five touchdowns on just 13 carries. Combined with Tyrese Hudson, the pair has rushed for over 1,500 yards this fall. Meanwhile, Northwest’s rushing attack, which is usually efficient, managed just 69 yards. However, Wheelersburg isn’t likely to go down without a fight. The Pirates beat West last week and racked up 344 total yards, 201 of which came on the ground and 102 of which came via running back Derrick Lattimore. ‘Burg also forced five turnovers while quarterback Jake Gregg completed 9-of-13 pass attempts. The last meeting between the two came on Nov. 3, 2017 .. a 34-0 win for Wheelersburg en route to an eventual 15-0 finish and a state title.
Division VI, Region 23
Valley (4-4) at Barnesville (5-2), 7 p.m., Oct. 24
Last week: Valley beat Worthington Christian 27-21, Barnesville beat Elgin 63-20
All-time playoff records: Valley (14-10), Barnesville (6-7)
If there’s a team hotter than Valley right now, show it to us. The Indians are on a complete roll. After a 1-4 start, Valley has rattled off three straight victories … two of which came in the postseason, a 34-13 victory over Northridge and last week’s 27-21 win over Worthington Christian. In last week’s victory, after trailing 14-0, the Indians outscored WC 27-7. That’s, in part, thanks to 155 passing yards from Carter Nickel, who also rushed for 74 yards. Nickel scored a pair of touchdowns while George Arnett helped out with two rushing scores. Ty Perkins was also a weapon, catching five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. That trio will be at the center of Barnesville’s game plan this Saturday. Speaking of the Shamrocks, Ayden Hannahs was 8-for-8 passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns while Gage Hannahs tallied 11 carries, 130 yards and four scores in a 63-20 win over Elgin last week. The Hannahs are the Shamrocks’ two best playmakers. Valley will have to address those two playmakers first. Barnesville’s two losses have come to Beaver Local (36-15) and River (27-0), two teams with a combined record of 11-4. Valley will have its hands full. But the Indians are playing at the highest level they’ve played in quite some time.
Divison VI, Region 24
Minster (3-5) at Adena (7-0), 7 p.m., Oct. 24
Last week: Minster beat Allen East 14-6, Adena beat Parkway 37-0
All-time playoff records: Minster (32-15), Adena (1-6)
While Minster’s record sits at two games under .500, don’t be fooled. The Wildcats are absolutely battle-tested. Those five losses have come to New Bremen, Coldwater, St. Henry, Marion Local and Pandora-Gilboa. Those five teams’ combined record? 27-8. In last week’s 14-6 win over Allen East, Minster quarterback Johnny Nixon rushed the ball 27 times for 108 yards and a score while also throwing a 23-yard touchdown. Those two scores came within three minutes of each other, both in the fourth quarter. He’s the engine that makes the Wildcats’ offense run. The team’s defense forced three second half turnovers to silence Allen East’s offense. So, needless to say, ball security will be a focal point for Adena. Speaking of the Warriors, they had zero trouble with Rockford Parkway, a team that Minster defeated 62-20 earlier this season. In a 37-0 victory, Adena’s Preston Sykes was 5-of-6 passing for 60 yards and a score while rushing for 98 yards and two touchdowns. That’s while Nate Throckmorton, again, ran wild. The senior tailback amassed 158 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. The Warriors’ offensive and defensive line units continued to show superiority. They’ll have the chance to do so again in a tough matchup with Minster.
Paint Valley (6-1) at Mechanicsburg (7-0), 7 p.m., Oct. 24
Last week: Paint Valley beat Greeneview 42-7, Mechanicsburg beat Deer Park 34-0
All-time playoff records: Paint Valley (9-12), Mechanicsburg (18-16)
Remember when Paint Valley last lost? We barely do. The Bearcats dropped a 50-28 decision to Adena back on Aug. 28 … and they haven’t lost since. This week, the Bearcats will face an undefeated Mechanicsburg program, which comes in averaging 40.7 points per game. The Indians beat Deer Park by a 34-0 final last week and owns win over Greenon (34-0), West Jefferson (37-29) and Fairbanks (62-14). There’s no doubt about it, aside from Adena, Mechanicsburg is the best team Paint Valley will have faced in 2020. So how do the Bearcats get a win? It starts defensively. They’ll have to find a way to slow down quarterback Aaron Conley, as well as tailbacks Chayse Propst and Gabe Chandler. Conley’s top targets include Jake Hurst, Keith Bebout and Danny Mascardi. That group has led the Indians all year long and there’s no reason to believe they won’t try to do the same against PV’s defense, which has limited opponents to 19.5 points per game. When the ‘Cats have the football, they’ll undoubtedly rely on the usual suspects, Tramel Byrd, Cavan Cooper and Cordell Grubb, to move the chains. That trio, alongside Cole Miller and Beau Blankenship, have been nearly unstoppable. The Bearcats should enter as underdogs, but their offense can absolutely keep in the ballgame. They longer they hang around, and the faster start they get, the better chance of a victory they’ll have.