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October 22, 2009

Weekend Watch

A handful of teams across the state have already locked up playoff berths, but many others will be looking to join the party in week 9.

Following week 8 action, 20 teams across the state (regardless of division) have punched their ticket to the postseason. At least that many will join the party with week 9 victories.

In addition to the highly-anticipated St. Ignatius vs. St. Xavier battle (see link to the right) we highlight some of the week 9 games that have huge playoff implications where a loss could mean a team's playoffs are officially dashed.

Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (8-0) vs. Youngstown Ursuline (6-2)

Mooney, the top-ranked team in Division III, is already comfortably in the playoffs. However, Ursuline is fighting for their postseason lives and Mooney would like nothing more than to dash the hopes of their crosstown rival.

Ursuline, the defending Division V champs, is already handicapped by playing only a nine-game schedule and two early season losses dampened high expectations heading into the season. Now sitting fifth in Region 17, a loss could force them to teeter on the edge of making or not making the playoffs with a tough week 10 game still yet to be played against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.

It will likely be a battle between two outstanding tailbacks in Mooney's Braylon Heard and Ursuline's Allen Jones, both of whom are coming off big week eight performances. Heard ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-9 win over St. Vincent-St. Mary while Jones rushed for 201 yards and three scores in a 35-0 pasting of Buchtel.

Ursuline will have to play mistake-free football and get Jones going early and often. Can they do it? If they do the Fighting Irish not only lock up a playoff spot, but send notice to the rest of the state.

Mike's Prediction: Mooney 24 Ursuline 17
Steve's Prediction: Mooney 27 Ursuline 14


Dover (7-1) vs. Coshocton (7-1)

This should be a classic battle of potent offense vs. stingy defense. Coshocton boasts one of the most prolific offenses in Division IV while Dover features one of the best defenses in Division III.

Coshocton, ranked tenth in Division IV, have scored 54 or more points in half their games this season. Meanwhile, Dover (ranked seventh in D-III) has been lights out recently on defense, allowing a measly 20 points over their past four games.

Both teams are in good position in their respective regions, and a win this weekend would not only lock up a playoff berth, but likely secure homefield advantage in week 11.

Mike's Prediction: Dover 28 Coshocton 20
Steve's Prediction: Dover 21 Coshocton 20

Mayfield (7-1) vs. Brunswick (6-2)

Despite former defensive coordinator Rick Finotti leaving Mayfield last season to take the head coaching role at St. Edward, the Wildcats' defense continues to impress. Mayfield is coming off their fourth shutout of the season, a 15-0 victory over Medina that put them on the doorstep of the Division I, Region 1 playoffs.

Brunswick, on the other hand, is simply trying to hold on to a Region 2 postseason bid. After rolling to a 4-0 start, the Blue Devils are 2-2 in their past four games and narrowly escaped with a 14-13 win over 2-6 Strongsville last week. There is little room for error, as Brunswick finds themselves now sixth in the region with several teams in hot pursuit.

Brunswick's running game, keyed by RB Lorenzo Pace, will face a stiff test by a Mayfield defense led by Matt Shannon, Corey Hayes and Brian Gehrisch. Brunswick played without standout quarterback Jess Smetana against Strongsville. If he can't go this weekend, Pat Felton will be under center for the Blue Devils.

Mike's Prediction: Mayfield 21 Brunswick 10
Steve's Prediction: Mayfield 20 Brunswick 17


Malvern (8-0) vs. West Lafayette Ridgewood (8-0)

Two high-flying offenses will be on display in what should be a battle of big plays. Malvern enters as the top team in Division VI, Region 23 while Ridgewood, despite their perfect record, is clinging to the eight and final playoff spot in Division V, Region 19.

Malvern's potent offense is averaging a stellar 41.5 points per game behind running back Maurice Johnson and quarterback Doug Wood. Johnson eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau for the season with a 106-yard outing last week in a 44-29 win over Garaway while Wood went over 1,000 passing yards with 211 yards in week eight. However, the Hornets' defense has been dented for 27 or more points in half their contests.

Meanwhile, Ridgewood is averaging 45.1 points. The name to remember is senior running back Jake Conrad, who has broken nearly every school rushing record this season. The school's all-time leading rusher and scorer both for a season and career, Conrad has been unstoppable. He rushed for six touchdowns last week-all in first half-in Ridgewood's 55-6 win over Tuscarawas Central Catholic. Ridgewood, however, has played a relatively weak schedule as reflected in their low computer point standing.

Mike's Prediction: Malvern 38 Ridgewood 30
Steve's Prediction: Malvern 49 Ridgewood 45


Game of the Week

Middletown (8-0) vs. Cincinnati Colerain (6-2)

Considered by many fans to be the Greater Miami Conference game of the decade, Middletown will look to capture the conference title outright and defeat Colerain for the second time in two years. To sweeten the pot, the winner puts themselves in prime position to make the Region 4 playoffs while the loser could be left as spectators come week 11.

Middletown ended Colerain's 61-game conference winning streak in dramatic upset fashion last season, 42-39. However, Middletown still missed the playoffs and Colerain still clinched the top seed in competitive Region 4. This season, the tables are slightly turned, with Middletown entering as the favorite with their 8-0 record while Colerain is trying to scratch and claw their way back into the playoff mix.

Middletown's potent offense has been clicking on all cylinders all season, led by quarterback Caleb Watkins and running back Antonio Banks. But the defense has been the real story as of late. The Middies have shut out each of their last three opponents and last allowed a point on September 25th, a 61-24 win over Mason.

Colerain became an afterthought early in the season after the Cardinals started out uncharacteristically 0-2. But they have fought back, winning each of their previous six games by an average count of 39-10. The offense as of late has revolved around junior fullback Trayion Durham. The bruiser has been unstoppable in Colerain's triple-option attack, rushing for 200 yards and five touchdowns last weekend alone in a 56-3 rout of Mason.

This is Colerain's make-or-break game. Win and they will make the Region 4 playoffs. Lose and they are out. Middletown, with a win, will likely catapault themselves into a top four seed in the region. It should be a dandy.

Mike's Prediction: Colerain 27 Middletown 23
Steve's Prediction: Middletown 24 Colerain 21

Season-to-date standings

Mike: 22-11 (3-2 last week)
Steve: 21-12 (2-3 last week)




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