Two games right off the bat in the Northwest Central Conference will go a long way toward determining who emerges on top at the end of the season — and it’s no surprise the Lehman Cavaliers are involved in one of them.
The Cavaliers, coming off their first win of the season Saturday night against Graham, make the trek north to Upper Scioto Valley Friday night to open the NWCC campaign. And Lehman coach Dick Roll has been saying for quite a while now that Upper Scioto “is for real.”
“This is a big game for us,” Roll said.
Upper’s record doesn’t back up Roll’s opinion of the Rams, who come in with a 1-2 record, and last week were blasted by Indian Lake 48-3. The opener saw Ada whip Upper 69-28. The only win came in between, 44-14 over 0-3 Cory Rawson.
But Roll is steadfast in his assessment.
“They went up against one of the better teams Indian Lake has had in a while last week,” said Roll of the Rams.
He said his biggest concern is Upper running back Austin Sloan, a 5-foot-10, 165-pounder.
“He’s a sprint champion and we don’t have anybody that can run with him,” Roll said. “If he gets outside, we’re in trouble. He was all-league as a sophomore, and even last year, we barely held him under 100 yards.”
He said wideout Chase Rose also concerns him. He’s 6-2, 180. “He can jump and catch it,” said Roll. “They try to throw a lot of fades to him, and try to run the jet sweep with Sloan. They’re running a wing-T. In the past they’ve been a multiple set offense, but they’re only in two sets this year. They just try to come at you.”
The Cavaliers built up a 17-0 lead last week but had to hang on at the end to come away with a 24-18 victory.
“We executed well early,” said Roll. “Our drives were good. We had a good first half all the way around, running and passing both working well. It was what we envisioned. But we had some costly turnovers. Defensively, we only gave up six points, but the turnovers let them back in it.”
The Cavaliers were forced to play most of the second half without quarterback Stephen Monnin, who was one of the most sucessful runners in the first half. He went out with an injury on the first series of the third quarter and did not return.
Roll said Monnin is still questionable for this week, and to make matters worse, backup Kam Lee is still nursing a shoulder injury. If neither can go, the signal-calling would fall to a freshman, Elliott Gilardi.
“We’re not sure about Stephen, but Kam is much better (Tuesday),” said Roll. “He has full range of motion, so he’s close.”
No matter who’s behind center, Roll knows what has to happen Friday.
“We have to be good up front,” he said. “I think we can move the ball against them, but we’re going to have to play the whole game. We can’t take relax. When you lose your quarterback, things sort of go downhill, and we can’t let that happen.”
Reach Ken Barhorst at 937-538-4818