After a rough start to the season, both the Lehman Cavaliers and the Fort Loramie Redskins have turned things around and are now in the mix for not only the Northwest Central Conference title, but also a Division 7 playoff berth.
So that makes their date Friday night that once looked like it would carry little meaning suddenly a huge one on the schedule.
For the Cavaliers, 4-3 on the season, it will all but nail down a playoff berth, since there is virtually no chance they will lose either of their final two games (Ridgemont and Waynesfield). They were sixth in their division this week, and the top eight advance.
For Fort Loramie, 3-4 but in 10th place in the same region of the computer rankings, a win at home Friday night over their biggest league and county rival, would go a long way toward getting them a postseason berth. And with games remaining against Upper Scioto Valley and Lima Perry, winning out would likely mean a week 11 game.
Lehman is on a two-game winning streak against the Redskins, but Fort Loramie won two straight in the two years prior, 2011 and 2012.
The teams have met each year since Fort Loramie started football back in 2005, and Lehman owns an 8-2 edge in the competition.
The two teams are part of a four-way tie for first place in the NWCC right now. Lehman, Loramie, Riverside and Upper Scioto Valley all stand at 3-1 in the league. The other three teams are trying to break Lehman’s stranglehold on the league title. The Cavaliers have won the last two, finishing 6-0 both years, while Fort Loramie shared the title with Fairbanks in 2012.
When Lehman lost to Upper Scioto Valley in week four this season, it snapped a 13-game NWCC winning streak for the Cavaliers.
Lehman started off the current season 1-3 before reeling off three straight, including the only win so far over Riverside.
Fort Loramie, meanwhile, played a gruelling early-season schedule and lost the first four to teams that are currently a combined 21-7.
“The league is crazy right now,” said Fort Loramie coach Whit Parks. “You’ll really go wrong if you try to compare scores in this league, so you just have to get ready every week. I can’t believe how competitive and evenly-matched it is this year.”
Parks has done a masterful job of pulling his Redskins out of a potential disaster. Starting quarterback Austin Siegel went down before the fourth game and Parks pulled the old single wing out of his bag of tricks. It’s worked well, with the Redskins piling up a lot of yards the last three weeks.
Both teams are coming off lopsided league wins last week, Fort Loramie traveling to Ridgemont and winning 53-8, and Lehman playing a rare game at their own campus and winning 49-13 over Hardin Northern.
Parks said he took advantage of the big score to throw the ball a little more than usual last week.
“We threw it more and threw it better,” he said. “Drew Wehrman is only in his third game at quarterback and he’s getting better and better and gaining confidence. He never played quarterback before so he needed some time. He had to learn what everybody else was doing. But he’s a good athlete and a good leader on the field, and the kids are confident in him.”
Lehman has a pretty good quarterback of its own. In fact, Stephen Monnin has developed into a real threat throwing and running.
Last week, he hit 13-for-19 for 159 yards and two scores, and also rushed for 164 yards on 14 carries. On the season, he’s thrown for 914 yards and nine touchdowns, and rushed for 556 yards, trailing only Jake Earhart’s 668 yards on the ground.
He has two favorite targets. Dylan Arnold has caught 29 passes this season and Brandon Barhorst 28.
“Their quarterback is outstanding,” Parks said. “And he’s a playmaker. He makes a lot of plays with his feet and is pretty dynamic. You have to keep him under control.”
The Redskins have thrown for just 390 yards all season, depending more on the run. Wes Puthoff has 578 yards rushing.
“We’re getting more confident every week on offense,” said Parks. “We’re predicated on our ground game and we’ll have to make it work. It took our young offensive line a little time, but they’re starting to get comfortable and doing a good job.”
With the games remaining after Friday, the Cavaliers will no doubt earn no worse than a share of their third straight NWCC title. The Redskins, however, will have some work remaining.
Anna faces Bremen
It’s been a tough season for the Anna Rockets in terms of competition so far. Going into last week’s game, the Rockets had five losses, and four of those teams stood at 6-0.
This week, there are still two that are 7-0 and the other two 6-1.
So when the Rockets faced a team with the same record last week in Delphos St. John’s, they dominated, rolling to a 28-6 victory. And the scenario should be the same this week when they make the short trip down 274 to New Bremen to face the 1-6 Cardinals, losers of their last five.
“We played a decent game last week, and we’re getting better,” said Anna first-year coach Nick Marino. “We had an interception going in early or it would have been more points. But we ran the ball decent and hit a couple of deep balls.”
Colin Wuebker had an outstanding game on the defensive side, coming up with three interceptions.
“He had a pretty good game,” said Marino. “Our defense shut them out really, because they scored on our JV team.”
And it came against a Delphos team that put up 28 points on Minster and was down just 32-21 to the Wildcats at the half.
Wuebker now has five interceptions on the season, tying him with Blake Stephens for the team lead in that category Wuebker is the leader in tackles with 64.
“We’re looking forward to playing New Bremen,” said Marino. “They will try to run the ball, so our job is to stop it. And they will run a defense similar to ours.”
The Rockets will close out the season with two more tough opponents in Minster and St. Henry, both 5-2.
Reach Ken Barhorst at 937-538-4818