Danville at Loudonville
Danville (3-0) gave up its first points of the season in mop-up time against Grove City Christian last week. That only makes their season point differential 105-7. The Bulldogs have had significant success running the ball, averaging 290 yards per game, but more important has been the defense, which shuts down opposing rushers and keeps opponents’ defenses on the field. A continuation of that dual success will determine the outcome on Friday.
Loudonville (0-3) has lost all three of its games this season, but to three 3-0 teams and only by a total of 28 points. The strength of the team is its passing game, which rang up 257 yards in Week 2 in a 28-21 loss to Crestview, falling only due to a gimmicky hook-and-ladder play. The Redbirds have had less success on the ground, and if it can’t establish a running game, Danville’s excellent secondary could have an interception field day.
East Knox at Utica
East Knox (0-3) scored 22 points against the current Division IV state champions, Bishop Hartley, last week, but that was largely against the Hawks’ reserves. By that time, the Bulldogs trailed 43-0, and had little shot at a comeback. Dylan Wears found some running room at the quarterback spot, gaining 153 yards on just 13 carries. Having given up over 40 points per game, it is imperative that the East Knox defense step up against the run.
Utica (0-3) gave up nearly 500 yards against Heath on Friday, which is close to its season average of 425.3 yards allowed per game. The offense is gaining only 257 yards a contest, but the Redskins rushing game might have just turned a corner with 318 yards on 35 carries against Heath. Travis Baldwin has worked his way into being an elite back in the MBC, with 175 yards last week. Clay Rowley’s passing hasn’t yet caught up with his rushing, which would make Utica a lot more dangerous.
Northridge at Fredericktown
Fredericktown (1-2) has a two-game losing streak heading into Friday’s game against Northridge. The Freddies have outgained each opponent thus far, but for the past two weeks have committed eight penalties a game, which have cost them in critical periods. Matt Smith has been held under 100 yards in the last two games as well, and his performance seems to be a bellwether for the fortunes of the offense. QB Ryan Logan’s continued improvement has been a big plus, and his passing accounted for nearly half of the Freddies total yards last week.
Northridge (3-0) has found some early success this season, though admittedly against inferior competition. Running back Jacob Burke, only a sophomore, has proven to be a horse for the Vikings, rushing for over 600 yards in the first three games. He ran for four touchdowns in the second half of a 56-13 win over Millersport in Week 3, and his ability to wear down a defense will be important against Fredericktown.
Highland at Pleasant
Highland (1-2, 1-1) won its first game of the season at Northmor on Friday. The Scots finally put together its first big offensive game after gaining in the low 200s, dashing off 376 yards, with 263 on the ground. Highland’s defensive line came together to limit the Knights to 58 rushing yards, but the Scots were still vulnerable to the pass. Highland will need to continue to develop on offense to keep opponents off the field.
Pleasant (3-0, 2-0) surprised many with a 21-19 win over MOAC defending champion North Union on Friday, but the Spartans have played excellent ball all season. Although the Wildcats outgained Pleasant, 365-303, the Spartans’ combination of QB Eli Burris and receiver Ryan Snyder had scoring plays of 27, 80 and 57 yards in the first half to take a big lead. The Spartans are hardly one-dimensional, however, have won games by the run and the pass, so Highland needs to be aware of both.