Defensive Juggernauts Zane Trace, Wheelersburg on Crash Course

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It comes down to the best two teams in division V region 17.

No. 1 Wheelersburg Pirates (12-0) and the No. 2 Zane Trace Pioneers (12-0) will meet first time ever.

However, this game couldn’t have pitted two different programs.

Wheelersburg has been a powerhouse for decades now. The Pirates have made 27 playoff appearances, which is tied for sixth all time in the state of Ohio, and have a 27-25 playoff record including one state championship in 1989. Wheelersburg has qualified for four consecutive postseasons.

On top of that, Wheelersburg head coach Rob Woodward is entering his eighth season at the helm, and has missed the playoffs just once during his tenure. He has accumulated an 81.52 win percentage and has three Southern Ohio Conference titles.

However, he hasn’t made it past the regional finals, something the Pirates are looking to do for the first time since 1998.

This season, Wheelersburg has been dominating opponents. After a week one 14-6 win against Ironton, the Pirates have won their games by an average of 32.5 points per contest, including wins over Jackson, Ridgewood, and Ironton once more in the playoffs.

Defensively, Wheelersburg has only given up more than 20 points once this season (last week against Ridgewood,) and is averaging 7.7 points per game allowed on the year.

On the other hand, Zane Trace had not won a playoff game until it beat River Valley in the regional quarterfinals this season, and has only made six playoff appearances in its history. But under the guidance of head coach Dwane Hall, who returned to coach the Pioneers after a 10-year break from serving as a head coach, Zane Trace is playing its best football ever.

A prominent rushing attack, led by Truman Love and Joel Dunkle, has served as Zane Trace’s main focus. Love and Dunkle have combined for 1,268 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground.

Last week, Dunkle replaced injured quarterback Austin Harris during Zane Trace’s win against Alexander. Dunkle had played quarterback for the early part of the regular season, but after an injury, Harris took over.

During the win against Alexander, Dunkle carried the ball 21 times for 113 yards and a touchdown, and caught a touchdown pass before taking over at quarterback.

Harris is expected to re-assume quarterback duties on Friday.

Much like its soon-to-be counterparts, Zane Trace doesn’t bend, nor break defensively. The Pioneers have allowed 8.8 points per contest thus far.

Zane Trace’s defense put on a clinic against Alexander when the Pioneers forced seven turnovers, including four on Alexander’s first four drives of the game. However, it is worth noting Alexander’s 21-6 advantage in the second half.

Zane Trace will need a coast-to-coast effort to overcome the Pirates.

 Kickoff is set for 7:30 Friday night at Waverly High School.