Gridiron Glory week nine game predictions

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            It is good to be back! I was quite sad to have missed last week’s great slate of games, but I was blessed with an even better week of show games for Gridiron Glory. Last week, we had an unforgettable conference title fight, and this week, we got two for the price of one. Whether you want the MVL Super Bowl or TVC-Ohio winner-take-all matchup, Gridiron Glory has those both as Games of the Week. Even better, the Bearcats and Shermans will spar for the fate of the SVC, Bloom-Carroll will look to unseat their undefeated conference rival to repeat as MSL conference champions, and Ironton looks to claim their final OVC conference title with a win over Gallia Academy. I will preview all that in more in this week’s set of predictions!

Game of the Week #1

(6-2. 3-0) Tri-Valley @ (8-0, 4-0) Sheridan

       Scotties @ Generals

            Easy Verdict: Generals narrowly escape the MVL Super Bowl

            In southeast Ohio, it is rare to see two squads in one conference with such a high caliber of talent. Sheridan and Tri-Valley have been on the warpath, trouncing their conference opponents on their way to this game. For the Generals, they have not lost a regular-season game since Week Two of last year against Watkins Memorial. The Scotties are working on a streak of their own, rattling off five straight victories since Week Three when they fell to Clinton-Massie. If you know anything about the history of this matchup, it is just how close these two teams are every single year. In last year’s matchup, Sheridan escaped Tri-Valley with a 14-13 victory, and this year projects to be just as close. How do these two teams stack up against one another?

            For the Scotties, their dominance has continued throughout the season, but it has taken increasingly impressive performances from their offense to hold off their MVL conference competition. Tri-Valley has surrendered 28 points to Morgan in Week Six and 35 points to Philo last week. Despite those shaky performances on the defensive side of the ball, the Scotties have paired those performances with two suffocating defensive performances, holding New Lexington to eight points in Week Five and shutting out winless River View in Week Seven. For Tri-Valley, they have to hope their Jekyll and Hyde routine boomerangs around for a successful performance versus the Generals’ offense. They will need another excellent performance against the Generals’ suffocating defense, but if there was any team that could crack the tough exterior of Sheridan, it would be Max Lyall and this unit. Lyall finished last week against Philo with another outstanding performance, totaling 256 yards and five touchdowns in the air. Their offense has continued to benefit from the excellent ground game from speedster Jayden Wallace, who surpassed the 200-yard threshold last week. The Scotties have an unstoppable receiver corps in the form of Erik Neal and Keaton Hahn. This offense boasts the MVL’s leading rusher with Jayden Wallace, who is also eighth in the conference in receiving yards. Wallace is also second in the conference in points, trailing only Rashid Sesay. That dominance extends to the air where Mac Lyall is second in the conference in passing yards. Additionally, Lyall has 21 touchdowns to a single interception on the year. Unsurprisingly, Tri-Valley leads the MVL in total offensive yards. Will that be enough to overcome the best defense in the MVL.

            If you looked in a thesaurus for defense, you may well find a picture of the Sheridan Generals. In the past four weeks, Sheridan has not surrendered a single point to their opponents. This season, the Generals have not surrendered more than 20 points in a game. In total, Sheridan has only allowed eight touchdowns and 1,532 total yards on defense. Those are both the best in the MVL, and this is a defense that only allows 2.7 yards per carry and has more interceptions than passing touchdowns allowed. The Generals also boast the second-best offense by total yards, further making Sheridan impossible to hold down. That offense is steered by Cade Sheridan who boasts 16 touchdowns to just one interception. A.J. Winders, Ryan Kuhn, and Byrson Ruff have formed a formidable receiver corps for Cade Sheridan, and the runningback-by-committee approach has left opponents baffled. Who emerges the victor of this titanic clash?

            Final Analysis: Sheridan’s defense has been too formidable for any team to score a point on for the past few weeks, and Tri-Valley has proven vulnerable to offenses that are not on the level of the Generals. Those weaknesses in the past few weeks will be what undoes the Scotties’ efforts to win the MVL Super Bowl and grant Sheridan another narrow victory.

            Sheridan emerges from an arduous matchup with the MVL title in hand.

Game of the Week #2

(7-1, 4-0) Vinton County @ (7-1, 4-0) Nelsonville-York

       Vikings @ Buckeyes

            Easy Verdict: Vinton County breaks its streak against the Nelsonville-York

            In the TVC-Ohio, it all comes down to this. As the Vikings and Buckeyes enter this week riding seven-game winning streaks, one squad will see their red-hot stretch come to a screeching halt. A loss for the Buckeyes will see their conference hopes dashed as there is only one team that claims a share of the conference with a win after this week, the Athens Bulldogs. If the Vikings lose, the Buckeyes would still need to overcome the Bulldogs in Week Ten to claim the conference outright. It is been a difficult stretch for the Vikings against the Buckeyes, as Nelsonville-York has won 8 of the last ten games. That stretch has included some truly heartbreaking losses for Vinton County including a double overtime loss in 2020 and a three-point loss to a 13-1 Buckeye squad in 2017.

            The Buckeyes have rebounded from a difficult start to the season against Trimble, and Nelsonville-York has been particularly effective on the defensive side of the ball. The Buckeye defense has not allowed a team to score more than 20 points this season. Last week, Nelsonville-York registered their first shutout of the season against the struggling Alexander Spartans. That dominance has been paired with a dynamic running attack that has flummoxed TVC defenses.  Gavin Richards and Makhi Williams, the leading running back and quarterback, have steamrolled their competition. Williams has also been excellent in the passing game, making use of Alec Thompson, Landon Inman, and once again, Gavin Richards to boast one of the most balanced attacks in the TVC-Ohio.

            It feels like the second section of these Games of the Week is all about raving about outstanding defensive coaches. T.J. Carper has spearheaded a suffocating defense that has only allowed more than 20 points once, and that was against a record-setting Unioto Shermans offense. Since that Week One performance against Unioto, the Vikings, only two squads have even scored double-digits, and Vinton County has pitched three shutouts. The Vikings’ offense has matched the pace of their prolific defense, putting up nearly 42 points per game. Vinton County has scored more than 60 points in two of their last three weeks. Safe to say, this may be the best unit yet for T.J. Carper.

            Final Analysis: Despite the talent on the Buckeyes’ squad, the Vikings have history to make against the Buckeyes. Vinton County has hit its stride over the past few weeks, and the Nelsonville-York offense will face its toughest test since Week One. With a chance to clinch the conference, the Vikings will play their best football of the season to secure their first title in two decades.

            Vinton County sails through their roughest waters of the season.

(7-1, 5-0) Unioto @ (7-1, 5-0) Paint Valley

       Sherman Tanks @ Bearcats

            Easy Verdict: Unioto reclaims the SVC for the first time since 1998

            Unioto has been lost in the wilderness looking for their lost SVC title for quite some time. It finally looks like it’s theirs to claim, but there is one more challenger that they will have to surmount. The Paint Valley Bearcats have proven to be one of the most talented teams that the conference has to offer, and they boast a running attack the likes of which the Shermans have not yet seen. That being said, it is hard to imagine a team of the Shermans’ quality looking overmatched. This Friday, will it be the talented ground of Paint Valley or high-flying Unioto that emerges from this gargantuan clash? Let’s take a look at the finer details.

            The Shermans have the envy of the SVC at quarterback, as Newton Hoops set the school record in passing yards with his loaded receiver corps of Ashton Crace, Cade Cutright, and Ethan Summars have terrorized secondaries across the land. Connor Dollison has been a steady presence at running back, something that has lent itself to the second-highest-scoring offense in the SVC. Arguably more impressive, the Shermans’ defense has limited opponents to just 15 points per game. That unit has been buoyed by a sensational secondary, highlighted by Crace and Cutright. Cutright has the SVC lead in interceptions with five, and Crace is right behind him with four. David Long has contributed as well, tallying another two interceptions. Will Fleck and KB Perkins have menaced opposing offensive lines. The duo each boast three sacks apiece. Long has been a run stuffer all year long, plugging holes with his 75 tackles. All of this comes together to give Unioto the best average point differential in the SVC at a whopping 20.9 average. It is not hard to guess who is right behind them.

            The Bearcats’ talent speaks for itself. Carson Free, Braylon Robertson, Preston Fauber, Peyton Bell, and Bryson Dunham helped to form arguably the strongest talent nucleus in the conference. Robertson and Fauber are first and second in rushing yards in the conference, and they are first and second in the conference in yards per carry. Robertson also leads the conference in rushing touchdowns further bolstering an outstanding rushing attack. Free has remained the preeminent receiver in the conference, leading the SVC in yards. He is second in receiving touchdowns, fourth in receptions, and fifth in yards per catch. Bryson Dunham has aided in the passing attack, proving to be an integral part of an air game that includes sophomore quarterback Preston Fauber. Fauber has thrived behind an offensive line that is anchored by Peyton Bell, surpassing 1,000 yards in the air and 800 on the ground.

            Final Analysis: The Bearcats have an excellent offensive attack, but they will have to face the most dynamic passing attack in the SVC. It will prove too much for the Bearcats’ defense, and if they fall behind early as they did against Piketon, it will cause them to fall into a deficit they cannot recover.

            Unioto will make history tonight in Bainbridge.

(7-1, 5-0) Ironton @ (7-1, 4-1) Gallia Academy

            Tigers @ Blue Devils

            Easy Verdict: Ironton secures their final OVC title

            Ironton has been cruising since their Week Four speed bump against Cabell Midland. The Tigers have brushed their loss at Joan C. Edwards Stadium to breeze through their conference competition. The most that the Tigers have allowed to a conference opponent this season was 14 points to Fairland, and the Dragons still fell to Ironton 62-14. With that in mind, it is going to take perfection on the part of Gallia Academy. The Blue Devils have a very good season to boast heading into the playoffs, but their 40-35 Week Six loss to Fairland should have them concerned about the Tigers. That being said, the Blue Devils defied expectations last season. Gallia Academy narrowly defeated Fairland last season and went on to lose by just seven points to the eventual state runner-ups. What is going to take for the Blue Devils to get over that hurdle this season?

Similar to what I wrote when previewing Gallia Academy @ Fairland, it will take perfection on the part of the Blue Devils to unseat the presumptive OVC champions. Bray Rathburn has been firing on all cylinders for the last few weeks, and nowhere was that more apparent than his performance against Rock Hill. Rathburn totaled 244 yards passing and three touchdowns. Hunter Shamblin has continued to thrive in the Blue Devil offense with five catches and 90 yards versus Rock Hill, and Hudson Shamblin has excelled on the ground. All three will need to be in peak form to topple the Tigers. Working in favor of Gallia Academy, their last two performances have seen the Blue Devils allow just 12 and seven points to their opposition. Once again, Gallia Academy will require a comparable performance to challenge for a share of the crown.

Final Analysis: For those in attendance, sometimes high school football can be an any-given Friday scenario. The Tigers have their recent and current dominance on their side, but Gallia Academy has their OVC hopes to cling to a thread. While I lean towards the talent, such as Shawn Terry, that Ironton has, this could be a sneakily close matchup.

Ironton will have a battle on their hands, but they will be victorious.