Gridiron Glory Week 11 Game Predictions

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Postseason football is back for Southeast Ohio, and I cannot wait to look across the board for the teams that made history, contenders, pretenders, the upsets waiting to happen and the teams we will be watching in Canton. For those of you missing the predictions, I hope to return to the usual format next week, but I thought it would be prudent to provide a window into the playoff races that will captivate the region until December 2nd. As I always say, I hope these teams exceed my expectations and are playing for far longer than expected. While the expanded playoffs have left many cynical about the validity of a playoff berth, it is worth mentioning that these teams have achieved something monumental in just earning a postseason run.


Uphill Battle

Gridiron Teams: McClain, Marietta, Coal Grove, Washington Court House, New Lexington, John Glenn, Vinton County, Rock Hill, Waverly, Westfall, Hillsboro, Valley and Athens

Unfortunately, this is the largest category for the teams in our coverage. To start from the top, we have the history-makers, McClain. With their Week 10 upset against Hillsboro, the Tigers bought themselves another week of football. Unfortunately, McClain will have to face Region 16 titan, Taft. Keith Penwell deserves recognition for getting McClain to their first-ever playoff game, and his potent running attack may prevent a rout for the 14 seeded Tigers. That being said, it will be an uphill battle for McClain to advance to the second round of the playoffs. The Tigers will have great things in years to come.

It is hard to imagine any teams who received a worse draw than the Marietta Tigers. Despite recovering its season by winning two of their final three contests, Marietta will face Jackson in Round One of the playoffs. The Tigers have an impressive season in their rearview, reaching the playoffs for the first time, excluding the COVID season, since 2002. It will be Marietta’s second-ever playoff appearance, and it is the first time since 2017 that the Tigers will have five wins or more. Despite their unfortunate luck, it seems like great things are on the horizon for Marietta.

It is often difficult to fill the holes that generational players leave on rosters. It is even more difficult when your team plays in one of the most competitive conferences in Southeast Ohio. Despite their 4-6 record, the Coal Grove Hornets have clawed their way into the postseason. In Round One, they will more than likely fall to Northmor, but this season has

proven that the Hornets are determined to remain an annual competitor in the OVC and in Region 23. With playoff appearances in each of the last four seasons under Jay Lucas, a feat no other Hornets’ coach has accomplished, Coal Grove will be back again next year to give the OVC and Region 23 a run for their money.

Washington Court House is yet another victim of an unlucky draw. The Blue Lions will have to face last year’s state runner-ups, Wyoming. Unlike many of the teams that populate the “Uphill Battle” list, Washington Court House could make Wyoming sweat. The Blue Lions play a much more difficult schedule than the Cowboys, but the Cowboys have a suffocating defense. While the FAC is known for its high-octane offenses, particularly the Jackson Ironmen, Washington Court House will face a team that allows the 5th fewest points in Division Four. It is going to be an uphill battle.

Most of the teams on this list have the misfortune of being unlucky, or they are in the midst of a transition year. It is rare to see both of those factors combine into such a perfect storm. That is the case for the Nex Lexington Panthers. Coming into this season, New Lexington had a roster of two seniors hoping to defend the MVL Small-School title. West Muskingum forced the Panthers to concede, but New Lexington still managed to put together a five-win season to crack the playoffs and earn a 13-seed position. What awaits them? The Harvest Prep Warriors. Weighed down by two out-of-state losses, the Warriors were given the four-seed in the region. There is an argument that Harvest Prep should have been given the one-seed in this region, but that is no consolation for New Lexington. The Panthers are in for a long night.

It is rare to put a nine-win team in an uphill battle scenario, but it is also rare to see a nine-win team fail to secure even one home playoff game. The Vinton County Vikings took the TVC-Ohio crown this year for the first time in over 20 years, defeating Nelsonville-York and Athens along the way. The only problem with their conquest of the Ohio Division was their competition. Martin RPI and Fantastic 50 rank the Vikings’ schedule as the third-easiest schedule in Division Four. Now, they will have to face Gallia Academy. The Blue Devils have been seasoned by their encounters with Ironton and Fairland, and with the talent they boast, it will be tough for Vinton County to replicate the success their defense has demonstrated all season long.

It is never easy to be the 16-seed. Rock Hill managed to sneak into the postseason after a brutal conference schedule, winning their final two games after dropping five straight in the middle of the season. And it is not going to get easier for Rock Hill as they face Garaway. For

context, the Garaway Pirates have won 30 consecutive regular season games. The Pirates play one of the most punishing schedules in Division Six, yet Garaway has not allowed more than 14 points this entire season. Best of luck to Rock Hill.

The Waverly Tigers’ season has been interesting to say the least. After jumping out to a 3-1 record, including impressive wins over Unioto and Zane Trace, Waverly hit a snag against Portsmouth West that it seemingly could not recover. Since that Week Five defeat, the Tigers have remained an above .500 team, but that stretch saw two utter routs at the hands of Wheelersburg and Mount Healthy. Waverly had the further misfortune of being dealt Shawnee as the seven-seed. Shawnee’s only loss this season was to London, an undefeated squad that will likely contend for Canton if they can make it out of the Region 11 gauntlet. The Tigers will have their hands full on Friday.

It is very unlikely, but if anyone reading this has not watched any episodes of Gridiron Glory, I am one of the reporters for the SVC conference. Westfall has been the great surprise in the conference this season, and the Mustangs managed to defeat Piketon last week to grab the final seed in Region 20. It has been an honor to watch Logan Stepp’s team shock the conference, but they have struggled to compete with the teams in the middle of the pack of Region 20. Their game against conference rival and Region 20 competitor Zane Trace resulted in a 42-14 drubbing. The Mustangs will now have to take on the gargantuan task of defeating the Valley View Spartans, a team that had dominated their way to nine consecutive victories. Until a Week 10 upset at the hands of Waynesville, Valley View had hardly broken a sweat en route to the top seed in Region 20. Hopefully, Mustang Bryce Wickline can keep it close.

Alongside McClain, Hillsboro has been another surprise out of the FAC this season. Hillsboro managed to earn their first win in 10 years against Chillicothe this season, their first back-to-back playoff births since 1996. It is safe to say that Coach Nathan Horne has them on the right track, but their playoff chances this year will run through Celina. The Celina Bulldogs have been a force in Division Three, earning one of Fantastic 50’s biggest upsets when they knocked off Van Wert in Week Three. The Bulldogs have played an incredibly tough schedule, and Hillsboro’s best victory this season was a narrow victory over 6-4 Miami Trace. It could be a long night for Hillsboro.

In a strange turn of events, Valley managed to secure a playoff birth in Region 24 with only three wins this season. In fairness to Valley, they are another victim of the rigorous slate of

games in the OVC. Thanks to this turn of events, Coach Darren Crabtree is just one more playoff berth away from tying his record for consecutive appearances at five. With their 13-seed, Valley has to face West-Liberty Salem. I doubt very many teams envy Valley, but congratulations to them for making the dance once again.

Athens has made their triumphant return to the postseason, excluding the COVID season, for the first time since 2018. The Bulldogs’ young roster has been firing on all cylinders since their Week Six comeback against Logan, and Athens has won five straight games to launch into the postseason. Unfortunately, they have very similar circumstances to the aforementioned Washington Court House Blue Lions. The Bulldogs will face another team of Bulldogs, last year’s state runner-ups, Bloom-Carroll. Even with their shocking Week Nine upset at Hamilton Township, Bloom-Carroll has been dominant once again. If anyone is unfamiliar with their brand of football, Bloom-Carroll has not lost four games in a season since 2016. This may be the very definition of an uphill battle. Great things are on the horizon for Athens, but it may have to wait one more year.


Upset Alert

Gridiron Teams: Portsmouth West, Unioto and Nelsonville-York

This list includes any team that is either a very high seed in danger of losing in Round One or teams with the home field advantage and an impressive resume in danger of losing.

The reputation of Region 19 is well-known to the teams that have to run the gauntlet each year. The Portsmouth West Senators managed to pummle through last season before encountering the might of Ironton in the regional semifinal. This year things have somehow become even more competitive for the Senators. The Heath Bulldogs will travel to Portsmouth to unseat Portsmouth West. After an uncharacteristic down year for Heath last season, being thrashed 59-0 by Wheelersburg in the first round of the postseason, the Bulldogs have returned to their winning ways. With an eight-win season under their belt, Heath looks has a chance to unseat a team that was one game away from repeating as SOC-II champions. All that being said, Head Coach Todd Gilliland will have the Senators in prime form after last week’s tough loss at the hands of Wheelersburg. This will be a fascinating bout to watch.

Nelsonville-York and Bellaire are fascinating case studies of the year-to-year shifts experienced by teams throughout Southeast Ohio. Despite both teams facing off in the regional semifinal last season, they will face off as the seven and 10-seeds respectively. The Buckeyes hold the seven-seed this year and home-field advantage, but the Big Reds remained consistent in one way: a late-season rally. Bellaire won five of their final seven games after dropping their opening three games. The Buckeyes have been trending in the wrong direction, falling in their final two games against Vinton County and Athens. I put more stake in the quality of the teams, but the momentum for each of these squads is something to keep an eye on. The Buckeyes need to be careful to avoid the trap presented by this game, or they could be sitting on the couch for the rest of November and December.

Unioto does not have the look of a team in danger in Round One but recent history is not on the side of the Shermans. Last season, Unioto held the four-seed in Region 16, and things did not go according to plan. Clinton-Massie came to town and shut down the Shermans, 38-0. Coach Matt Hoops has the only home playoff win in school history, and Unioto will be looking to avenge their defeat from last season against Urbana. Urbana, their opponent, also defies the typical standards of a 15-seed. The Hillclimbers have seven wins, and their three losses have been to contenders across the board. These include Jonathan Alder, Bellefontaine and the undefeated London. The Shermans need to be on their guard to avoid an early playoff exit this season.


Coin Flip

Gridiron Teams: Miami Trace, Paint Valley, Trimble and John Glenn

Miami Trace has gone through a peculiar season. The Panthers have both impressive wins and head-scratching losses. Miami Trace has stunned Waverly, Western Brown and Bethel-Tate in out-of-conference play, but the Panthers have refused to follow the conventions of a contender in FAC play. Miami Trace has three explainable losses which include Wilmington, Logan Elm and Jackson, but their Week Nine loss to Hillsboro is confounding for many reasons. The talent present on the Panthers roster makes their 13 points in Week Nine perplexing. Hamilton Township saw their ranking in Region 11 plummet after a shocking Week 10 shutout at the hands of Logan Elm. The Rangers dethroned Bloom-Carroll as the dominant dogs, pun intended, at the top of the MSL conference. They were unable to claim a sole title due to their Week 10 loss, but their performance for the rest of the season is hard to ignore. For a team like

the Panthers, one that plays hard week in and week out, this a prime opportunity to knock off one of the better teams while they recover from a devastating loss. When the tape goes out on a team, it makes the path forward much more simple for opponents. Miami Trace has an opportunity to take advantage of both of those factors.

Paint Valley has moved out of a first-round lock after their past two weeks. The Bearcats have suffered two tough losses after sprinting out to a 7-1 start. Parkway travels to Bainbridge with just two wins, but the third most difficult schedule in Division Six. Those Panthers have played many of the favorites from Division Five through Seven, and this battle-hardened group presents an early test for the Bearcats. After breezing through their first-round match against Huntington last year, Paint Valley will have a much more difficult time.

Trimble was gifted an unfortunate seed despite their tight-rope act of a conference schedule. The Tomcats have been a stout defensive unit that has only a single blemish, their Week Four thrashing at the hands of Fairland. Since then, the Tomcats have not allowed more than 21 points in a game, and they have only allowed more than two touchdowns twice. Despite their unlucky seed, Trimble faces a team with one of the easiest schedules in Division Six according to Fantastic 50. The Tomcats are not a spoiler in the traditional sense, but looking at their seed, you may be deceived.

An eight-win season. A defense that would remind fans of the days of former Head Coach Don Struckum. A third-place finish in a stacked MVL Big-School Division. It has been an excellent season for the John Glenn Little Muskies. It would be hard to imagine a team like John Glenn getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Their seed has dealt them an unfortunate hand with their first-round matchup against Bellefontaine, a team that also boasts eight wins and a much harder schedule than the Little Muskies. John Glenn’s defense is going to keep this game much closer than the seed discrepancy would suggest.


Round One Locks

Gridiron Teams: West Muskingum, Fairland, Gallia Academy and Zane Trace

West Muskingum has flourished under the leadership of Coach Nathan Brownrigg, and the Tornadoes have entered an era of dominance in the MVL Small School Division. That dominance looks to expand to Region 19, and West Muskingum has a serious advantage against the Union Local Jets. While the Tornadoes have swept away their competition, Union Local has

been plagued by an up-and-down season. West Muskingum will have a tough time in the wider region, but the Tornadoes should have an easy team in their first-round matchup.

Fairland has defied expectations with their father-son duo at head coach and quarterback, and they have the benefit of already defeating their Round One opponent. The Dragons defeated Portsmouth 43-27 in Week Eight, and there is no reason to suspect that Fairland a second time. When Ironton leaves the OVC next season, it will be a head-to-head clash for conference supremacy between the Dragon and Gallia Academy.

Speak of the (Blue) Devils and they shall appear. Gallia Academy has an interesting first-round matchup when they face Vinton County due to the strength of schedule disparity. While Gallia Academy had to navigate a conference with Fairland and Ironton, Vinton County managed to sail through a weaker slate of TVC-Ohio teams. With home field and boatloads of talent, the Blue Devils are primed to vault into the second round of the postseason. Gallia Academy will have to face the winner of Morgan @ Sheridan next week, and the Generals are going to be a tough out for any team in Region 15.

Zane Trace has navigated a difficult situation with remarkable grace this season. Despite losing an excellent head coach, Dylan Wears has kept the ship moving in the right direction. With a senior-heavy roster, the Pioneers have been able to remain competitive in SVC conference play and survive early season adversity in out-of-conference competition. Zane Trace also was the beneficiary of seeding in Region 20, entering the postseason as a four-seed. The Pioneers will face Madison in the first round, the first time the two teams have ever met. Zane Trace hopes to make it further in the dance, and I would not count out the Pioneers. I stop at the line of believing that Zane Trace will be able to claim the region outright.


Regional Contender 

Gridiron Teams: Tri-Valley, Wheelersburg, Fort Frye, Sheridan, Eastern and Waterford

Tri-Valley snatched the MVL-Big School from Sheridan this season after claiming the MVL Super Bowl. The Scotties have proven to be a force on offense behind Max Lyall and Jayden Wallace, and outside of a blip against the Philo Electrics, they have paired that with an outstanding defense. Tri-Valley has put Region 11 on notice with their level of play, but Gridiron Glory has the privilege of covering three of the region’s contenders. It will be a bloodbath for the regional title, and the Scotties will be at the center of it.

The three-headed monster at running back will be vying for the title of Region 19 once again. Wheelersburg survived their early adversity this season to rally back into the postseason and the SOC-II. The Pirates have a seven-seed in Region 19, but that will hardly slow them down. They will have to face Fairland in the second round, a difficult task. Despite that, the strength of schedule for Wheelersburg will have the Pirates firing on all cylinders heading into the postseason. Wheelersburg has their sights set on avenging last season’s regional semifinal against Harvest Prep.

Fort Frye has encountered a great deal of adversity on their path to a share of the TSL crown this season, but the Cadets managed to claw their way to eight wins this season. Fort Frye has not been their usual dominant self, but it is impossible to count out Coach Eric Huck. A suffocating defense has allowed the Cadets to survive the massive turnover they have experienced from last season. When the playoffs come, it has almost become a certainty that Fort Frye will have a deep playoff run. That is why I will not count out the Cadets.

Another year and another rock-solid Sheridan squad is ready to make some noise in the postseason. The Generals have a favorable side of Region 15, facing Morgan in Round One, and they will have the winner of Gallia Academy and Vinton County in the second round of the playoffs. Sheridan has another defensive unit that is unassailable by almost any offense in the MVL. Excluding Tri-Valley, Sheridan has cruised to nine wins this season. The Generals also had four consecutive shutouts between Weeks Five and Eight. It is safe to say Sheridan will be mapping out their trip to Canton this season.

Jason Jackson has turned the fortunes of the Eastern Eagles around completely. While the Eagles had historically struggled prior to his reign, Eastern has battled to the top of Region 27 and the TVC-Hocking. With the top seed in Region 27, the Eagles are in the driver’s seat for the playoffs with only a single loss on the season. Coach Jackson has steered Eastern through the injury turmoil and a difficult early season schedule. If there was ever a time for the Eagles to claim the region, particularly with the new void provided by Newark Catholic, it would be now.

The TVC-Hocking goes at least two teams deep in terms of their competitors in Region 27. The Waterford Wildcats are another team that has managed to navigate a transition in a similar fashion to Fort Frye. Riding another potent passing attack, Waterford has a favorable part of Region 27 to make at least a run to the regional semifinal. The only concerning part of the playoff equation for the Wildcats is their momentum coming to a screeching halt. Waterford

dropped two of their final three games to finish their season at 6-4. Neither of the losses were disappointing for Waterford, but one more win for the Wildcats would have sent them hurtling up the region’s standings.


Canton Contender

Gridiron Teams: Jackson, Bloom-Carroll and Ironton

It seems like Jackson is blessed with talent beyond comprehension every season. The Ironmen boast the talents of Cade Wolford and company, and Jackson thrashed FAC competition en route to yet another conference title – no surprise there. The Ironmen remained one of the most exhilarating teams to watch this season, suffering just one loss on their march to the postseason. Unlike many other regional contenders and Canton contenders, Jackson faces elimination in the second round of the postseason as they will face Bloom-Carroll. The Ironmen will have their hands full with the Bulldogs, but it will be a Southeast Ohio classic regardless of the outcome.

Bloom-Carroll seemed like they would mirror last season’s trajectory to the letter until Week Nine. Their shocking upset at the hands of Hamilton Township may have changed many minds about the Bulldogs, but watching Bloom-Carroll tells us that the Bulldogs remain an electric unit. Bloom-Carroll is a missed field goal away from getting to overtime and avoiding uniquely bad luck when it comes to seeding and regional placement. As long as the Bulldogs can escape their second-round matchup, it could be yet another trip to Canton for the Purple and Gold.

It is a yearly tradition for Ironton to make a journey to Canton – a standard. They are about as synonymous with Canton as the Hall of Fame, but their third state title continues to elude them. The Tigers are desperately trying to get over the hump, and despite losing fixtures like Ty Perkins and Jaquez Keys, players like Shawn Terry have been able to easily step into those massive shoes. Even though Ironton fell to Cabbell Midland in Week Four, it is hard to find any flaws in this roster. For the Tigers, an OVC crown was practically an inevitability, and in their final season, they cruised to one last title. On their way out of the OVC, maybe the Tigers can collect one last title to remind the conference what they are missing.