Mechanicsburg is still perfect after a surprising 44-0 dismantling of West Liberty-Salem last Friday night. The Indians (6-0) return home for action this week against Catholic Central (3-3) in the team’s homecoming game.
M’burg is rated third in the OHSAA’s Division VI, Region 22 computer poll.
“Keeping them focused is pretty simple. We tell them every day that you’re either getting better or getting worse,” M’burg Coach Kurt Forrest said. “We want to make sure they enjoy the week and enjoy the festivities, but we want them to compartmentalize. When you can do all that and handle it with some maturity, then you can have some fun and still play well.”
The Irish are depleted and a shell of what they once were as a program, but Forrest sees them as a rebuilding squad – a threat lying dormant.
“They’ve kinda gone back to the basics of stopping the run and running the football. They’re going to make you earn it,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re going to have to go play.”
And the secret to Mechanicsburg’s continued success?
“We’ve seen a lot of young kids grow up. A lot of the guys on field now have played a lot of football,” Forrest said, adding that the Indians focus only on what they can control.
That seems like common sense for a defense that is frustrating so many opposing offenses, but sometimes the beauty of a plan lies in its simplicity.
“We can control our effort and our fundamentals and maybe the biggest thing is trusting your teammates,” he said. “Those are all things we can control and when you do that, you have a chance to be a special team and a special defense.”
West Liberty-Salem (4-2) is looking to bounce back from a blowout loss to the aforementioned rival Indians last week with a trip to Cedarville (1-5) this week.
“We’re just trying to get healthy and get our minds right … get back to playing football at our level. That’s pretty much our focus,” WL-S Coach Dan McGill said. “You hope that all of the emphasis and the work you do to develop leaders on your team pays off in a week like this.”
Cedarville works hard to stop the run, which is something the Tigers do well with Brandon Wolfe and Trevor Anderson splitting work out of the backfield.
“They do not want you to run the ball on them. They keep seven guys in the box and play a lot of man coverage,” McGill said. “We need to execute our assignments. They play hard. We need to match that intensity and execute at higher levels.”
McGill is hoping for a mature response from his team – one that will keep the fourth-rated Tigers in the hunt for the Division VI, Region 22 playoffs.
“We need to take big steps in the right direction this week. The big focus is on each guy being responsible and accountable to do his job every play,” McGill said. “Nine times out of 10, when you do your job, you’re going to get a positive result.”
Graham (1-5) will have a welcome opponent in Greenon (0-6), which is just awful this year. The Knights are being outscored by an average of 54-6 per game.
Still, the upstart Falcons realize that no opponent can be overlooked.
“I try to treat every game like we’re playing the Super Bowl,” Graham Coach A.J. Woods said. “Anything can happen any given night. We’re still practicing full speed. Nothing changes.”
Woods and his staff are trying to adjust to Graham’s personnel strengths while still maintaining the same philosophy on offense and defense.
“Our passing game has evolved a lot. We’re a zone-read, run downhill team,” Woods said. “And our quarterback (Gage Braun)’s getting better every game. You can see a lot of improvements, and our pass blocking is getting better too.”
Urbana (2-4) is coming off a blowout win over those very same Knights and will be on the road at Benjamin Logan (3-3) for a much stiffer CBC/MRD test this week.
“We got a little bit of a shot in the arm against Greenon. We played like a group that re-found our edge,” UHS Coach Jon Daniels said. “We’re excited about where we can go from here. Here you are with an opportunity just like everybody else. The division is going to be a dogfight this year between a few really good teams.”
The Hillclimbers had a rough go of it in non-division play, but the addition of a handful of experienced players back from injury and more experience for the young guys should help. Sam Niswonger and Nick Johnson are both back after missing significant time.
“It’s just a matter of getting some of the older guys back on the field with us,” Daniels said. “Having those guys back in the room just gives the whole room a bit of confidence. We’ve seen some highly competitive teams. Our guys are looking forward to playing for another Mad River title.”
Triad (2-4) will travel to Southeastern (2-4) this week with the toughest part of its schedule already over.
“We’ve obviously run the gauntlet as far as our schedule,” Triad Coach Payton Printz said. “We’re healthy. We’re just pluggin’ away.”
The Cardinals got a win last week and will try to make it two in a row for the first time this season.
“We changed our goals after Week 5,” Printz said. “We’re taking it one game at a time. We’re going to (try to) win the next one and have fun.”
Quarterback Trent McIntyre will be the focus as usual for both the offense and the opposing defense, but if he can get some help moving the ball from Dalton Holycross and Jacob Thompson – who combined for just 70 yards last week – the Cardinals might be a threat down the stretch.
Printz said his squad is focused more on helping the seniors enjoy their final games – none is interested in playing collegiate football.
“We want this to be memorable for them,” Printz said.