M’burg – maybe Tigers – eye playoffs

By Justin Miller - jmiller@civitasmedia.com

Local prep football teams are ready for Week 9.

At Urbana, the Hillclimbers (1-7) are trying to fight a recurring problem: tiny execution mistakes that lead to breakdowns and, eventually, losses.

“You’re never happy with a loss, but were we happy with the kids’ effort? I’d have to say yes,” UHS Coach Jon Daniels said after last week’s 28-7 loss to Tecumseh.

Daniels added he’s not using that as a crutch and that the goal is not moral victories. He wants to build the program back up to where it once was just a few seasons ago.

“We’ve got a bit of a numbers problem,” he said. “I don’t think that’s catching anyone by surprise. Now we have to figure out what to do about it.”

The Hillclimbers – wo play at Shawnee (4-4) Friday night – are fielding one of the smallest rosters in school history, trotting out similar numbers or even fewer players than smaller programs such as Mechanicsburg or West Liberty-Salem.

That leads to young sophomores being asked to do more right away in key positions, Daniels said, when ideally more seniors would field those roles.

At Graham, the Falcons (1-7) have a bit of a boost after finding a win a couple of weeks ago and will host winless Northwestern this week.

The Warriors haven’t scored for a couple of weeks, so Graham could double its win total at home.

“We prepare for every team and every game the same way,” GHS Coach A.J. Woods said. “It doesn’t matter who’s doing what, we focus on what we can control.”

Woods said his team needs to be disciplined against Northwestern, knowing that becoming complacent could lead to a bad loss.

“You don’t ever want to see a kid become overconfident,” he said.

At West Liberty-Salem, Coach Dan McGill echoed that sentiment. With the Tigers (4-4) facing the possibility of sneaking into the playoffs with a pair of victories to close the season, McGill said his guys haven’t changed their approach – even after winning a pair of games to draw their record back to .500.

“Anytime you win, it puts a pep in your step,” McGill said. “But it’s a testament to our guys and the seniors that they come in focused and work hard, week in and week out.”

McGill expects to face a multi-faceted Southeastern (3-5) squad this week, which limits what he’s able to prepare for as a coach.

“There’s definitely a bit of unpredictability to them,” he said. “They run multiple offensive looks and a couple of different schemes on defense.”

The Tigers still need a little help, but a win on Friday night would be a step in the right direction toward securing the final playoff spot in Division VI, Region 24.

“If we’re fortunate enough to earn a spot, then I hope the work that we’ve put in the last month will put us in a position to carry over into the postseason,” McGill said. “And if not, then I want us to go out playing our best football anyway.”

At Triad, the Cardinals (1-7) host a reeling Catholic Central (5-3) squad that surprised nearly everyone by starting the season 4-2. Triad has been through the wringer from a scheduling standpoint, but the Cardinals have been more productive in recent weeks and would love to notch a second win and their first at home.

At Mechanicsburg, the Indians (8-0) have the game of the week and the de facto Ohio Heritage Conference championship on the line when Greeneview (7-1) rolls into town.

The bout will likely be the final test for Mechanicsburg to pass before marching into the playoffs, and a win would likely secure a home game in the first round.

“It’s going to be a good game. It’s forecast to be one of the colder nights yet – great football weather,” M’burg Coach Kurt Forrest said. “Hopefully, it will be a great night to come out and see a great football game.”

The Indians keep falling in the human polls as they keep winning, with many pundits comparing them unfavorably to last year’s squad. Forrest doesn’t see it, noting that this year’s varsity defense is comparable in scoring to last year’s and that all-everything quarterback Kaleb Romero is on a tear.

It’s the information age, and Forrest knows the kids hear and read it all.

“We take once a week and address it,” he said. “I think you have to have goals. Anything to put a chip on your shoulder and play angry. It comes back to relationships. If you love the guy next to you, you’re going to go out and play your hardest.”

By Justin Miller