Week 8 of the high school football season is here and Weir High is still looking for its first win and getting that elusive win will be tough this week as 5-2 Steubenville Catholic Central comes to town for a 7 p.m. start at Jimmy Carey Stadium on Senior Night.
The Crusaders have become known for the passing game since Brenton Colabella stepped on the field three years ago as a freshman. Now a junior, Colabella has already established school passing records and is leading the Crusaders to a possible playoff spot.
Meanwhile, Weir High coach Tony Filberto continues to piece together a lineup full of freshmen and sophomores. With eight freshmen in the lineup, the Red Riders went down 51-12 to once-beaten Magnolia.
"We just don't have the upper classmen with experience, but our five seniors are very good leaders and great kids," said Filberto, who is in his first year back as Weir High head coach.
"They're a dangerous team right now because they are a hungry team," said second-year Central mentor Steve Daley. "They have a lot of younger kids playing. Those kids are excited to be getting varsity experience. They have some talent and some athletic ability.
"Weir's going to be gunning for that first win and that's what makes them dangerous and that's what we have to guard against."
Harrison Central at Indian Creek
Each week in the Buckeye 8, there's game that has major implications toward the postseason. This week's site for that one is Kettlewell Memorial Stadium.
The red-hot Indian Creek Redskins will play host to Harrison Central, which is trying to rebound after a bitter loss to Bellaire last Friday in Cadiz.
Both coaches - Andrew Connor and Justin Kropka - are stressing to their players this week that they can't get caught looking at the past.
The Huskies scored 28 points in the first half last week and were blanked in the final 24 minutes and fell on a last-second field goal by the Big Reds.
"I think kids get over things faster than the coaches do most of the time," Kropka said. "Our kids will be ready to play. The good and bad thing about high-school age kids is they lose and they're ready to go again quickly, but when you win, they sometimes forget what it was that got them to that point."
The Redskins, meanwhile, are seeking their fourth win in a row since losing to St. Clairsville in Week 3. They earned a cherished victory at Martins Ferry last Friday.
"That was definitely a big win for our program," Connor said. "We were down a couple of starters, lost two more starters during the game and the kids responded. We lost the turnover battle, had some penalties, but we found a way to get it done. That's just a credit to our kids."
The battle of U.S. Route 22 has been an entertaining series since it started a few years back.
"It's turned into a really good rivalry," Connor said. "The schools are close in proximity to each other and obviously it's a big game for the postseason."
The Redskins made a big leap in the Division III computer rankings. They're sitting in third, while the Huskies are now holding down the eighth spot.
"We're looking at this week pretty much the same way we looked at last week," Kropka said. "We feel if we can win this week, we'll probably be in the playoffs. Creek is a really good team worth a lot of points. I just want to see us play well and play up to our potential."
Edison at Martins Ferry
The scoreboard showed an Edison loss following the Wildcats' Week 7 game with undefeated St. Clairsville, but with eight starters out for various reasons those close to the team knew their effort was a winning one.
"I'm proud of our effort last week," said Edison head coach Mike McKenzie. "We fought throughout the entire game and never quit. We played maybe our best game of the year.
"They just had a little more speed on the field at times and were able to hit big plays because of it. They represented themselves well with their effort and showed a lot of heart.
"We told the kids Friday night they were winners due to their effort in the face of adversities."
Today the Wildcats (1-6) face a 5-2 Martins Ferry team coming off a 27-14 loss to Indian Creek.
The Purple Riders offense is much like they have consistently run through the years, only this season they run it slightly different according to McKenzie.
"Offensively they're similar to Harrison Central," he said. "This year they run a little more shotgun. It reminds me of '08 when (Jeremy) Murray was a senior. They still run their normal counter tre, power, iso offense, but it comes out of different sets.
"We have to stop the run, and have to be aware of their passing game. The (Cody) Schau kid is an excellent receiver.They are a typical Martins Ferry team in that they'll try to power the ball, but they do it from different looks."
Oak Glen at East Liverpool
It has become known as the "Battle of the Bridge," which means the annual gridiron meeting between Oak Glen and East Liverpool is a rivalry.
The Golden Bears (4-3), who escaped last week with a 26-20 overtime win at Tyler Consolidated, hit the road again this week traveling to East Liverpool (1-6) for its third straight away game.
"We've had two good road victories that were huge confidence builders after we lost three in a row, and we're hoping to get another this week," said first-year Golden Bears coach Ian Whittington. "We want to keep the train rolling."
Whittington admits that with three defeats, the Bears have their backs to the wall trying to make it into the playoffs. After an open date next week they play state-ranked Point Pleasant, which jumped to the AAA classification this year and Magnolia, which dropped to Class A.
"Our schedule keeps getting tougher and tougher," he said.
The teams have played one common opponent in Indian Creek. The Redskins beat East Liverpool 26-12 and the following week downed Oak Glen by 41-9.
The Potters mix up their offensive sets, according to Whittington. He said they run out of the shotgun and pistol formations and also like to pack it in tight and run a big fullback.
Buckeye Local at St. Clairsville
The St. Clairsville Red Devils have passed the first seven tests of the season with flying colors.
The Buckeye Local Panthers are the next team up to try to slow down the Red Devils, who are on a collision course with a return trip to the Division IV postseason and quite possibly the top seed in the Region 15 tournament in three weeks.
The Panthers, who are coming off a hard-earned win at Union Local, will get their chance tonight at Red Devil Stadium.
"They're a good football team and it's going to take a great effort to come out of that thing alive," said rookie Panthers' head coach Phil Pest. "Having said that, we're going to practice hard all week and work on getting better and go out there and give it our best shot."
The Red Devils went on the road to Richmond last week and scored 56 points, but Brett McLean and company came home feeling a little bit less than fully satisfied.
"There was good and bad last week," McLean said. "The expectations are higher than they've normally been, but Edison played pretty well, controlled the ball and made some plays."
McLean has been stressing to his squad that it can't take anyone lightly at anytime. He especially won't let that happen this week since St. C. needed a late touchdown to post a 26-22 victory in Yorkville.
The Red Devils' offense has been scoring points in bunches this season. St. C. averages more than 50 points a week.
"They're very talented with all of their Division I prospects," Pest said. "They're quarterback is very good. We're going to try to matchup with them the best we can. We know they're going to get some yardage, so we have to try to keep the ball and control the clock as best we can."
Big Red at Morgantown
Morgantown likes to run the football. Big Red's defense has been pretty good when it comes to slowing down the rushing attack of its opponents. Thus, something will have to give when the teams collide today at Pony Lewis Field.
The 5-1 Mohigans compiled 428 rushing yards in last week's 42-39 victory over Wheeling Park. All six of the Morgantown touchdowns came on the ground. For the season, they've run for 1,967 stripes.
"I'll put it this way, if you don't stop the run, you're in for a long night," Big Red's Reno Saccoccia said.
Chazzy Thomas, a 5-9, 179 junior, had a huge game for John Bowers' club, chewing up the Patriot defense for 303 yards and four scores. He recorded scoring jaunts of 2, 50, 4 and 22. In just six games, Thomas has 1,103 and 15 touchdowns.
Park coach Chris Daugherty called Thomas "the whole package."
"He can run tough then he can bounce out and go 70 on you," Daugherty said. "I think he's probably the best back we've seen to date."
Saccoccia noted Thomas "runs hard and finishes his runs. Their offensive line does an excellent job of leading the way for him. The line is strong when it comes to picking up blitzes and games."
Jalen Thomas (5-6, 234), Alex Weidman (5-9, 185) and Shane Commodore (6-2, 195) also get some carries for Bowers, the Brooke High graduate.
Mark Johnson (6-3, 178) directs the Morgantown offense. In six games, he has thrown just 62 passes, completing 36 for 537 yards. Shane Wolfley (6-4, 220) and Blaine Stewart (6-2, 186) are Johnson's primary targets.
Brooke at Parkersburg South
The Brooke Bruins are coming off a bye week and head to Parkersburg South today.
"It was a good chance for us to have a couple of long weekends and pretty good practices in the middle of the week where we worked on fundamentals," said first-year coach Sean Blumette. "We just cleaned up what we do. We didn't get too much into the game plan. We kept is fun and fresh as much as we could.
"I'm still adjusting to that bye week. You have to have a different approach."
The Bruins are coming off a 34-33 victory over then-No. 4 ranked Point Pleasant. It was Brooke's first victory of the season, and an impressive one, considering it was on the road.
"We have to do what we did in the second half at Point Pleasant and that is to execute and eliminate the mistakes," he said. "The bye week hit us at a great time. Both the guys we lost at the Wheeling Park game have come back to practice. We are as healthy as we can be for eight weeks into the season.
"If we match our intensity this week that we had at Point Pleasant, we definitely have a chance to go down and win a game.
"But, we still have to be fundamentally sound. I'm not a guy who is going to change schemes each week. We will go with our game plan and try to get it done.
"I think we have everything where we want it."
Parkersburg South is 4-3 and ranked No. 15 in the West Virginia Class AAA poll.
Madonna vs. Notre Dame at FSU
As the Madonna Blue Dons leap-frogged into the top 10 of the West Virginia Class A football teams with the 15-14 come from behind win over Bishop Donahue last week, they burst into the meat of their schedule impressively.
The win vaulted the Blue Dons (5-1) to No. 8 in the standings, but coach Doug Taylor finds his team facing another West Virginia parochial school on the road this week.
The game will be played on the turf at Fairmont State University, where Notre Dame (3-3) plays all of its home games.
"Yes, you could say we're into the meat of our schedule, but at the same time we can't afford to look ahead," Taylor said. "We're, like the old cliche, taking them one game at a time. We keep saying our goal is to get to the playoffs and be one of the home teams, but to do that we have to keep winning each week."
The trip to Fairmont is the middle game of a three-game road trip for the Blue Dons, who travel across the river to play Steubenville Catholic Central next week.
"We're glad to come out of Moundsville with a win last week," said Taylor. "It was a hostile environment, they had homecoming and then we gave up a big play early that put us in a hole. But we were patient, stayed with our game plan and began to move the ball in the second half. We got into Donahue territory a couple of times and couldn't score, but I just had the feeling that eventually we were going to put the ball in the end zone and we did."