The 2013 high school football season is half over, at least for those Ohio schools that don't qualify for the postseason and those West Virginia clubs that have yet to enjoy a bye week.
Leaves are changing colors, the days are getting shorter and so, too, is your opportunity to cheer for your favorite team, listen to your favorite band and enjoy your favorite tailgate goodies.
With the second half upon us, it seems appropriate to take a quick look at what has transpired during the initial five weeks.
The TCB clubs:
Most local experts thought Catholic Central and Madonna would take care of business early in the season and they have. The Crusaders moved to 5-0 with an easy victory over Oak Glen while the Blue Dons celebrated homecoming by whipping Cameron to reach 4-0.
The senior-dominated squads both have a signature victory - Central running past Bellaire in the opener and Madonna thumping Wheeling Central in Week 3.
The Crusaders and the Dons, assuming all goes according to plan, could enter their Week 9 showdown at Jimmy Carey Stadium with perfect records.
Steve Daley's crew has home games with Conotton Valley (1-4) and Weir High (2-3) along with a road trip to Barnesville (1-4) before the Oct. 26 Madonna game. Doug Taylor's club, meanwhile, will host Bridgeport (2-3) this week before facing a couple of challenging opponents.
Bishop Donahue (3-2) visits Jimmy Carey on Oct. 11 and Clarksburg Notre Dame (4-0) follows on Oct. 18. The Irish knocked off the Bishops 37-16 this past Friday.
Speaking of Weir High, the Red Riders finished the first half riding a two-game streak, thanks to their 34-14 triumph at Clarksburg Liberty-Harrison.
The last time the Red Riders were on a winning streak was the final three regular season games during the 2008 campaign. Weir finished with wins over Claymont, Brooke and Tyler Consolidated before opening the playoffs by knocking off Independence.
William Larch had a monster night against Liberty-Harrison. He rushed for 153 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. He also completed eight of 18 passes for 120 stripes and two more scores.
Clarence Bennett grabbed three Larch aerials for 65 yards and a score.
Tony Filberto's squad will look for its third straight victory when it visits Hancock County rival, Oak Glen, Friday.
Oak Glen's Golden Bears struggled through the first half. Ian Whittington's crew lost starting quarterback Chase Hartley early. Speedy Micah Swiger also is out with an injury.
Whittington has a very young team, which has performed above expectations at times. Oak Glen's roster features eight juniors, 16 sophomores and 13 freshmen.
Several of those youngsters (freshmen Lance Collins and Stevie Cool along with sophomore Bradly Hitt) turned in positive runs in the loss the Central.
"We did have a couple of young guys play well and that was good to see," Whittington said following the game in Steubenville.
Buckeye Local is the other local squad that is suffering through growing pains. The Panthers are 0-5 and face an extremely tough second half. Buckeye will visit Edison and Martins Ferry before hosting Hudson Western Reserve Academy (2-3), St. Clairsville and Harrison Central.
"We just have to try to get better. Just try to stay the course, talk them up and remain positive," Buckeye's Phil Pest said following Friday's loss to Bellaire. "We have to remain positive. We're not going to quit on them."
Before the season got going, Reno Saccoccia referred to his 2013 Big Red as being "young and hungry."
Big Red raised some eyebrows with its victory over a tough Cleveland Benedictine squad. It raised even more after going toe-to-toe with Massillon's big and physical Tigers before bowing 37-21. Massillon's size and depth took their toll during the final quarter of the Week 5 battle.
"Being young is not necessarily a negative," Saccoccia said last week. "We tell our kids if you're good enough to play, you're good enough to play. It doesn't matter what grade you're in. In most cases, we did give our seniors the first opportunity.
"When your number is up, however, you have to be ready to play. We treat them like Big Red football players regardless of their grade. We have expectations and we expect them to reach those expectations. Grade or age don't really matter in football."
Big Red will look to for its fifth victory in six starts when it travels to Barberton (2-3) Friday. The first meeting ever between the schools will be Big Red's only appearance on a grass field this season.
Saccoccia's team also will visit unbeaten Wheeling Park (4-0) and Youngstown Ursuline (2-3) during the second half. Home games are on tap with Salesanium High School (4-0) from Wilmington, Del., and Pittsburgh Renaissance Christian Academy (0-4).
Brooke and Toronto share the "our first half schedule was downright brutal" award.
The 1-4 Bruins have faced four state-ranked teams (Morgantown, University, Big Red and Wheeling Park). Another one, Point Pleasant (4-0) travels to Wellsburg Friday.
Sean Blumette's gridders earned a 34-33 victory over Point Pleasant in 2012.
After the Point Pleasant game, Brooke will host Parkersburg South (1-4), before closing with three straight road games - at Weir, at John Marshall (3-1) and at Cabell Midland (4-1).
"The schedule is brutal," Blumette said recently. "There is no easy week."
Toronto stands at 2-3, its losses coming to three unbeaten and state-ranked teams (Wellsville, Catholic Central and Shadyside).
The second half looks a little more favorable for the Red Knights. They host winless Bellaire St. John this week. They then visit Beallsville (3-2), entertain Conotton Valley and travel to Hundred (1-4). Toronto closes the season by entertaining Madonna.
"We haven't been playing with the same intensity as we did against Wellsville in Week 1," Toronto's Eric Meek said after the loss to Shadyside. "Playing two tough teams back-to-back isn't easy (the Red Knights faced Central before visiting the Tigers). "We need to get back to being the team we were earlier in the season."
Edison finished the first half at 3-2 thanks to a 20-9 homecoming victory over Union Local in Buckeye 8 play.
Quarterback Nolan Marcus and running back Ethan Shannon continued their strong play for first-year coach Derrick Stickles.
Marcus, a senior, threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Richie Springer was on the receiving end of six Marcus aerials for 54 stripes. Shannon carried the pigskin just nine times but managed 91 yards and a score. He also caught two passes.
Edison hosts Buckeye Local this week before finishing with four tough ones. The Wildcats will visit Harrison Central and unbeaten St. Clairsville before hosting once-beaten Martins Ferry and Indian Creek.
Two and three, but:
Harrison Central dropped to 2-3 after falling 42-14 at Martins Ferry. The Huskies are just one bad call away from having a 3-2 mark after five weeks.
Justin Kropka's crew is another local club with a tough second half ahead of it. Harrison travels to St. Clairsville this week before hosting Edison. A road trip to Bellaire follows before a home contest with Indian Creek. The Huskies finish on the road at Buckeye Local.
David Miser threw for 229 yards and a couple of scores against the Purple Riders. Nate Olmstead caught five balls for 135. He and Edison's Springer lead all receivers in the Herald-Star/Daily Times coverage area with 23 receptions. Dalton Rutter made six receptions for 73 yards against Ferry.
Creek's on track:
Indian Creek is 4-1 after losing 21-0 at St. Clairsville. The Redskins ran 62 plays to 37 for the Devils and outgained their hosts 207-189.
"Sometimes things don't work out the way you envision them," Creek's Andrew Connor said following the setback. "I don't think the (final) score indicated how we competed in the game."
Creek's bid to return to the playoffs remains on track despite the loss. The Redskins start the second half by hosting pass-happy Bellaire Friday. They also will host Martins Ferry and travel to Union Local, Harrison Central and Edison.
Where they stand:
After five weeks, according to Joe Eitel, Big Red now is seventh in Region 25 of Ohio's Division IV. Indian Creek is ninth. Indian Valley leads the region.
Edison is holding down the 11th spot.
Central is fourth in Region 25. Shadyside remains number one and Toronto is 14th.
Harrison Central is 12th in Division V Region 15.
First half leaders:
Indian Creek's Blake Roar is the area's rushing leader after five weeks. The senior has 673 yards on 104 carries. Edison's Shannon is second with 530. Madonna's Elliot Nero is next with 465 followed by teammate Ross Comis with 395. Larch holds the fifth spot with 351.
Catholic Central's Brenton Colabella tops area passers. He has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,063 yards and 14 touchdowns. With five games and maybe more left, the Crusader senior has thrown for 6,576 stripes. He is the school's all-time leading passer.
Marcus is second at 980 followed by Miser with 977. Comis has thrown for 519 and Toronto's Blaze Glenn 457.
Central's Ryan Fletcher has 15 grabs to trail Olmstead and Springer. Brooke's Heath Hildreth is fourth with 13 and Bruin Thomas Cole, who grabbed seven in the loss to Park, has 12.
Fletcher gets the nod as Mr. Touchdown for week five. In the win over Oak Glen, he had one carry, good for nine yards and a score, and caught one pass, which resulted in a 10-yard touchdown.
Big Red's Lucas Herrington and Kai McClurg both turned their only touches into six-points against Massillon. Herrington grabbed a 10-yard toss from Dimitri Collaros and McClurg a scoring pass from Mandela Lawrence-Burke.
Seven not five:
The Big Red-Massillon game was under the control of seven officials, two more than the regular five-man crew.
Big Red officials explained the increase was due to the intensity of the rivalry. They noted seven also were used the last time Massillon visited Harding Stadium.
The officials seemed to do a nice job. They were active, throwing 24 flags on the night.
The Massillon coaching staff and cheering section were not real happy with the guys in black and white after the Tigers drew three straight motion penalties late in the contest.
Running wild: 170, Nero, Madonna, touchdown; 153, Larch, Weir, 2 touchdowns; 91, Shannon, Edison, touchdown
Gunslingers: 229, Miser, Harrison Central, 13 of 36, 2 scores; 207, Marcus, Edison, 18 of 24, 2 scores; 184, Comis, Madonna, 10 of 16, 2 scores; 162, Colabella, Catholic Central, 12 of 14, 3 scores; 121, Collaros, Big Red, 11 of 15, score; 120, Larch, Weir, 8 of 18, score
Hands team: 7, Cole, Brooke, 70, touchdown; 6, Rutter, Harrison Central, 73, touchdown; 6, Will Bowser, Madonna, 116, 2 touchdowns; 6, Springer, Edison, 54; 5, Olmstead, Harrison Central, 135, touchdown; 5, Cody Saltsman, Big Red, 62; 4, Eric Banal, Buckeye Local, 22