By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Since it returned from a brief break, the rivalry between Tippecanoe and Milton-Union has been decidedly one-sided.
Friday night’s matchup could change all of that.
In a showdown between two playoff teams from a year ago, as well as a pair of 2-0 teams, the Tippecanoe and Milton-Union football teams will meet once again, with the Devils looking to extend a six-game winning streak over the Bulldogs — a game that highlights a number of interesting Week 3 matchups that could say a lot about where teams will be by season’s end.
Last year, the Devils broke off a number of big plays in the second quarter to outscore the Bulldogs 21-6 — the biggest difference in a 35-12 victory. It was the first close game after a pair of blowouts, 57-14 and 49-0 in 2014 and 2013.
In the four years before that, the Bulldogs were more competitive, falling 27-0 in 2012, losing by a blocked extra points 28-27 in 2011, then falling by 21-7 scores in 2010 and 2009. The two teams did not meet from 2006-08, and the last time Milton-Union defeated Tippecanoe was in the 2005 season opener, a 20-17 victory in overtime.
The Devils have yet to truly be challenged this season, crushing Graham 51-12 in Week 1 and pulling away from Springfield Shawnee — the only team to defeat Tippecanoe in the regular season last year — 35-7 in Week 2. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have shown that they are a second-half team, defeating Miami East — another playoff team from last season — 20-14 in the opener and then pulling away from Oakwood to win a 23-13 battle last week.
Zac Shields has led a balanced Bulldog offense with a pair of 100-yard games carrying the football, while Tippecanoe’s Cole Barhorst is the top threat in the Devil backfield, sitting in third in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division with 242 rushing yards in two games.
Both defenses have made big plays, also. In the Week 2 win over Shawnee, Tippecanoe’s Matt Garber returned an interception for a touchdown on the final play of the first half to give the Devils a 21-point lead. And in Week 1, Milton-Union’s William Morris picked off three passes in the fourth quarter alone to seal the Bulldogs’ win over Miami East.
Those Vikings, meanwhile, will need to retain the focus they showed in Week 2’s dominant 42-0 showing against National Trail — in this week and in the next two. Miami East travels to 0-2 Ansonia Friday night, kicking off a string of 0-2 opponents over the next three games.
Miami East routed Ansonia 42-16 last season en route to tying Covington for the Cross County Conference championship. The Tigers, meanwhile, have lost 32-24 to Africentric Early College and then were routed 42-7 by conference rival Tri-County North this season.
Covington also must maintain focus to continue its roll. The Buccaneers likely won’t face a test when they travel to 0-2 Mississinawa Valley, which lost last week 63-6 to Bethel. The Buccs have shown the ability to throw the ball this season — something they haven’t needed in seasons past thanks to their dominant running game. The Blackhawks will give them one more chance to fine-tune their offense for the trials that await in Weeks 4 and 5 in 2-0 Bethel and Troy Christian.
Bethel has cruised through its first two games of the season, dominating both Northridge and Mississinawa Valley by a combined score of 107-12. The Bees will host 0-2 Dayton Christian to finish off a three-game homestand to begin the season, a team which has lost to a pair of 2-0 teams in Troy Christian and Eastern. Bethel is hoping to pick up a third straight win, which would make Week 4’s showdown at Covington a game between unbeaten teams.
Troy Christian is also coming off of a pair of easy victories. The Eagles put Dayton Christian away 33-6 in Week 1 and knocked Bradford to 0-2 with a 54-8 victory last week. This week, they face 1-1 Northridge, which bounced back from its defeat at Bethel with a 28-6 win over West Carrollton. The Troy Christian offense was unstoppable in Week 2, with Jacob Calvert running for four touchdowns and quarterback Hayden Hartman throwing for three more. It’s safe to say that the Northridge defense will face a bigger challenge Friday than it did against the Pirates.
Bradford’s tough opening stretch will continue, meanwhile, as the Railroaders host Catholic Central. At this point, Bradford’s first four opponents are all 2-0, and the ‘Roaders lost 39-8 to Catholic Central last season to cap off a three-game losing streak to start the year.
The Piqua Indians will look to bounce back after a 32-point loss at Trotwood in Week 2 — though they will have to do so without two key players in Darien Tipps-Clemons and Derek Hite. Both were lost for the season to injury in the game against the Rams, and now Piqua faces a 2-0 Franklin team that is already battle-tested, with a 30-27 win over Carlisle and a 27-21 win over Edgewood.
Finally, the Lehman Cavaliers have faced a pair of state championship contenders, including defending state champion Fort Recovery, this season in going 0-2. The Cavs — who have gone 0-2 four of the last five seasons — will get the chance to right the ship Friday night against 0-2 Graham.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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