By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — Now we get down to the good part.
Sure, the first half of the high school football season provided us with plenty of incredible moments, but with league titles and playoff appearances on the line the final five weeks of the regular season, you have to believe the best is yet to come.
The final undefeated local team fell last week when Miami East knocked off Bethel, leaving us with a three 4-1 area teams — Miami East, Bethel and Lehman. Four teams — Troy, Troy Christian, Tippecanoe and Piqua — all made it out of the first half of the season with 3-2 records. Milton-Union and Covington both are 2-3. Bradford still is looking for its first win of the season at 0-5.
All of that is in the past, however. Now it’s time to focus in on the second half of the season, which begins Friday night. Here’s a look at the local games:
Covington (2-3, 2-1 in the CCC) at Miami East (4-1, 3-0)
The top two teams in the Cross County Conference last season — Covington won the conference title, handing Miami East its only CCC loss — meet this week. Miami East currently sits atop the CCC as the lone team with an unblemished CCC record, but for much of this century, the road to the conference championship has traveled through Covington.
Miami East has been on a roll since falling to Lehman the second week of the season, sandwiching convincing wins against National Trail (49-0) and Bethel (50-29) around an emotional 27-26 win over Fort Loramie. Covington dropped its first three games of the season — something it hadn’t done since 1991 — but rebounded the past two weeks, beating Tri-County North (20-7) and Arcanum (41-21).
Covington needs to beat Miami East to stay in the race for the CCC title. With Fort Loramie and Bethel in the rear-view mirror, Covington may be East’s biggest threat remaining in winning the conference crown.
Troy Christian (3-2) at Carey (4-1)
Troy Christian is back on the road again. Two weeks ago, the Eagles had to take a two-hour bus ride to take on Lucas. This week, the Eagles are in for another long trip as they head northeast for a 90-minute trip to take on Carey.
After falling to Lucas two weeks ago, the Eagles rebounded with a 28-7 win over McLain. Carey was undefeated until last week, when it fell to 4-1 Wynford, 37-20. With games against Lima Central Catholic and Little Miami — both 4-1 entering this week’s games — looming the final two weeks of the season, this is a big week for Troy Christian.
Milton-Union (2-3, 1-1 in the SWBL) at Middletown Madison (3-2, 1-0)
It’s hard to call any game in Week 6 a “must-win” game, but if Milton wants to make a return trip to the playoffs and challenge for the Southwest Buckeye League Buckeye Division title, that’s pretty much what the Bulldogs will be facing the second half of the season. Last week, Milton struggled to find its offense in a 29-6 loss to Preble Shawnee.
In last year’s meeting between the two teams, Milton defeated Madison 13-10.
Bethel (4-1, 2-1 in the CCC) at Arcanum (1-4, 1-2)
After getting off to its first 4-0 start since 2006, Bethel ran into a buzz saw last week, falling 50-29 to Miami East. The Bees will look to get things back on track this week against Tri-Village. The Bees can’t afford many more losses this season, as that 2006 team that started 4-0 ended up finishing 7-3 — but only 13th in its region, well out of the playoff picture.
Last year the Bees started the season 3-0 and finished 7-3 — ninth place in the region and one spot away from making the playoffs. Finishing strong will be key for Bethel this season.
Sidney (5-0, 0-0 in the GWOC North) at Piqua (3-2, 0-0)
The “Battle for the Battered Helmet” is always a huge game between the two long-time rivals, but it takes on added significance this year, as both teams are expected to be legitimate contenders for the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division championship. Piqua has traditionally dominated the rivalry between the two, but state-ranked Sidney may have its best team in a generation.
Piqua must figure out a way to slow down Sidney’s one-two punch of running back Isaiah Bowser and quarterback Andre Gordon on offense. Bowser already has rushed for 1,448 yards in just five games this season. Gordon has thrown for more than 600 yards, despite missing two games with an injury.
Lehman (4-1) at Hardin Northern (1-4)
After dropping a heartbreaking 27-21 overtime loss to Fort Recovery in Week 1, Lehman hasn’t looked back, rolling over its last four opponents. Each of the past three weeks, the Cavaliers have scored 50 points or more. There’s certainly the potential for that to happen again as Lehman takes on Hardin Northern, which is giving up an average of 47.2 points per game.
Bradford (0-5, 0-3 in the CCC) at Tri-Village (2-3, 1-2)
Bradford continues to play hard, but its struggles on the field continue. The Railroaders have been outscored 182-12 this season. Bradford will look to continue to move forward and make progress this week against Tri-Village.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong