By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Three weeks in, and the 2015 football season is beginning to take shape.
Week 4 is a chance for teams to solidify the direction they’re headed — and also one of the last chances for teams to turn things around if they need to.
And while the first state polls were released this week leading up to Friday’s games, and two of Miami County’s teams earned spots in the top 20 in their respective divisions in Tippecanoe and Troy Christian, only one of those teams will actually be in action in Week 4.
The Tippecanoe Red Devils improved to 3-0 with a 35-12 victory over a much-improved and very solid Milton-Union team. Using a 21-6 second-quarter performance — spurred by back-to-back 80-plus-yard touchdown runs by Jakob Prall and Cameron Gibbs — the Devils took over the game. And while the Bulldogs never backed down and were competitive to the end, Tippecanoe came out on top — and shot all the way to No. 2 in the Division III, Region 10 computer standings.
In the statewide polls, though, the Devils are No. 16 in Division III. This week, they host Ben Logan, which enters with a 2-1 record with lop-sided victories over Elgin and Fairbanks and a narrow loss to West Liberty-Salem. Expect the Devils to utilize the speed on offense and tenacity on defense that has gotten them to this point in their bid for their fourth straight win.
The Troy Christian Eagles, meanwhile, improved to 3-0 by handing Northridge its first loss of the year, 42-14. That win put them at No. 2 in the Division VII, Region 26 computer standings — and in the first statewide poll, Troy Christian is ranked No. 13. The Eagles’ Week 4 game at Cincinnati Christian, however, was cancelled, giving the Eagles a bye and a chance to get healthier leading up to a big Week 5 showdown at Covington.
Speaking of the Buccaneers, Covington faces off against Cross County Conference foe Bethel on the road in Week 4’s highlight matchup. Since dropping the season opener at now-3-0 St. Henry, the Buccs have rolled past a pair of CCC opponents, 35-6 at Arcanum and 49-0 in their home opener against Mississinawa Valley. Both of those teams are currently 0-3, though, and Friday the Buccs return to the road and face a solid test against the Bees.
Bethel, meanwhile, enters the game with a 2-1 record, dropping their season opener to Northridge by one point, routing Mississinawa Valley 42-2 and then handing a talented Dayton Christian team its first loss, 21-10. Bethel is led by running back Josh Wills, who has piled up 648 yards and eight touchdowns on 87 carries through three weeks. Last year, though, Covington was able to dominate possession of the ball and defeated the Bees 41-7, the first of what ended up being a seven-game losing streak for the Bees.
Whichever team walks away from Friday’s game victorious will likely carry that momentum through the rest of the season — and vastly improve its playoff chances.
Speaking of playoff chances, Milton-Union is entering a two-week stretch that could make or break them, even at the mid-point of the year. The Bulldogs host a pair of 2-1 teams in Northridge and Preble Shawnee over the next two weeks, beginning with the Polar Bears in Week 4. Should the Bulldogs be sitting at 4-1 at the halfway mark of the season, it could very well redefine what the next five weeks mean.
Before any of that, though, the focus needs to be on Northridge this week, which is a vastly-improved team from last year’s 2-8 mark.
The Miami East Vikings also need to finish the first half of the season strong, facing a pair of 0-3 teams beginning with a Week 4 contest at Arcanum. The combined records of the Vikings’ final five opponents currently sits at 11-4, meaning the Vikings need to take care of business in the games they are favored to win in preparation for tougher opponents.
Piqua lost its first game of the year in a double-overtime heartbreaker, 36-28 against unbeaten Lima Senior in Week 3. The Spartans blasted the Indians 62-20 a year ago, though, which should give Piqua hope heading into the rest of the season — particularly already carrying a 2-1 record. The Indians’ Week 4 opponent is a very deceptive 0-3 currently, though, as Northmont has lost to 3-0 Hilliard Darby, 3-0 Fairfield and 2-1 Lakota East. The Indians definitely can’t look at that 0-3 mark and go in assuming a victory.
Lehman snapped its losing streak to start the year, edging Graham 24-18 to move to 1-2 heading into Northwest Central Conference play. The Cavaliers travel to 1-2 Upper Scioto Valley and 0-3 Perry in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively, meaning the Cavs could enter the second half of the season with a winning record and work back into the playoff hunt yet again.
Finally, Bradford still is looking for its first victory since Week 10 of 2012, its playoff season. The Railroaders went 0-10 in 2013, didn’t field a team in 2014 and have returned with three straight losses to start this season. Bradford hosts 2-1 Hillcrest in its home opener Friday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.