By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — Now things get really good.
Not that the first half of the season didn’t matter — which every high school team only guaranteed 10 games per season, they all matter — but over the next five weeks, league and conference titles will be decided, while some teams will be making their final push for the playoffs.
For high school football diehards, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
With that in mind, here’s a look at this week’s games:
Miami East (4-1, 2-1) at Covington (2-3, 2-1)
Both Miami East and Covington are looking to stay within striking distance of Cross County Conference leader Fort Loramie, which already has wins over both the Vikings and Buccaneers. The team that loses this game could very well be eliminated from CCC title contention, while the winner will still need help at some point later in the season.
This game also is important for playoff computer points — Miami East will be looking to solidify its standing in Division V, Region 18, while Covington must win all of its remaining games to have even the slightest chance of making the post season in Division VI, Region 24.
Perhaps most important of all, however, is bragging rights are on the line between the two county rivals.
Ponitz (0-5) at Troy Christian (4-1)
Troy Christian hosts winless Ponitz for homecoming, the first of three straight games in which Troy Christian will take on a team currently devoid of any victories — Ponitz, Jefferson and Hillcrest Academy. Troy Christian coach Ryan Jones said Ponitz’s record is deceiving, as the Golden Panthers have tremendous speed at the skill positions. If Troy Christian hopes to make the playoffs, it likely will have to finish the regular season 9-1 — even 8-2 may not generate enough points for the Eagles. Troy Christian can’t afford to slip up and take any game lightly.
Waynesville (3-2, 1-0) at Milton-Union (2-3, 1-1)
So far this season, Milton-Union has alternated between wins and losses every week, unable to string together two wins in a row. After falling last week to Middletown Madison — a Division V state semifinalist last year — the Bulldogs will look to get things going in the right direction this week. Milton will face a tough Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division contest against Waynesville.
Arcanum (1-4, 1-2) at Bethel (3-2, 1-2)
With two losses in the CCC and playing in the stacked Region 24, the formula for Bethel is pretty simple — the Bees are going to need to go undefeated the rest of the way and likely will need some help along the way to make it back to the playoffs for the second year in a row. Bethel is basically in a must-win situation every week for the final five weeks of the season.
Piqua (3-2, 0-0) at Sidney (3-2, 0-0)
While the Piqua vs. Troy rivalry is more well-known around the state and region, the Piqua vs. Sidney series actually is one of the most-played in the state, as well. Last year was a thriller, with Sidney holding off a two-point conversion attempt by Piqua in the waning moments of the game to pull out a 34-33 victory and win “The Battered Helmet.” This is a huge game for both teams in terms of Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division and playoff standings.
Hardin Northern (2-3, 1-1) at Lehman (3-2, 2-0)
After starting the season 0-2, the Cavaliers have reeled off three wins in a row. That’s not entirely surprising. Lehman started 0-2 in 2014, 2015 and 2016 — and made the playoffs all three of those years. If the Cavaliers can keep things rolling through the end of the season, they should be able to replicate that feat. Lehman has scored 63 points in each of its last two games.
Tri-Village (3-2, 2-1) at Bradford (0-5, 0-3)
Bradford will be searching for its first win since the 2016 this week. Regardless of the outcome, expect the undermanned Railroaders to play hard from beginning to end, just as they have all season. Every one of Bradford’s players should be commended for their commitment to the sport.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong