By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — Well, that went by quick.
Seems like just yesterday teams were toiling in the August heat, preparing for the upcoming season. And now, as quick as a hiccup, the regular season is winding down for all of the local teams, as we head into the eighth week of the season. There have been super games, superstars and stories players and coaches will be telling for years to come.
As is always the case, it’s a little sad to see the season so quickly coming to an end — but the good news is there’s still three weeks left to play in the regular season and a handful of area teams remain in the running for a postseason berth. So let’s sit back and enjoy what’s left of what some consider the most wonderful time of the year.
Here’s a look at this week’s games:
Miami East (6-1, 5-0 in the CCC) at Arcanum (2-5, 2-3)
Miami East controls its own destiny. Should the Vikings win their final three games of the season, they will capture an outright Cross County Conference title and be in line for the playoffs. The journey continues this week against Arcanum. With games against Fort Loramie, Bethel and Covington already in the rear view mirror, the biggest challenge facing Miami East the rest of the season is maintaining focus. If the Vikings can do that, they should be tough to beat the rest of the way.
Hillcrest Academy (1-5) at Troy Christian (4-3)
Troy Christian doesn’t play any middle of the road teams this season. In the four games the Eagles of won this year, their opposition has a combined record of 0-27. In the three games Troy Christian has lost, the opposition’s combined record is 18-3. This week, Troy Christian takes on one of the teams that has struggled this season, record-wise, as Hillcrest Academy comes to town having won only one game. In fairness, though, the Rams have played a tough schedule.
Troy Christian will close the season at the opposite end of the spectrum against Lima Central Catholic (6-1) and Division II Little Miami (5-2).
Greenville (2-5, 0-2 in the GWOC) at Tippecanoe (3-4, 0-2)
Tippecanoe has lost back-to-back regular season games for the first time in more than a decade — although, in fairness, those losses game against Troy (5-2) and Sidney (7-0) — and will look to get things back on track this week against Greenville. The Red Devils likely are out of the hunt for the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title, but still hope to keep their playoff hopes alive by winning the final three games of the season. Also of note: Tippecanoe running back Cole Barhorst has rushed for 879 yards so far this season and has a chance to top the 1,000-yard mark this week.
Tri-County North (4-3, 3-2 in the CCC) at Bethel (6-1, 4-1)
Bethel has lost only one game this season — but still can’t afford to lose another. As it stands, the Bees need someone to knock off Miami East to claim a share of the CCC title. Looking at the Vikings’ schedule, it’s unlikely they lose one game, let alone two. Also, Fort Loramie still has only one conference loss. At this point, though, the Bees are fighting for a playoff spot in the ultra-talented Division VI, Region 24. While 9-1 should get the Bees into the playoffs, 8-2 would put them on the bubble. Essentially, Bethel needs to treat the final three regular season games like playoff games.
Covington (2-5, 2-3 in the CCC) at Bradford (0-7, 0-5)
Covington is out of the hunt for a conference title and won’t be headed to the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Still, though, the young Buccaneers — Covington’s roster is top heavy with freshmen and sophomores — are playing for pride and the opportunity to build for next season. It’s hard to imagine a tradition-rich program like Covington staying down for long. This season has been a struggle for Bradford, which has lost all seven of its games this season by an average score of 40.3 to 3.7.
Carlisle (5-2, 3-1 in the SWBL) at Milton-Union (2-5, 1-2)
It’s been a rough year so far for Milton-Union, as the Bulldogs have struggled to keep pace with a brutal schedule. Milton’s five losses this season have come against teams with a combined record of 25-10. It won’t get any easier this week with Carlisle coming to town. Milton is largely out of the hunt for a Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division title and a return trip to the playoffs, but don’t expect the Bulldogs to give up on the rest of the season. Milton will remain a tough out the final three weeks of the season as it plays for pride.
Butler (3-4, 1-1 in the GWOC) at Piqua (4-3, 1-1)
Like several other teams in the area, all three of the remaining weeks are essentially playoff games for Piqua. The Indians likely will be on the playoff bubble even if they do finish 7-3; one more loss along the way almost certainly dooms the Indians’ playoff hopes. Also, Piqua still has a chance at a share of a GWOC North Division title, but may need some help from another team to get there. The road to the postseason starts tonight for Piqua, as it hosts Butler in a “Thursday Night Lights” contest.
Lehman (6-1, 4-0 in the NWCC) at Upper Scioto Valley (3-4, 2-2)
Lehman is fully in control of its own destiny. If the Cavaliers win their final three games, they will be in the playoffs — almost certainly hosting a first-round game —and capture a Northwest Central Conference crown. Lehman ends the season against Perry (4-3) and Riverside (5-2) — both of whom also are undefeated in NWCC play — but can’t get caught looking ahead against Upper Scioto Valley. Lehman’s offense has been unstoppable the past five weeks, averaging 61.6 points per game — a remarkable statistic in the running clock era.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong