More often than not over the past decade, the road to Division I state championship in Ohio goes through Region 4. This year's crop of teams suggests that trend is likely to continue.
Colerain finished the regular season atop the QueenCityHigh.com / FOX19 Ohio Division I Rankings, but is Middletown that earned the region's top seed. The GMC counterparts did not meet the first ten weeks, but could be on course to faceoff for a regional championship. One of the conference's biggest surprises, Hamilton, is settling into its role as spoiler.
GCL South foes LaSalle, Moeller and St. Xavier are more than capable of making some noise while the GWOC will be represented well with both Wayne and Centerville possessing great talent.
We look ahead to this weekend's opening-round games:
DIVISION I, REGION 4
games played on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.
#8 Huber Heights Wayne (7-3) at #1 Middletown (10-0)
Buy your ticket now because the matchup between quarterbacks Jalin Marshall of Middletown and Braxton Miller at Wayne. It promises to be very entertaining. The Ohio State-bound Miller has thrown for 1,370 yards, nine passing touchdowns and 10 rushing scores while getting stronger as the season moves on. Marshall is a sophomore sensation who rushed for 1,405 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing for 12 touchdowns and catching two more for the Middies. The Warriors' defense has played well lately, but they haven't faced a team that has as many weapons that can beat them on special teams, offense and defense. The Middies always seem to come up with big turnovers during clutch times on the main stage, so look for that to come into play Saturday night.
#7 Hamilton (7-3) at #2 Colerain (10-0)
It's a Week 7 rematch that didn't see Colerain lead in the game until there was just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter in a 17-14 affair. It was a turnover-free contest that saw the time of possession separating the two squads by just four seconds and five yards of total offense. Big Blue quarterback Brian Cleckley has gained 435 of his 920 yards rushing in the three games since that loss. He must keep the Cardinals' defense at bay with the quarterback keeper. For this group of Colerain seniors it is all business from here on out, no excuses. Expect to see a focused Tom Bolden team. Sophomore Chris Davis is about to take the stage as the next Colerain star.
#6 St. Xavier (5-4) at #3 LaSalle (9-1)
The good news for St. Xavier is that they have had two weeks off and they are taking on a LaSalle team that comes in doubting how good they really are after the loss to a 4-5 Elder squad. In the Week 7 matchup between the two teams the Lancers showed quick strike, big-play ability with touchdowns of 67 and 50 yards out in the fourth quarter of a 27-24 victory of the Bombers. Quarterback Drew Kummer picked apart a St. X secondary that had no answer on how to stop Rodriguez Coleman and Matt Woeste, who combined to catch nine balls for 249 yards and two scores. The Lancers need to get a comfortable lead early because the Bombers tend to force things when coming from behind.
#5 Centerville (8-2) vs. #4 Moeller (7-3) at Lockland
Both teams come into this game having gone into October undefeated only to hit rough times down the stretch. These clubs met last year, but the characters on offense have changes immensely despite the schemes remaining the same. Moeller will load the box and try to stuff the Elks' triple-option attack. It won't be easy as the Centerville trio of Jon Overstreet, Chris Barr and Tristin Boykin have combined for 2,495 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground. If the Elks front four on defense can get into the heads of quarterbacks Charlie Fiessinger and Taylor Bockrath and crush their confidence early on it will play into their favor as the contest wears on.