With the December chill in full force outside, local gyms have already started to simmer, and this week marks for the first full week of Midwest Athletic Conference action on the boys’ hardwood with Friday’s game of the week unfolding in Darke County when the New Knoxville Rangers take on the Versailles Tigers. As one of the top choices to capture the MAC title later this season, the Tigers have started the season with a pair of victories over New Bremen and Covington and look to move to 2-0 in league play when the Rangers come to visit on Friday. “We had a great following on the road last week and figure it will grow bigger at home on Friday,” commented Tiger head coach Scott McEldowney. “New Knoxville is very well-coached, and they bring a tremendous amount of skill to the table. They can beat you inside, off the dribble, and from behind the arc, so it will be a great challenge for our defense. We must control them off the dribble and use our size advantage to win the war on the boards – it should be a great contest.”
Head coach Kort Fledderjohann’s Rangers have also enjoyed a solid start to the 2013-14 campaign, despite losing their opener to Fort Loramie. Since then, the Rangers have notched a pair of wins over Waynesfield-Goshen and by two points over Anna last Saturday. Juniors Jalen Fullenkamp and Andrew Arnett have averaged double-digits to begin the year, while seniors Isaac Kuntz and Ryan Lageman are hitting around eight points-per-game. Fledderjohann understands the challenge his squad faces in their MAC opener this week. “Versailles poses some real issues for us – we do not have a lot of size, so handling how physical they are and rebounding with them will be an issue,” he emphasized. “We have to make sure we do not turn the ball over and get back on defense, while the other key is trying to limit their penetration offensively. They are a great passing team and have a lot of success getting into the paint and passing to the low blocks for easy baskets. For us offensively, we will have to attack the basket and work for good shots and make them play defense in order to leave there with a victory.”
by Robb Hemmelgarn
It would be understandable of the Marion Local Flyers and Coldwater Cavaliers took a few weeks to get on track for the upcoming girls basketball season. Both squads enjoyed extended seasons in volleyball with the Flyers capturing the Division IV state title and the Cavaliers playing through the regional final. That sluggish-start theory is anything but true at this point though, as both teams have rocketed out to quick starts on the hardwood and expect to challenge for the Midwest Athletic Conference title over the next couple of months. The pair will lock horns at the Hangar in Maria Stein this week for the second time this season in hopes of keeping their unblemished MAC records intact. They met earlier in the year in the Celina Tipoff Classic with the Flyers leaving town with the win.
The Blue and Gold currently sit at 6-0 on the young season and logged their first conference win last week over Fort Recovery. Brooke Winner and Allie Thobe have paced the Flyers offensively and defensively and have kept things rolling for head coach Treva Fortkamp in the early-going. “The girls have responded well after the run in volleyball – it has taken some time to get their legs in shape, but they have worked hard and are now getting into the flow,” Fortkamp explained. “Coldwater has good talent in the post and on the outside, and we will definitely need to know where Sarah Kanney is and limit their touches in the post. All of their girls can score, so it will be important that we limit them to one shot and play solid defense to come away with the win.”
Following the loss to Marion Local in the Celina tournament, the Cavaliers have run the table and currently enjoy a 4-1 mark at this point in the campaign. They began the MAC portion of their schedule last Thursday with a 56-28 triumph over St. Henry. Sarah Kanney leads the Orange and Black in the scoring column with Denise Schwieterman playing a vital role in both scoring and rebounding as well. Head coach Nick Fisher pointed out that Joelle Hemmelgarn and Leah Homan have also been successful contributors for the Cavaliers in the opening few games. “I think the success of volleyball, cross country, and soccer can only help us as the season gets underway,” Fisher commented. “We have several girls who participated in one of the three sports, and they all have brought a winning attitude to the team. We played Marion Local in the first game of the Ovisco Tipoff, so that experience will give us something to build from. We need to handle their press this week and work hard to defend Winner and Thobe in order to come home with the victory.”
by Robb Hemmelgarn
The final week of the 2013 high school football season has arrived, and once again the Midwest Athletic Conference will have the opportunity to bring home a couple of state championships from Stark County, repeating the feat from a year ago. Both the Marion Local Flyers and Coldwater Cavaliers are in action at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon on Saturday, as the Flyers take on the Glouster Trimble Tomcats and the Cavaliers will square off against the Bishop Hartley Hawks in a re-match of their week-two confrontation from earlier in the season. The Flyers ended Delphos St. John’s season last week with a 35-6 victory, while the Cavaliers advanced with a 35-10 triumph over West Jefferson.
MARION LOCAL – TRIMBLE
When the Division VI format was introduced to begin this season, many fans felt the title was the Flyers’ to lose. They have proven the pundits correct as they will be going for their third title in a row and the program’s seventh overall this weekend. The 14-0 Flyers have averaged nearly 46 points per game in the playoffs and allowed 12 each time out. The Blue and Gold have been challenged only once in the post-season – two weeks ago against Covington when they captured the 35-28 victory, but other than that no one has come within four touchdowns. Last week against St. John’s, the Flyers piled up more than 400 yards of offense, led by running back Jacy Goettemoeller’s 134 on the ground and Adam Bertke’s 228 and three touchdowns through the sky. Defensively, the Flyers limited St. John’s vaunted rushing attack to 167 yards. “I think the offense played pretty consistent the whole game,” explained Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin, who picked up his 51st career playoff victory over the Blue Jays. “We feel as though we left a couple of scores out there, but part of that was that was that we were playing against St. John’s. We struggled early defensively making tackles, but I feel as though we adjusted after the first quarter and played well overall from that point.”
Flyer fans likely had to refer to a map this week to figure out where Glouster Trimble was from, but the Athens County school is making their tenth playoff appearance since 1980 and hold a 3-9 overall post-season record. This season marks their fifth appearance in the past six years as they enter the contest with an unblemished record of 14-0 and a number three ranking in the final Associated Press Poll. The Tomcats average 43 points per game and their average margin of victory this season has been 34 points with their stiffest contests coming in the past few weeks, winning by an average of just over five points per game. A victory for the Flyers this week will push them past St. Henry and Versailles for the most football state championships in MAC history. “Our coaches have actually followed them throughout the year because we saw them against Newark Catholic in a close game last year and heard that they had a lot back this year,” commented Goodwin. “Their defense has not given up many points this year, and I am sure that they feel it is their strength. They are pretty balanced between run and pass offensively, and their quarterback is a quick kid running ball. It is a lot of fun to go through the playoff process with the team. Each week it seems as though the players and coaches become closer and stronger as a unit.”
COLDWATER – HARTLEY
When Coldwater and Hartley locked horns in week two of the regular season, the Cavaliers were coming off of a season-opening loss to Kenton and knew that in order to make the post-season for the 17th year in a row a win over the Hawks was a must. It was a tight game for a little more than a half, but the Cavs blasted to the 41-16 victory by the time the smoke finally cleared. Despite the decisive victory, Cavalier head coach Chip Otten understands this time around will be completely different as his team makes their fifth straight appearance in the title game after winning it all last season against Kirtland. “It is great satisfaction to see our players, and especially the seniors, get their chance to prove that they can continue the tradition of making the playoffs and now to play in the state championship,” Otten remarked. “I am thankful for all the support of the school, athletic department, community, and parents. I am especially grateful to the coaches that I work with every day. I am fortunate to be at Coldwater.”
Last week, the Cavaliers eliminated West Jefferson 35-10 and were ignited by another outstanding performance from junior quarterback Brody Hoying, who ran for three scores and threw for two more touchdowns in the victory. “The West Jefferson game was a good win for us – they were a good team and it was a four-quarter game,” Otten commented. “Unfortunately for them, when their quarterback got hurt it really took away a huge part of their run offense. Our run game also continued to evolve and our skill guys continued to spread the wealth and make plays.”
The fourth-ranked Hawks responded with 12 straight wins after their setback to the Cavaliers against eight teams who finished the year with winning records. Following their 64-7 victory over Zane Trace to start the post-season, Hartley has notched wins over Liberty Union, Wheelersburg, and Manchester in the past three weeks by an average of 22 points per contest. Hartley’s lone other post-season meeting with a Midwest Athletic Conference school was in 2004 when they fell to St. Henry 35-7 in the regional semi-finals. A win for the Cavaliers this Friday will mark the first time in school history they win two state football titles in a row and their four titles overall will elevate them as the fifth conference school to hit the milestone. “The score of our previous game against Hartley was not a great indicator of the battle,” Otten pointed out. “I think both teams are improved and both have played several good teams this season. They are different now offensively with the addition of Alonso Sexton (Duke commitment), who only played defense in the first game due to an injury in the preseason. We are looking forward to a great challenge for us to beat them a second time this season.”
by Robb Hemmelgarn