CRITICAL GAMES ON BIG TIME SPORTS
Jackson at Perry, which can be seen Saturday morning at nine and Sunday night at eight, is the Big Time Sports game of the week for our northern viewing audience. The Polar Bears and Panthers are just two of five teams that still have a shot at the Federal League title heading into week nine.
Jackson (5-3, 1-2) and Perry (5-3, 2-1) have a storied rivalry that reminds one of the border war between Texas and Oklahoma, and the 2014 version is more than intriguing on multiple levels. Jackson tailback Ricky Spradling has gone over 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight year, but last week’s 17-14 loss at previously winless Boardman left supporters of the purple army scratching their heads and wondering just how good coach Beau Balderson’s charges really are.
Perry has won five of its last six contests heading into Friday’s game, and coach Keith Wakefield’s Panthers have an explosive rushing offense to go along with plenty of momentum. Senior Braxton Berry and junior Keishaun Sims are the key cogs in Perry’s Wing T offense. Berry has rushed for 1,188 yards and 12 touchdowns on 198 carries in 2014, while Sims has 928 yards and seven touchdowns in 111 attempts.
Berry led the way with 200 yards rushing on 34 carries in last week’s 24-21 triumph over McKinley, and Sims added 126 yard on 20 totes. Perry, which overcame deficits of 14-0 and 21-3 against the Bulldogs, has much more to play for than a league title. The Panthers are currently 13th in the Division 1, region 1 playoff standings, and wins over Jackson and Glenoak in the season’s final two weeks would almost certainly cement Perry’s postseason future.
“We’ve played that way in most of the games,” said an elated Wakefield following the McKinley contest. “We’ve been behind at the half in three of our wins, so (the players) are kind of used to that, but hey finished well. You can’t run the ball like we do without kids blocking, and they did a great job. We only have about 45 kids, so we’re kind of low in numbers and a lot of our kids play both ways. I’m proud of what they’ve done. They’re trying to do it the way I want them to do it, and I can’t ask for more than that.”
Newcomerstown (5-3) takes on Tuscarawas Central Catholic (6-2) in our southern game of the week. The Saints, who are currently eighth in the Division 7, region 25 standings, can secure a playoff spot with this win and a home victory over East Canton in week 10. That game, which will be played Saturday afternoon, can be seen Saturday night at 11 and Sunday afternoon at 1.
OTHER PLAYOFF BATTLES
Glenoak is cuurently just below Perry at 14th in the Division I Region I standings, while Jackson clings to the 16th and final spot by the skin of its teeth. If the Golden Eagles and Panthers both win this week, their annual battle to close the season will have a league championship and a playoff spot on the line.
Massillon (6-2) is fifth and controls its destiny in the Division 2, region 4 standings, but season ending losses to St. Vincent St. Mary and McKinley could knock the Tigers out of the playoff picture. Lake (4-4) is 10th in that region, but the Blue Streaks aren’t necessarily finished. Central Catholic, Lake’s week nine opponent, is 8-0 and atop the Division 5, Region 15 standings. A win over the Crusaders coupled with two Perry wins and at McKinley triumph over Massillon could easily vault Lake into post season play.
Louisville is 7-1 and sits third in the Division 3, region 7 playoff picture. The Leopards should beat Alliance (4-4) and Canton South (1-7) in their final two games, which would secure both a playoff berth and a Northeastern Buckeye Conference title.
Dover and New Philadelphia are currently fourth and eighth, respectively, in Division 3, region 9. The Tornadoes control their own destiny, but next week’s season ending clash between the two teams wil certainly have playoff implications.
Triway (8-0) has already secured a spot in the Division 4, region 12 playoff field, and the Titans have also won the Pricipals Athletic Conference championship. League foe Indian Valley is eighth in region 13, and the Braves (6-2) will be favorite against Fairless (4-4) and Tusky Valley (0-8).
Only victories over Sandy Valley (4-4) and Strasburg (1-7) stand in the way of a perfect season for Garaway, which is 8-0 and sits atop the Division 6, region 19 standings. Aquinas (6-2) is seventh in that region, and a win against 6-2 Villa Angela St. Joseph would go a long way toward giving the Knights a playoff spot.