Well, here we are a year later. The much-anticipated game between South Central Ohio League powers Wilmington and Clinton-Massie is just hours away.
After last year’s 29-28 win by Clinton-Massie, this game was circled on many a calendar, whether they be orange and black, or red, white and blue.
“We’re going in loose and just focused on having fun because that’s why you play in the first place,” said veteran coach Dan McSurley of Clinton-Massie.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Frank Irelan Field on the CMHS campus.
“I think our kids are pretty focused on improving and, just like all season, the focus is on us and improving and working toward our goals,” said WHS coach Scott Killen. “Now we are talking about 15-, 16- and 17-year old kids, so who knows where their minds are sometimes but hopefully, they know what to expect from the past two seasons.”
The two teams have identical 7-1 overall records and 5-0 marks in SCOL play. The winner will earn no less than a share of the league crown. Clinton-Massie has won 57 SCOL regular season games in a row. The winner receives the Clinton County Kiwanis Club’s Backyard Bash traveling trophy.
The Falcons are currently No. 2 in the Region 16 playoff rankings and could possibly overtake Wyoming for the No. 1 seed in the region but certainly would clinch a home game with a win Friday, if they haven’t already.
Wilmington is No. 6 in the Region 12 rankings with multiple scenarios still ahead with two tough games still to play.
Two years ago, Clinton-Massie pummeled an 8-2 Wilmington team 49-7, so anticipation of a great matchup doesn’t always play out on the field of play.
The 2015 matchup, which went down to the wire and swung on a two-point conversion by the Falcons, shows how different these two teams are coming into the game.
Last year, Wilmington ran 42 times and passed just 6. Clinton-Massie passed 17 times and ran 44.
The Falcons won’t mind rushing the ball again 44 times but 17 passes seems unlikely, barring a 12 overtime thriller.
“Their offense is a fullback-based offense with a quarterback that is a game-changer,” Killen said of the Falcons. “When Devon (O’Bryon) gets it going, they are difficult to defend. Devon is one of the better option QBs I have seen.”
The Hurricane are more balanced on offense this season, so that 42-6 ratio should be closer to even.
Clinton-Massie is coming off a 14-13 win over Chillicothe in the SCOL Game of the Year Part 1, a victory that clinched a playoff berth for the Falcons. Massie stopped the Cavaliers from converting a two-point conversion with no time remaining on the clock to win it.
McSurley’s squad is 5-1 against teams this season with winning records and seem to be hitting their stride at the right time of the year.
“We are very happy to get a road win against a (then) 6-1 team,” McSurley said of the win over Chillicothe. “(Chillicothe) coach (Ron) Hinton made some interesting comments on the radio and in the paper about the best team not winning. I beg to differ. We had a chance to take control of the game in the second half. However, a questionable call and three turnovers turned the momentum over to Chillicothe. Any time you put your defense in those types of situations and only give up 13 points, I believe the best team won.”
For the Hurricane, this Massie matchup will be the third straight against a team with a winning record and Chillicothe looms next week. WHS has put together two solid outings against Washington and Miami Trace the past two weeks.
While the Falcons know they will play a game in week 11, the Hurricane does not. WHS could even look at this week’s game as the beginning of the playoffs. Any loss the rest of the way may eliminate the ’Cane from the post-season.
“You would hope by week 8 there would be an understanding of what we are trying to do in all phases,” said Killen. “I would say that was our best game (against Miami Trace) but we have two critical weeks ahead of us with a lot stake.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports