WARREN HARDING vs. AUSTINTOWN FITCH
Where: Fitch Falcon Stadium.
Last meeting: Warren Harding won 26-14 last season.Warren Harding (5-0, 1-0 Steel Valley Conference) scouting report: Harding is ranked first in this week's Associated Poll of Division I Ohio schools. The Raiders are third in the Region 1 computer playoff ratings, trailing Cleveland St. Ignatius and Lakewood St. Edward. The Raiders recorded their fourth shutout in five games, 30-0 over Toledo Whitmer. But the Raiders gave the ball away twice, had 85 yards in penalties and had just 74 yards in the second half. Running back Maurice Clarett ran for 93 yards and a touchdown and the offense showed balance with 155 yards rushing and 117 yards passing. The defense held Whitmer to 66 yards and forced three turnovers. Ursuline was the only team to score on Warren Harding, and that came in the fourth quarter when the Raiders were up 49-0. Warren Harding is winning by an average margin of 57-3. After Fitch, Warren Harding's schedule gets extremely tough with games against Boardman, Canton McKinley and Cincinnati Elder, who beat St. Ignatius last week.
The coach says: "Things have gone pretty much the way we expected them to go." Last week's game "was not our best performance. Defensively, we were outstanding, but on offense and special teams, we made new mistakes that we hadn't made in the first four games. It was carelessness on our part, a lack of concentration. I thought we ran the ball effectively, considering that the field was in terrible shape. We are concerned because of six penalties and two turnovers. The Raiders had only two turnovers combined in their first four games. "We understand the significance of this game. We all remember last year when the only team to beat Ursuline was Fitch. They weren't having a great year, but were capable of beating a state champion. This game has our attention." -- Thom McDaniels.
Fitch (1-4, 0-0 SVC) scouting report: Falcons lost to Massillon Washington 54-14 on Friday and their brutal schedule now pairs them with arguably the best team in the state. Two defensive backs were banged up against Massillon, and gave up 562 yards to the Tigers -- many of those from Ohio State-bound quarterback Justin Zwick, who threw for 314 yards. Fitch QB Steve Burnich completed 12-of-24 passes for 188 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ray Betts carried 17 times for 47 yards and Davanzo Tate had 41 yards on nine carries. The Falcons could easily be 3-2, with close losses coming to Chaney (20-14 OT) and Madison (13-7).
The coach says: "Our skill people have been a strength, but at times we have trouble taking advantage of that because of our lack of performance up front [on the offensive line]. Defensively, we've played well every week but the number of injuries we've had has hurt us. I think we should be healthy this week." On Harding, "I think they're tremendously physical, but it's not exclusive of speed. Obviously you attempt to slow down their running game and control the ball a little bit to limit the number of opportunities. That all sounds great on paper, but actually doing it is a tremendous challenge. They're not going to try and fool us, they're going to run right at us." On what Fitch needs to do against the Raiders, "Grow some big linemen." -- Carl Pelini.
Radio: WKBN-AM 570.
GIRARD vs. NEWTON FALLS
Where: Newton Falls Stadium.
Girard (4-1, 2-0 Trumbull Athletic Conference) scouting report: The Indians are ranked 10th in this week's Region 13 computer ratings. Good blocking from the offensive line helped Girard to move the ball for a 29-7 win over Brookfield last Friday, coach Bud McSuley said. RB Johnny Hepfner rushed for 137 yards and three TDs to key the attack, while QB Randy Mason was 9-for-12 passing for 135 yards, and Dustin Helle returned a kickoff 85 yards to a TD. McSuley said the Indians' defense also played well, spearheaded behind brothers Mark Grdinich and Adam Grdinich, both LBs, and DE Andrew Stevens and Helle at safety.
The coach says: "With the [wet] conditions being as they were, the offensive line had to step up and they did. They did a good job of blocking. They [Brookfield] moved the ball early and they had us on our heels, and after the rain delay in the second quarter they seemed to come out flat [at that point], and then we made some key plays [after that]." Regarding Newton Falls, "Falls is a big, physical team and they have some athletes and have a good quarterback and tailback. I've seen them on film and got a chance to see them on Saturday [against Champion]. They are a good football team and will be a big challenge for us." -- McSuley.
Newton Falls (3-2, 1-1 TAC) scouting report: Newton Falls is coming off a 22-21 win over Champion last Saturday. QB Tom Nemet completed 14-of-19 passes for over 180 yards. WR Darren Brounce caught three TD passes for over 100 yards, while TB Marty Hutchinson (6-foot-5, 192 pounds) rushed for over 91 yards in 28 carries -- the first time this season that he has been held under 100 yards. Two-way tackle Jared Loar sparkled both ways, while tackle Tim Frey and guard Tim Beckner stood out blocking.
The coach says: "Girard has a great pass package, a very accurate quarterback [Randy Mason], skilled receivers with good quickness. They're hard to put away and they're always in it because of their big-play ability, so we'll have to play 48 minutes of football. We've met in several scrimmages [before this season] and they've always been good battles. Now that they're in the league, we welcome them. It'll be a tough, hard-fought battle for both teams." Outlining his strategy: "We'll have to have a ball-control offense and stay very disciplined on defense. We'll need to put pressure on the quarterback because of their big-play ability." -- Marc Bjelec.
--Vindicator staff report