Sports Today: There’s never enough football talk

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

J.T. Barrett and new Ohio State quarterbacks coach Ryan day talk about how to make more plays without taking more risks.

Are we too obsessed with the Ohio State passing game? 


This is football. That’s how it works. 

One of several reasons the game became the preeminent spectator sport in America decades ago was that it provides not only a lot to talk about but a lot of time to do it. 

Yeah, it’s a brutal ballet and all, but it’s also weekly like our other favorite TV shows. 

Beyond that, building a winning team is complicated. 

So is writing a winning game plan. 

Even once those things are in place, success requires what many coaches like to call a winning effort. 

Execution is essential, too. 

Any number of things can cause the whole operation to break down, and that leads to even more questions. 

So while I don’t blame J.T. Barrett if he is frustrated about how often he is asked about the status of the deep ball in the Buckeyes offense, I also don’t think this topic is quite played out yet. 

The good news for the quarterback and his receivers: They can make all these questions go away with just a couple of big hits down the field. 

Along those same lines, I got the impression yesterday Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor wasn’t very interested in hearing any more about the struggles of their running game. 

Jay Morrison examined the issue in-depth, but at this point it’s not unlike the situation Ohio State faces. 

They’ve fallen behind, and now there are only so many opportunities to show off however much improvement they can make. 

And in both cases, the defense might not cooperate. 

Opponents love to take away the deep ball from Ohio State, preferring to make them march down the field in small bursts. The Buckeyes’ early responses to this — forget the running game and try a precision passing approach — was doubly problematic because it short-circuited the offense as a whole. 

Now they’ve come up with other ways to move the ball, but the deep ball still needs to be part of the equation. 

Meanwhile, the Browns seemed intent on winning up front last Sunday even if that meant committing people to stopping the run and leaving the secondary out to dry. 

Andy Dalton took proper advantage of that, leaving something new for us to focus on as Cincinnati tries to be a well-rounded offense again. 

See how this works? 

In other news, I am encouraged by some of the early Reds talk generated by Monday's column

Bringing back Zack Cozart and making sure there is a spot for Scooter Gennett were suggested. 

Someone mentioned trading Adam Duvall for an ace pitcher. 

Others questioned if one more established pitcher would be enough. 

This is good stuff, people. Let’s keep it up! 

I don’t think Duvall is going to bring back a true ace, but there is a case to be made for selling him high. Would he bring back a guy as good as Mike Leake, for whom he was acquired in the first place? 

Regardless, you have to feel good about the fact they can trade an outfielder without creating a hole. That says something about what better shape they are in this year compared to last even though they had the same record. 

Of course the pitching discussion is still tricky because they might be set there with Homer Bailey and a plethora of young arms…. but we know how the best-laid plans of mice and GMs can quickly go awry. 

At any rate, I think it’s going to be a fun October for MLB fans and an interesting hot stove season for Reds followers, too… 

Also covered Monday but worth repeating because I have been critical of Ohio State and others for not playing more in-state games: Kudos to the OSU and Cincinnati for agreeing to a home-and-home series

This is a fantastic chance for both teams to get attention during a time when football would otherwise be sucking most of the air out of the room. 

The potential downsides are either inflated or nonexistent. 

The only issue now is that the season starts too early, but maybe doing a marquee game like this will help alleviate some of the problems that come from that. 

Namely that there’s less reason to pay attention when the first opponent is some team most fans have never heard of. 

High School Football: Grandin leads Centerville over Fairmont

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 8:42 PM
Updated: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 11:59 PM

Centerville seniors Alec Grandin (left), Ross Harmon and Jake Spiewak were key in a 43-28 Week 9 defeat of visiting Fairmont on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Its undefeated high school football season gone, Centerville regrouped in its grand tradition. That’s equal parts of working hard, getting chippy in practice and unloading the next opportunity.


“Coach challenged us this week to bounce back,” said senior receiver Jake Spiewak following a 43-28 defeat of visiting Fairmont on Friday night. “To be honest, Fairmont has always been a big game for us. We just wanted to keep the tradition of winning going.”

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Centerville (8-1) did just that. A week after losing at Northmont, the Elks posted their 20th consecutive defeat of the Firebirds (6-3), a win streak that began in 1998. It also secured their No. 1 computer ranking and clinched a playoff spot among Division I, Region 3 teams, otherwise known as the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East.

Centerville senior quarterback Alec Grandin, senior running back Ross Harmon and Spiewak were outstanding against one of the GWOC’s best defenses. Grandin completed 24 of 29 passes for 270 yards and no picks. Even better, he ran for four touchdowns, including three in the first half.

Harmon, the son of former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Andy Harmon, led the Elks with 129 yards rushing and scored on an 18-yard blast. Spiewak benefitted when the Firebirds committed to stopping the run, making a career-high 13 catches for 160 yards.

That was the kind of offensive fireworks that were missing in a 21-14 Week 8 loss at Northmont.

“Coach said to forget that loss and get our minds back on track and work hard and do what we’ve done all year,” Grandin said. “We have a wall in (the locker room) with all the WOL and GWOC championships and we want to put our name on the wall.”

Centerville (3-0) clinched a tie with Wayne (3-1) for the GWOC National East title and can win it outright in the Week 10 season finale against visiting Beavercreek (6-3, 1-2).

Fairmont senior running back David Stamer had 135 yards rushing and scored on runs of 49 and 18 yards. Fairmont led 7-3 on Stamer’s first score, but Centerville responded by bunching 14 points in seven seconds. That included a return of a Fairmont fumbled kickoff return for a touchdown by Centerville’s Ross Garrett.

It was the second straight loss to Centerville for Fairmont coach Dave Miller, a former standout Elks QB in the early 1980s.

“It’s no shame in losing to them,” he said. “We had opportunities and you can’t just give them points. You do that against good teams and they’ll just hammer you.”

On the D-I, Region 3 playoff bubble with its second straight loss, Fairmont must likely beat Springfield (6-3) next week to qualify for the postseason.

Centerville coach Brent Ullery was especially pleased the Elks responded as challenged before a capacity crowd.

“We were coming off a big letdown,” he said. “It did feel like we crashed pretty hard and we needed to get up. It’s a credit to our players. I don’t want to say it was a wake-up call, but at the same time it put a little extra pressure on us. We felt we’ve got to do something a little bit better here.”

»FACEBOOK: For more high school sports you should like Marc Pendleton



Centerville’s Ross Harmon rushed for 129 yards and 1 TD. Centerville defeated visiting Fairmont 43-28 in a Week 9 high school football game on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Oklahoma looks to keep post-Red River high going

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 11:59 PM

Logic would dictate Oklahoma might let up in the games following a heated rivalry against Texas. That hasn’t been the case.

Since 1999, the Sooners are 17-1 after the Red River Showdown. Of course, 1999 was Bob Stoops’ first year as the Sooners’ coach, and 2017 is their first year without him since.

Lincoln Riley has proven more than capable in his first year at the helm. He was only the fifth Oklahoma coach to win his first matchup with Oklahoma, a feat Stoops didn’t accomplish.

Still, there’s cause for concern. That one loss came to Kansas State, who Oklahoma faces Saturday as it tries to up its post-Texas success. The Wildcats beat the Sooners, 31-30, in 2014 in Norman, Okla.

This year’s matchup is in Manhattan, Kan., which might actually be an advantage for the Sooners. They’ve won 13 straight road games, one shy of matching their longest streak in more than four decades.

With Riley and quarterback Baker Mayfield ready to go for Saturday, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise for the Sooners to extend their success. It won’t be easy, but they’ve shown they’re capable of moving forward from the intensity of Texas and continuing to win.

WATCH: 5-star QB Trevor Lawrence throws for 4 touchdowns in record-setting night

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 11:54 PM

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — Five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence led Cartersville to a 62-0 victory over Chapel Hill throwing 4 touchdown passes all in the first half on senior night.

Trevor Lawrence is the nation’s second-ranked player according to 247Sports. Friday night was special for the star, as Lawrence broke Deshaun Watson’s state passing yardage record and is now 1 touchdown away from tying the state passing touchdown record. He came into the game 116 yards shy of breaking the record and was able to obtain the record with an efficient first half of offense. With a 20-yard touchdown completion, Lawrence broke the state’s career passing yard record and gave the Canes a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.

Cartersville moves to 9-0 and will be looking to wrap up the regular season against Troup County next Friday. It is projected that Lawrence will break Deshaun Watson’s passing touchdown record in his last game before gearing up for the GHSA class 4A playoffs.

Watch all of Lawrence’s highlights from the record-breaking night in this DieHards video feature.


Roughriders roll past West Liberty-Salem to claim OHC North title

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 11:33 PM

            West Liberty-Salem’s Braden Miller runs the ball against West Jefferson at Tiger Stadium on Friday, Oct. 20. MICHAEL COOPER/STAFF
West Liberty-Salem’s Braden Miller runs the ball against West Jefferson at Tiger Stadium on Friday, Oct. 20. MICHAEL COOPER/STAFF(MICHAEL COOPER/STAFF)

With its Ohio Heritage Conference North Division championship and playoff hopes on the line against an unbeaten opponent on Senior Night, the West Liberty-Salem High School football team came out swinging.

The Tigers jumped out to a 13-3 first quarter lead against West Jefferson High School at Tiger Stadium on Friday night.

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From that point forward, however, the Roughriders threw one knockout blow after another, scoring 35 straight points.

West Jefferson clinched at least a share of the first OHC North Division title, beating the Tigers 38-13 to improve to 9-0 and 4-0 in the division. The Roughriders can win the championship outright with a victory against Triad (1-8, 0-4 OHC North) next week.

“That’s a big deal,” West Jefferson coach Shawn Buescher said. “We came over here with that goal. We have a lot of respect for their program and what they’ve been able to do in this conference and in the playoffs. We knew this would be a great challenge for us.”

West Jefferson opened the scoring with a 26-yard field goal by Jon Stevenson. On the ensuing kickoff, Tigers senior Tyler Moell returned the ball to the three-yard line, setting up a TD run by junior Major Stratton. On its next possession, Tigers running back Braden Miller scored on a 19-yard run to extend the lead to 10.

However, two second quarter interceptions led to touchdown passes of 24- and 40-yards by Roughriders quarterback Lance Lambert, one to Gabe Jones and the other to Caleb VanHook.

“We talked to our kids about taking their best shot early,” Buescher said. “We knew the situation they were in, wanting to win the league. Obviously, we’re the new guys in the league and their backs were against the wall in terms of making the playoffs. We wanted to handle that adversity and stay the course.”

Roughriders WR Wyatt Dillion scored from 7 yards out with four seconds remaining to make it 24-13 at the half.

“We just made too many mistakes, had too many turnovers,” Tigers coach Dan McGill said. “Sometimes when you play in big games, windows are tighter and sometimes you try to do too much, even when you’re running the ball. My guys played extremely hard. I couldn’t ask them to give me any more effort than they did.”

On the Roughriders first possession in the second half, Jones busted a 73-yard TD run to make it 31-13. Lambert and Jones hooked up on another touchdown pass to make it 38-13.

The big play is what hurt the Tigers defensively, he said.

“We’d do well for several plays and several drives and then, it was a little lack of discipline in some of our coverages,” McGill said. “For the most part I thought our run defense was decent, we just gave up some big pass plays.”

The Tigers (7-2, 3-2 OHC North) travel to Northeastern (1-8, 1-3 OHC North) next week with an outside shot at a playoff berth in Division VI, Region 24 — but they’ve got to take care of business against the Jets, McGill said.

“Their seniors are going to want to win just as bad as our seniors are going to want to go out with a win,” he said. “That’s the only thing we can focus on.”