Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
The anticipation has reached its peak, but there’s good news … the wait is finally over.
High school football is officially back. You’d be hard-pressed to find something that excites area sports fans as much as the fall season’s first Friday night. It writes the first chapter of Cinderella stories, it renews decades old rivalries and it separates the contenders from the pretenders.
Scrimmages and 7-on-7’s are in the rearview mirror. Every snap now matters. Every down, every possession, every play call takes center stage.
It’s the beginning of a journey that’s destination is Week 11 — the state football playoffs.
Each year, our area’s football scene provides unmatched drama, legendary victories and moments that will last a lifetime. So before this season kicks off, and we get into thick of things, we thought we’d share seven games that you should already be circling on your calendars.
These are dates you won’t want to miss.
Wheelersburg at Ironton, Aug. 20, 7 p.m.
It doesn’t get any better than this. A storied rival writes another saga at Tanks Memorial Stadium. The atmosphere is always electric between these two and, no matter the final score, it wets the appetite for what’s to come all year long … hard-hitting, physical, smashmouth football. While Ironton leads the series 18-13, this game always lives up to the hype. Primetime players, top-of-the-line coaches and an electricity in the air — this one never disappoints.
Jackson at Ironton, Aug. 27, 7 p.m.
In Week 2, head back to Ironton and it doesn’t matter how far you have to drive. Two playoff ready teams will be meeting while both look to build on successful seasons last fall. While Jackson and Ironton will renew an old-time SEOAL rivalry, fans will be able to see two of the area’s teams that are projected to make runs at a state title. The two have combined for 51 wins over the past two seasons. If that isn’t enticing, we’re not sure what is.
Piketon at Unioto, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.
Anyone remember the ending of this matchup last season? A last-second heave gave the Shermans a 44-38 win over the Redstreaks. What a game that was. And while this year’s battle may not have that exclamation point ending, you can be sure that it’ll have everything else. Piketon boasts of veteran quarterback Levi Gullion while Unioto is projected to start Newton Hoops, who’s spoken of very highly. If you like offense, you’ll want to be in attendance.
Valley at Waverly, Oct. 1, 7 p.m.
Yes, Waverly won this game by a 56-10 final last season. But try and put that in the past. Valley, as a team, grew up before our eyes at the tail end of its schedule and Waverly brings back a ton of talent from a squad that finished 8-1 and gave Clinton-Massie everything it wanted and then some in the postseason. Two young signal callers in Valley’s Carter Nickel and Waverly’s Wade Futhey with an abundance of playmakers surrounding each. What more could you ask for?
Paint Valley at Zane Trace, Oct. 15, 7 p.m.
While the public’s expectations are always the same in Bainbridge, Zane Trace may be a team to watch for this season. The Pioneers’ style of play and size in general could allow them to quietly fly under the radar. Through the years, PV and ZT have produced multiple instant classics. With a plethora of returners at Paint Valley and a now-seasoned group in Kinnikinnick, this matchup could potentially happen with many things to still play for — including an SVC title.
Symmes Valley at Northwest, Oct. 22, 7 p.m.
Points came at a premium in last season’s matchup between these two. The Mohawks walked away with a 10-8 win but not before an absolute dogfight. That victory — one in which it scored the game’s final 10 points, all in the second half — handed Northwest an outright SOC I title. Over the past two seasons, the pair have combined to go 17-3 in the conference. Make no mistake about it, the SOC I title runs through these two. It could be on the line in Week 10.
Chillicothe at Jackson, Oct. 22, 7 p.m.
How can you forget about this game’s outcome last season? With the FAC title on the line, Chillicothe upended the Ironmen by a 30-27 final in a double overtime thriller. Having said that, you can bet your bottom dollar that Jackson has one thing on its mind … revenge. The Ironmen have the weapons to get their wish but the Cavaliers also have the personnel to keep up. Anytime these two meet, it’s worth the price of admission. Alumni Stadium is the site. Be there.