The first half of a season has seen several new teams at the top of the standings. Once afterthoughts like Fairfield, Loveland, Taylor, Reading and Purcell Marian have risen up and are making some noise.
St. Bernard, which hadn’t won a game in five decades, started 3-0.
One more week of strong showings and this group will really have something going.
On the other side of the coin, Turpin, Tecumseh and Taft are struggling to find their identities. Mason, Middletown, Milton-Union and Edgewood all had higher expectations after laying the groundwork for solid foundations.
The final stretch is going tell if these programs can handle adversity and sustain their record of success.
Meanwhile, four of the area's elite teams - Moeller and St. Xavier and Summit Country Day and CHCA - square off in their red-hot rivalries.
Here is a look at this week’s Best Bets in Southwest Ohio:
Winton Woods (4-0) @ Thurgood Marshall (2-1), Welcome Stadium, University of Dayton – Thursday, 7 PM - A veteran Winton Woods defense that gave up just 13 points to Thurgood Marshall last season comes into the game allowing only 1.6 yards per carry. The Cougars can put big rushing numbers up in a hurry, but they will meet their toughest challenge yet.
St. Xavier (3-1) @ Moeller (4-0), Nippert Stadium, University of Cincinnati – 7:30 PM - A sloppy field aided in the jump start to the St. Xavier ground game behind Ben Glines last week. The Bombers face a faster and stronger defensive front versus Moeller. The Crusaders are also showing a multitude of weapons on offense in quarterback Gus Ragland, running backs Jack Gruber and Dean Meyer and receiver Chase Pankey.
Sycamore (4-0, 1-0) @ Lakota West (3-1, 1-0) – 7:30 PM - Sycamore swept through its non-conference schedule against a trio of foes who are a combined 2-11. Lakota West has been tested heavily in a three-point loss to Winton Woods and a four-point win at Wayne. The Aviators will play at a higher level to come away with a road victory. The Firebirds have looked good the past two weeks while opening the offense for quarterback Malik Grove: 470 yards (342 passing, 128 rushing) and five touchdowns (two passing, three rushing).
Northwest (4-0) @ Wilmington (2-2) – 7:30PM - A long road trip for the second time in three weeks and fourth game away from home to start the season will test Northwest’s fortitude. Wilmington has bounced back to win two straight. The Canes are in need of a big victory to keep their playoff hopes alive.
McNicholas (3-1, 1-0) @ Bishop Fenwick (3-1, 0-1) – 7:30 PM - A separated shoulder is keeping Frank Catrine the reigning Division IV Southwest District Offensive Player of the Year, out of the Bishop Fenwick lineup, leaving the Falcons without their only proven playmaker. McNick has won three straight as the Rockets begin an important GCL Coed stretch that also includes Chaminade Julienne and Alter over the next three weeks.
Anderson (2-2) @ Milford (3-1) – 7:30 PM - A great opportunity awaits two teams that are riding high waves of momentum. Milford is still looking for that signature victory. The Eagles have three straight victories over teams that are a combined 3-9 and their only loss came to a Hamilton team that is 1-3. Anderson has won two straight as quarterback Kevin Rogers takes what defenses give him. He has passed for 275 yards, and rushed for 249 yards.and rushed for 249 yards while accounting for eight total touchdowns (three passing, five rushing) in the team’s two wins.
Fairfield (4-0) @ Oak Hills (2-2) – 7:30 PM – Before the season started, no one would have thought that Oak Hills would be playing in such a meaningful Week 5 game. Both teams are looking for that rare 2-0 GMC start. The euphoria of being 4-0 for the first time in 20 years cannot linger any longer for Fairfield. This team needs to focus and make a strong case for a playoff berth.
Taylor (4-0, 1-0) @ Wyoming (2-2, 1-0) – 7:30 PM - Wyoming can put itself in the driver seat for a CHL crown if it can knock off the up-and-coming Yellowjackets. Taylor has everything to prove. This is the moment head coach Dave Hufman has been building for. Now it is up to his players to seize it.
Madeira (3-1) @ Reading (3-1) – 7:30 PM - All of the sudden Reading is in a position to become a serious contender for a Division V Region 18 playoff spot. The Blue Devils must take advantage of a wonderful opportunity in front of the home crowd and control their own destiny down the stretch of the CHL schedule. Madeira saw what level of intensity they need to bring last week when Wyoming ended the Mustangs' 12-game, regular-season winning streak, 55-20.
Summit Country Day (4-0, 1-0) @ CHCA (4-0, 1-0) – 7:30 PM - The biggest MVC game is here. Summit has won 18 straight regular season games. The Silver Knights have held 12 of those opponents to 10 points or fewer, including seven shutouts. CHCA is a veteran team whose defense has gone overlooked, allowing just 5 points per game with no one scoring more than seven. The Eagles’ offensive line can’t collapse to pressure from Indiana-commit Michael Barwick Jr. on the interior or it will be a long night for quarterback Conner Osborne.
Miamisburg (3-1) @ Troy (2-2) – 7:00 PM - Troy looks as if it has righted the ship after a second straight win to get back to .500. Running back Miles Hibbler will be the center of the offense for the Trojans. Both defenses know what the offenses will do: run. The pace on the ground will keep the clock moving. That means fewer possessions for both teams, making each one count even more. The Vikings face six teams in the first seven weeks from lower divisions, leaving them little margin for error for Level I Harbin Points.
Centerville (4-0) @ Naples, FL (3-0) – 7:30 PM - The Elks head to the Sunshine State and take on one Florida’s premier programs. The Golden Eagles may be good on their home turf, but no one has had an answer for Damian Popp and the Elks’ running game. Popp is averaging 211.8 yards per contest and 9.8 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns runs.
Indianapolis Chatard (3-2) @ Elder (3-1) – 7:30 PM - Elder got a huge dose of what Division I state championship caliber was all about when Lakewood St. Edward put a 48-7 hurting on the Panthers last week. Look for Elder to rebound at home this week against a tough Trojans’ squad that is just seven points away from being unbeaten. The Elder backfield needs to take it up a notch and show it has depth to walk out with the win.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.