Mount Healthy (Photo by TriStateFootball.com)
The battle between Loveland's offensive line and Mount Healthy's front seven could decide the Division II regional championship Friday night.
No. 1 Loveland (12-0) vs. No. 2 Mount Healthy (11-1) @ at Lockland Roettger Field - Friday at 7:30 p.m. Follow on Twitter @TSFootball, #9fridayfrenzy
The last time these two Division II teams met was two falls ago on a crisp September night, as Loveland won, 13-7 in a gritty triumph. The game was hugely significant for Loveland, which was sitting at 1-4 before the victory. It was a night the sleeping giant began to awake from its slumber. An evening in which a group of sophomores gained the confidence and realized that not only could they win at this level, they could do it in the trenches with authority. Since that game, the now-Loveland seniors have gone 22-6 and ascended the program to unprecedented heights. Mount Healthy didn’t roll over and die after that loss. Like its opponent, Mount Healthy is playing for the program’s first ever regional title on Friday night. The current Mount Healthy seniors have led their team to a record 23-6 mark since last falling to the Tigers. With both squads putting so much hard work and dedication into being the best since that night, you can bet everything is going to be left on the field in this Region 6 battle .
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The massive Loveland offensive line, led by Division II First Team All-Southwest District selection Andrew Alten and Second Team member Camden Baucke, takes on the speed and athleticism of the Owls' front seven that includes the SWOC Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Lackey, his twin brother Justin, and Milan Lanier. Mount Healthy is giving up less than 80 yards per game while yielding just seven rushing touchdowns this season. Only twice have the Owls allowed runs of more than 20 yards in 410 rushing attempts by their opponents. That big Loveland O-line has paved the way for a rushing attack that averages more than 300 yards with 61 touchdowns rushing in 12 contests. The Tigers have had six runs of 80 or more yards and another 11 of 50 or more. These teams' rosters boast a combined three Southwest District Player of the Year honorees. Loveland defensive end Charlie Lawler followed up a First Team All-Southwest District performance as a junior with being named the 2013 Southwest District Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. Mount Healthy running back Tyree Elliott was the 2012 Offensive Player of the Year. Loveland tailback Nate Slagel won the same award this season. Slagel will not play in this contest after tearing his ACL in Week 8 against Walnut Hills. Elliott had his season cut short in a similar manner the year before. TEAM TRENDS: Over Loveland’s last 28 games (22-6) the Tigers have posted nine shutouts, held four more foes to seven points or fewer and another four to 15 or less. In that same span since last losing to Loveland, the Mount Healthy defense has been equally spectacular. The Owls have shut out four foes, held another eight to seven points or fewer and 10 more to less than 15. LOVELAND’S KEYS TO VICTORY: The Tigers have proven they can get big leads early and wear down opponents as the game progresses. Putting Mount Healthy in a position where it has to pass will take the Owls out of their comfort zone. The longer this game remains close, the better Mount Healthy’s chances of winning, and that is what Loveland needs to avoid. MOUNT HEALTHY’S KEYS TO VICTORY: Forcing third-down passing situations while getting pressure and hits on Loveland’s sophomore quarterback Drew Plitt will raise the intensity level of the defense and sidelines. Momentum and emotion will play a large role in the Owls quest for the title. PREDICTION: Loveland 20, Mount Healthy 10.
DIVISION IV #1 Alter (11-1) vs. #2 Clinton-Massie (11-1) @ Welcome Stadium, Univ. of Dayton - Friday at 7:30 pm - When the season began everyone was hoping to see these two Division IV squads in this game. They are the premier private school and public school at this level. Alter ran through the Greater Catholic League Co-ed Conference with relative ease. A young Clinton-Massie squad struggled early on to find an identity but has come on strong after realizing Falcon football never changes. They win the line of scrimmage and with a great back like Bayle Wolfe, Division IV Southwestern District Offensive Player of the Year, C-M is looking strong in its quest for a second straight state title. As much as these two defenses will be geared up to stop the run, don’t be surprised if a pass play makes a huge difference in the outcome of this contest.