KINGS MILL, Ohio - Stakes are high with only two weeks left in the season. That is definitely the case for our U.S. Marines Battle of the Gridiron Series contest that sees Loveland at Kings. The visiting Tigers are playing their best football of the year and are in need of a signature win to get back into the playoff hunt.
Kings knows that Loveland wants to play the role of spoiler. The Knights must be prepared to take a punch and get back up, off the canvas. The Tigers will be relentless in their attack in this matchup between Eastern Cincinnati Conference rivals. It will be a fight for both team’s postseason lives.
LOVELAND TIGERS (4-4, 4-1) at KINGS KNIGHTS (6-2, 2-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m at Kings Stadium
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PLAYERS TO WATCH: Injuries kept Lovleand all-time leading rusher Luke Waddell out for three games. He has come back to run for a combined 291 yards on 21 carries with five touchdowns in the Tigers' last two tilts. Sophomore Riley Hamill has started the last two games at quarterback. He threw for his first two touchdowns last week against Glen Este. Junior Ryan Batsch has a team- high five interceptions and eight picks in his career.
The Kings offense all gets started with quarterback Tyler Knecht. He is 17 yards shy of 6,000 passing for his career. Knecht has accounted for 83 touchdowns (44 passing, 39 rushing) at the varsity level. Sophomores Jake Stylski and Nak’emon Williams have combined to run for 483 yards and seven touchdowns in the Knights' last two contests. Paving the way for them up front is Nebraska-bound offensive lineman Matt Sichterman. His brother Dan Sichterman has committed to Ball State and leads the Kings' defense with 12 sacks. Secondary hound Grant Coleman has a league-high seven interceptions.
TEAM TRENDS: Kings has held Waddell to under 40 yards rushing twice in their three meetings. The other game he ran for 233 yards. The Knights defense has forced 21 turnovers (17 interceptions). Fifteen of those takeaways have come in the last five weeks.
Loveland is 21-1 in games played after Sept. 30 under head coach Fred Cranford. For Loveland, it is all about moving the chains. The Tigers have converted just 31.1% (24-77) of their third downs. The good news is that Loveland has kept drives alive, converting 12 of its last 16 fourth-down tries.
LOVELAND’S KEYS TO VICTORY: Giving the Knights defense an overdose of Waddell isn’t a bad thing. The more the ball is in his hands the better the Tigers' chance of winning. Catching the ball out of the backfield is imperative. It will keep Kings from stuffing the box to stop the run.
KINGS’ KEYS TO VICTORY: The Knights will bring pressure. Hamill is in his third game and has yet to face a team that has the speed on defense that Kings has. Building a two-score advantage by the third quarter will force the Tigers young signal-caller into situations he hasn’t been in. That could lead to some big turnovers.
Prediction: KINGS 28, LOVELAND 17