Dick Roll remembers last season, and he’d rather not have a repeat Friday night at Sidney Memorial Stadium.
Fort Loramie lost its first four games before going on a winning streak. And caught in that streak were the Cavaliers, to the tune of 35-19 at Fort Loramie.
The two teams will meet for the last time in the forseeable future Friday night at Sidney Memorial Stadium. With Fort Loramie entering the Cross County Conference next year, it will have just two non-conference games, and they will be against Minster and Greenon (Springfield).
“For 2017 and 2018 we won’t be playing Lehman,” said Fort Loramie athletic director Damon Smith. “If it works out, we may pick it up again starting in 2019.”
Lehman’s three non-league games next season will be Fort Recovery, Miami East and Graham.
In Roll’s mind, it’s “been there, done that” as far as this week goes. Again this season, Fort Loramie lost its first four then embarked on a winning streak. And again, standing in the way of that streak continuing is Lehman.
“It’s the same as last year,” said Roll. “So we’ve told our kids, Fort Loramie has been there before and they are playing well right now.”
The Cavaliers also got off to a rocky start, losing to Fort Recovery and Minster. But they have won five in a row, so they also have a streak they would like to keep intact.
The game would appear to carry more importance for the Redskins than the Cavs. Lehman is unbeaten in the Northwest Central Conference at 4-0, and appears in good shape where the computer rankings are concerned, sitting in fourth place this week in their region of Division 7. And they will win their final two games against Ridgemont (2-5) and Waynesfield (0-7), so the Loramie game could mean home-field advantage in the first round of postseason play.
Fort Loramie, however, is down in 13th spot, five places away from No. 8, where the cutoff is for postseason play. A win over Lehman would be a big help, but the Redskins also have some good point games after that, with four-win (at this point) Upper Scioto Valley and three-win Lima Perry. The NWCC race is still in play, too, since Loramie is right behind Lehman at 3-1 in conference play.
“There’s a lot on the line,” said Fort Loramie coach Whit Parks. “Especially for us. I think we have to win this game, but you never know for sure. We’re trying not to talk about it much.”
Both teams are coming off lopsided wins last week. Lehman made the trek to Hardin Northern and, after falling behind 7-0, rolled to a 49-14 victory. Loramie started fast and never let up in drilling Ridgemont 61-12.
“Our varsity kids didn’t get to play a whole bunch,” said Parks. “And that’s not all bad with the injuries we’ve had. But the next three weeks are different kinds of games for us.”
Roll said his squad needed a wakeup call last Friday, and got one.
“The way that game started, there was no atmosphere whatsoever,” he said. “The game started and you could have heard a pin drop. They picked off a pass in the endzone, then scored a few plays later on a 40-yard screen pass when they caught us in a blitz. That touchdown was a wakeup call, and we controlled the game from that point. And a lot of kids got some playing time.”
Roll played Elliott Gilardi at quarterback. He had missed the previous week because of a consussion. “He’s fine now. He wouldn’t have played if he wasn’t.”
Gilardi is someone the Redskins will have to account for. He’s hit 57 percent of his passes for 968 yards and six touchdowns so far.
“They have a real wide assortment of athletes,” said Parks of the Cavaliers. “And that makes them difficult to prepare for. They have a lot of guys that can play and do a lot of things in the passing and running game. Their quarterback is a real difference-maker with the way he can throw it or pull it down and run.”
Running back Owen Smith rushed for 269 yards last week for the Cavaliers and is now the team’s leading rusher at 516 yards on the season. And Roll said Jake Earhart, who has been out with an injury, will see some action this week.
“Owen has turned into a nice running back,” said Roll. We lost Jake and Owen has stepped in. But it will be nice to have Jake back this week.”
Gilardi’s favorite targets are Kam Lee with 19 catches, the versatile Dylan Arnold with 17 catches and Brandon Barhorst with 13. Arnold filled in at quarterback when Gilardi couldn’t go, and also leads the defense with two interceptions.
The Redskins have also had to deal with injuries in the backfield, losing running back Carter Mescher for the season in week one. But like Lehman, Loramie has had someone step in and fill the void, with senior Jake Ward rushing for 722 yards so far this season, for a 120-yard average per game. And of late, Daniel Berning has performed well when taking the handoff.
“They will want to control the ball,” Roll said. “And we have to answer. There’s a lot of prep involved when preparing for them with that single wing.”
Parks said turnovers will be key.
“Any good, tough, physical game comes down to turnovers,” he said. “When I look back on our season, that’s what it’s come down to. So on both sides, taking care of the football will be key.”
Anna on the road
The Anna Rockets will try to recover from a tough loss last week in two overtimes to St. Henry, 24-17.
The loss knocked them out of the top eight in Region 20 of Division 5 in the computer rankings, so they have some work to do to get back to postseason play for the first time since 2010.
The Rockets should get back on track as they take their 4-3 record to Parkway Friday to face the 1-6 Panthers.
Anna running back Aiden Endsley had a big night for the Rockets, rushing for 129 yards on 23 carries, scoring a touchdown and also kicking a field goal.
The Rockets are ninth in this week’s computer poll, and Friday’s game won’t provide a lot of points with a win. So it may come down to the final two weeks against Coldwater at home and on the road against Minster in week ten.
Reach Ken Barhorst at 937-538-4818