By Ken Barhorst
Lehman backtracked to week one in their game last Friday night at Sidney Memorial Stadium. And that was a good thing.
Head coach Dick Roll said his Cavaliers played their best game since the season opener, when they lost just 21-20 to defending state champion Fort Recovery.
Roll has lamented the fact ever since that his Cavaliers hadn’t come close to duplicating that effort in games since then. But he changed his tune after Friday night’s 48-20 whipping of a good Lima Perry team in Northwest Central Conference play.
“We played our best game since the opening week,” Roll said. “We were more physical than we have been. We had some physicality that we haven’t had in a long time. For some reason we got away from it, but last week, we really lit them up.”
But just so his players don’t get too confident, Roll added “But we’re still not playing as good as we’re capable of.”
They may need to do that this week if they hope to survive and stay on track for a league title and a postseason berth. The Cavs’ 3-2 record is good enough for the No. 8 spot in this week’s Division 7, Region 28 rankings, and it’s the top eight that advance.
And they have a golden opportunity to make a big jump next week because Friday night’s game at Alexander Stadium in Piqua is against the 4-1 Riverside Pirates, who are No. 5 in the same region.
The Pirates won their opener over Arcanum, then lost to perennial power Mechanicsburg in week two, 36-6. They have since reeled off three in a row, over Cedarville (53-6), Fort Loramie in a tight battle (19-14) and last week over Ridgemont (63-6).
The Cavaliers may go into the game a little shorthanded. Jake Earhart, who rushed for 268 yards in the first four games, missed last week due to an injury, and as of Tuesday night, had not yet practiced this week either.
“He’s questionable again this week,” said Roll. “There are no broken bones or anything, so we’re hoping. But he hasn’t practiced all last week and yet this week.”
Owen Smith really picked up the slack in Earhart’s absence last week, however, carrying the ball 22 times for 157 yards and three touchdowns against Perry.
And sophomore quarterback Elliott Gilardi was on the money passing, hitting 12 of 19 attempts for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Dylan Arnold was on the receiving end of four of those passes, and Jared Rourke three.
And the defense held a high-powered Perry offense to just 109 yards on the ground and 149 through the air.
“For the most part, we were good on both sides of the ball,” Roll said. “I’m still a little critical of the offensive line play. There are some little things they’re doing and they know better. They just need to be consistent. They are capable, but sometimes I think they just lose concentration.”
Roll says this week’s game is a big one.
“It’s a critical game for the playoffs and the league,” he said. “It’s just a big game, period. Last year we were fortunate to sneak out of it with a win (26-21) and I’m sure they remember that. It was their only loss (of the regular season).
“They are well-coached and play solid on defense,” he added. “They set up to stop our run last year and they did. We think we’re better this year in week six than we were last year, but so are they. So we will see.”
NWCC standings — Riverside 2-0, 4-1; Lehman 2-0, 3-2; Lima Perry 1-1, 2-3; Upper Scioto Valley 1-1, 2-3; Fort Loramie 1-1, 1-4; Hardin Northern 1-1, 1-4; Ridgemont 0-2, 2-3; Waynesfield 0-2, 0-5.