As fervent readers may or may not have noticed, my byline wasn’t in the C-N sports section on Saturday or Tuesday from weekend events.
That’s for a good reason. My younger brother got married in Charlevoix, Michigan over the weekend and I was honored enough to serve as his best man in an absolutely wonderful ceremony and reception near Lake Michigan.
Because of that, I missed the action Friday night on the gridiron scene and the last week of the regular season for cross country and volleyball, along with state golf.
Now for some of the rest of you out there, your focus may not have been on some of the storylines that have come out throughout this season, so I thought this would make a wonderful opportunity to catch everybody up as league races heat up and tournament brackets take shape.
Hopefully by the end of it, we should all be on the same page.
Let’s start with cross country, shall we?
Though they’re in two different divisions, the story on the boys side in the area this year has been the dueling record-breakers themselves in Defiance’s Mhalicki Bronson and Ayersville’s Noah Fisher. Bronson smashed his own school record at the Portage (Mich.) Invitational a few weeks ago, nearly finishing under the 15-minute mark, and just Saturday claimed the individual Western Buckeye League crown for the team champion Bulldogs.
Fisher, a University of Findlay commit, hasn’t been far behind, claiming the Green Meadows Conference championship on Saturday by nearly a full minute and blazed to a 15:21.41 effort in August at the Defiance Early Bird.
Though the two won’t compete against each other in the postseason, Ottawa Park may be the place to be if you enjoy seeing athletes compete at their best.
Bronson and Fisher are far from the only runners to watch, however.
Stop me if you’ve heard it before: Multiple Willett sisters could compete for spots on the podium. Though before it was Gabbi and Emma, this time senior Raena and freshman Elisabeth finished first and third at the GMC championships and will likely continue their stellar run to the postseason. Ayersville’s Teryn Bour, Liberty Center’s Hope Oelkrug, Archbold’s Kylie Sauder, Bryan’s Audrey Zimmerman, the list just goes on and on.
On the hardwood, Division III’s Defiance District is as loaded as any in the volleyball postseason in the area. Down from Division II, the Ottawa-Glandorf Titans finished the regular season at No. 1 in the state in Division III.
Tinora raced to the Division III state semifinals last season and won the GMC this year en route to a two-loss season. They’re there too. Wauseon was a D-II regional semifinalist, they’re in Division III now.
Fairview is 20-2 this year. 20-2. That got a three seed in the district. Again, just like at Ottawa Park, Defiance’s gem of a gym will be a must-visit for volleyball action in districts next week.
Finally, it appears Mother Nature finally got with the program these last few weeks, Friday’s rain aside. Now that we’re well into October the weather finally feels like football weather and we can narrow our focus to all the games with stakes and perform our favorite task: project towards the future.
In Division IV, Wauseon is not only perhaps the surprise team of the area but maybe also a real contender in Region 14. Even if the Indians drop both of their toughies against Patrick Henry this week and against Archbold in week 10, it’s likely Wauseon will be back in the postseason as an eight seed. A win in either gets a narrow shot at a home game and sweeping both would mean not only the team’s first NWOAL crown since 2015 but a home game at Harmon Field.
Ottawa-Glandorf, probably the next biggest surprise in terms of powerhouse status, is the only Western Buckeye League unbeaten left and can flex their muscles down the stretch with games Friday at Defiance and then against Kenton and Wapak to finish the year. Talk about differing styles. A win against either one of those last two would mean a home game for Titan fans.
Personally, I have no idea how anyone is expected to predict a regional champion for Division VI Region 23.
Going by Drew Pasteur’s Fantastic 50 website, Gibsonburg could literally win every game they play and not make the postseason in that region. The worst record of any team in that region, according to projections, is 8-2. Coldwater, Minster and Anna, battle-tested as any by the powerful MAC, would all be in the fold, along with D-V regional champion Liberty Center, regional runner-up Fairview and a powerful Archbold team that has proven their mettle in an equally rugged NWOAL. Oh and Lima Central Catholic and high-flying Allen East too. Mix up all eight teams in any set of matchups and the possibilities are endless in that postseason trek.
Finally, Division VII has a potential for a ton of bruising matchups with teams that want to punch you in the mouth like Edgerton, McComb, Patrick Henry, Norwalk St. Paul and Leipsic. But don’t forget about the aerial attack from Edon. Scott Staten’s kids have rebounded from a 1-3 start with three straight wins and a real possibility of ending the year with six wins in a row.
And that’s what makes all this fun. Anyone else’s guess is as good as mine as to who’s going to take home gold in the GMC with Fairview and Tinora looking for league supremacy, in the NWOAL with LC, Wauseon, Archbold and PH all staking claims to the top and in the WBL and NWC with plenty left to be decided.
Before I finish this piece out, here’s a hodgepodge of some things that I’ve been thinking about…
SCHEDULING: Look, it wasn’t my idea to put Ohio State-Northwestern on Friday night. It wasn’t Ohio State’s either. It definitely wasn’t the high school coaches in the state. But a great deal of major programs in the country have played on Friday nights in the past so it was bound to happen here. Defiance and O-G made the choice to move up their game time to 6 p.m., and perhaps some other teams might too. But this is the world we live in, where TV ratings and networks are much more of a decider of things than we’re probably comfortable with.
Also, due to rain in the forecast in New York for the ALCS, Game 5 got pushed to Friday on FS1, the scheduled channel for OSU-Northwestern. This means, with WWE SmackDown on Fox, the Buckeyes will be shifted to Big Ten Network.
LOOKING AHEAD: It’s wild to think about but the first day of practice for hoops is just nine days away on the girls side and 16 days away for the boys. Don’t forget, if the area is lucky enough to have a representative at the state tournament, don’t drive to the Schottenstein Center. The 2020 girls state tourney will be held at venerable St. John Arena instead.
EIGHT-MAN GAME: I don’t know what the future holds for eight-man football across the state next year or even further down the line. But I am certain it’s definitely not a one-off scenario. With the Northern 8 Conference already setting up shop and potentially more schools being open to the possibility, I do believe more and more teams will become warmer to the idea of competing in a new and exciting form of football that allows them to be more competitive. It’s also exciting to see this area of the state be at the forefront of a new change.