After the Riverside football squad trampled Waynesfield-Goshen Oct. 23, they accomplished something that no Riverside football team has done for a decade: The Pirates made it to the OHSAA football playoffs, earning the berth in Div. VII, Region 26 with an 8-1 record and one week left in the regular season.
Given the state of affairs of the Riverside football team a mere four years ago, the fact that the Pirates are jostling for a state title in 2015 is nothing short of astounding. Riverside came within a hair’s breadth of folding the team for lack of interest in 2011, being only able to suit up 19 or 20 kids. Riverside elected to keep the program going, but the Pirates took their lumps in a big way.
In the 2011 season the Pirates won one game, and that by forfeit. That year the Pirates lost by scores of 53-0, 51-0, 63-0, 69-0, and gave up 70 points in another game. 2012 was no better, Riverside again winning but one game, which was not sanctioned by the OHSAA (the Pirates were playing a club team), posting four more goose eggs on the scoreboard and giving up just under 50 points per game.
Enter Tim McGill. He took over the program as the head coach in 2013 and scoured the halls of Riverside High School, putting a uniform on every kid he could get his hands on. In his first year, the Pirates went 5-5, winning as many games in one season as the Pirates had in total the past three years.
Riverside’s climb continued last year, the Pirates in playoff contention literally until the last play of the regular season, when Ft. Loramie converted on a two-point try with no time on the clock to shock the Pirates, 22-21, the Redskins snatching the final playoff spot away from the Pirates and keeping it for themselves.
No such problems this season. With but one blemish on their record, a 26-21 loss at home to Sidney Lehman in Week 5, the Pirates have been hovering around the fourth and fifth slots in the Region 26 since the first computer rankings came out. Depending on how the chips fall in Week 10, Riverside stands a good chance of hosting its playoff game, the top four teams in each region being awarded that honor.
It’s a far different for a school district a short 10 miles due north of DeGraff, known to one and all as Indian Lake. While the Lakers have had good teams over the years, they have never earned the computer points needed to make it into one of those coveted top eight slots in each region. This season the Lakers are in Div. IV, Region 12 and as this piece hits your mailbox, they hold the #7 spot in Region 12, meaning that if the season ended today, the Lakers would make in the playoffs.
But the season doesn’t end today, it ends a Oct. 30 with short trip across Logan County to visit Benjamin Logan in a rivalry that can best be described as deeply heartfelt by both schools. Be it football, volleyball, golf, chess club, or spitting watermelon seeds, one can bet that when the Lakers and Raiders get together for a competition, both teams come loaded for bear, elk, moose, and water buffalo. Few things are more satisfying to Laker fans than beating the snot out of the Raiders, and the feeling is returned by Raider fans with interest.
One of the things at stake in the the Laker/Raider showdown is the CBC Mad River Division Championship. Both teams are 4-0 in the MRD, both having weed-whacked through the MRD schedule, so it’s only appropriate that Week 10 is a title game between the two best teams. The winner gets the hardware for the showcase. That part is simple enough.
But here is where it starts to get hinky as far as the playoffs for the Lakers go, because it is here were the computers come into play. Using a formula that is tougher to decipher than a Higgs-Boson particle, it breaks down thus: In addition to the points that are awarded to Team A for beating Team B, Team A earns secondary and tertiary points if Team B turns out to be a killer that wins a bunch of games. If Team B happens to be in a higher division than Team A – witness Div. IV Indian Lake beating Div. III Bellefontaine in Week 4 – more points are awarded. No additional weight is given to bigger schools that defeat schools in lower divisions. This is why Lakewood St. Edward and Cincinnati Colerain refuse to schedule Marion Local. First, it would be a shame to drive all the way to Maria Stein just to have the Flyers eat your lunch. Second, in the unlikely event that St. Ed or Colerain could beat Marion Local, neither would earn any secondary points because Marion Local is one-sixth their size. By contrast, the Flyers pounding the Eagles or Cardinals would earn them enough points to let them take a vacation for the last two weeks of the regular season.
Here’s is where Indian Lake sits headed into Week 10. To make it into the playoffs, the Lakers have to beat the Raiders, no ifs, and or buts. Barring the ground opening and swallowing half of Region 12, the Lakers gotta win to get in. Should they beat the Raiders – this being no sure thing as the Raiders can drop points faster than Steph Curry – the Lakers would earn points via the games that Ben Logan won over the course of the year, and vice versa. For this same reason, Laker fans are rooting for Bellefontaine to win out. They need those Div. III points.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.