Lakers, Pirates both host football playoff games this weekend

By Tom Stephens

Both Indian Lake and Riverside will be hosting OHSAA football playoff games this weekend. It’s the Lakers’ first ever trip to the postseason, while its been ten years since Riverside appeared in Week 11. What follows is a short primer on how both teams got there and what to expect now that they’ve made it.

Div IV, Region 12

#5 Ottawa-Glandorf (7-3) at #4 Indian Lake (8-2)

Saturday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: Indian Lake gets to play its first ever OHSAA football tournament game and they get to play it at home. Laker fans have been waiting for this moment for five decades. Cue hysteria.

What to watch for: Laker fans having a mass dissociative episode around 7:30 p.m. Saturday night. Those who rah for the Red, Black, and White are a full-throated bunch and have been anticipating this moment for 50 years. The expected SRO crowd of Laker faithful will no doubt be well-tuned and in fine tenor come kick-off time.

Ottawa-Glandorf comes into the game having last made the playoffs in 2012 following seven straight appearances and a regional title in 2009. Indian Lake head coach Dave Coburn said that the Titans’ offense is a ‘mirror’ of the Lakers’ own, as the Titans, too, like to mix it up between the run and air game. Two-thirds of their total yards came via the pass this season, but O-G still averaged over 134 ypg running the ball. Like the Lakers, the Titans will beat you with whatever happens to be working, be it on the ground or through the air.

How it shakes out: O-G comes out of the WBL, where the ‘B’ stands for ‘Brutal’. Every year the Titans have to play Wapak, St. Mary’s, Kenton, Celina, and Bath, schools which literally have hundreds of collective playoff football victories and four or five state titles between them (O-G is an even .500 with a 11-11 record in the tourney). Throw in annual games against Defiance and Elida and one can see why a 7-3 record earned the Titans a #5 seed. No matter how zany its going to get in Lewistown Saturday night (and it’s going to get zany, believe it), the Titans aren’t going to let the noise distract them. This ain’t their first rodeo.

Having no playoff history of their own, the Lakers are looking to establish a tradition starting this week. While the WBL may resemble the old Norris Division of the National Hockey League, the Central Buckeye Conference is no walk in the park. Both of the Lakers’ losses this season came in CBC-crossover games to Week 11 contenders Kenton Ridge and Tipp, each of which came this close to losing those games to the Lakers.

The Lakers have honed their poker-faced act in blowing through the MRD, so don’t look for them to get rattled either. Cool-as-the-center-seed-in-a-cucumber QB Alex Jacobs has been running the Laker offense with brains and poise, whether pitching it out to Cole Merritt, tossing it downfield to Collin Coburn, or just tucking it in and breaking off a big run. The game may very well come down to Laker Connor Davis’ right toe, which is not a bad thing, Davis being able to split the uprights from way downtown. In a game against Northwestern, he kicked an extra-point that landed in Waynesfield.

Why go to the game: You’re kidding, right? Laker fans are exercising their vocal chords and painting themselves Red, Black, and White as we speak. Expect a good-sized percentage of Logan County to be on hand in Lewistown Saturday, with half of the locals rooting for the Lakers and the other half (Ben Logan fans, mostly) cheering against them. To quote Sterling Archer, it’s going to be be epic.

Prediction: Indian Lake 26, Ottawa-Glandorf 23. I haven’t a clue just how good (or bad) Ottawa-Glandorf is, but Indian Lake has the moxie to hang with anybody (see Tippecanoe) and I gotta like their chances, especially since they will be playing at home. Plus, If I picked against the Lakers, Jamie Ross might let all of the air out of the tires of my car on my next visit to the school.

Div. VII, Region 26

#5 Ada Bulldogs (6-4) at #4 Riverside (9-1)

The skinny: After literally coming within two points of making the playoffs in 2014, Riverside left no doubt this year, grabbing a spot in the tourney after Week 9, and a home game in Week 10. The Pirates have made several appearances in the playoffs over the years, but have never won a game in Week 11. They are looking to change that Friday in DeGraff.

What to watch for: Two completely different approaches to the game. Riverside is run oriented, and why shouldn’t they be? Connor Cotterman has run for over 1,500 yards this season, and should a defense should key on him, Hayden Robinson, Peyton Scherer, Gavin Anderson, and Joey Kaeck all have the sand to break off a long run or two. QB Trey Helmlinger has gotten better each week and will on occasion air it out, but the Pirates make their living running the ball and its doubtful that they are going to alter that winning strategy Friday.

Far different Ada. Riverside head coach Tim McGill said that the Bulldogs throw it about 90 percent of the time. They are big up front, run a lot of no-back sets, put five players out wide and would send the water-boys and cheerleaders downfield if allowed. Ada looks to pass first, second, third, and it that doesn’t work, pass for a fourth time. Expect the Pirate secondary to get a work out.

How it shakes out: Ada is one of four teams from the Northwest Conference – including Crestview, Delphos Jefferson, and Spencerville – to make it into Week 11. Riverside is one of three Northwest Central Conference teams to make it into the tourney, as Lehman and Ft. Loramie both made the cut (this after the Redskins started the season 0-4), with Upper Scioto Valley just missing out. Both the Bulldogs and Pirates have been tossed in the crucible of a tough league schedule, so neither team will have the deer-in-the-headlights expression on their faces two minutes after the initial kick-off.

Why go to the game: Riverside fans will be hanging from the rafters and frothing at the mouth, and Ada is expected to bring the better part of the village population to DeGraff come Friday. Forget the $100 seats and $12 hot dogs. There will be no TV timeouts, replays, confabs with the booth in New York, or two-minute warnings. This is American football at its core.

Prediction: Riverside 73, Ada 2. Full disclosure: My daughter is a senior at Riverside, is her class president, cheers for the team, and dates one of the square-headed football players. No offense to Ada, but if the Pirates were traveling to Foxboro to play the Patriots, I’d make the New England two-touchdown dogs. I may be crazy, but I’m no fool.

Ticket prices for playoff football games are determined by the OHSAA. Pre-sale tickets for the both the Indian Lake and Riverside playoff games are available for $8 at the respective school offices during normal school hours. Tickets at the gate will cost $9. The schools receive a percentage of the gate receipts.

Both schools will also be charging parking fees for the games, in accordance with OHSAA directives, with Indian Lake charging $3 and Riverside asking for $2 per vehicle.

Both schools have pre-game activities scheduled with pep rallies at the schools and fans from both Indian Lake and Riverside expect to show up early for tailgating parties prior to each game.

By Tom Stephens