ADA — It all comes down to this.
For the seventh year in a row, the Northwest Conference football champion will be either Lima Central Catholic or Ada.
LCC won the NWC title in 2011, 2010, 2007 and 2006. Ada won the crown in 2009 and 2008.
And for the fourth straight year, the game between LCC and Ada will determine the champion.
In the series, LCC has won three of the last five meetings, including last year (56-14) and 2010 (35-21). Ada won in 2009 (31-24) and 2008 (28-21) to capture the title both years.
LCC (9-0, 7-0 NWC) travels to Ada (9-0, 7-0 NWC) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at War Memorial Stadium.
“The last five years there’s been an undefeated team (in the NWC) going for the title,” Ada coach Mike Fell said. “We’re 2-2 over the last four years against them. It’s been fun.”
LCC coach Jerry Cooper agreed.
“In my seven years at LCC it’s been a pretty intense game,” he said. “It usually decided who won the league. Almost every year both teams are in the playoffs and the game usually decides who is home (for the first round) and who is away.”
Both teams have similar numbers. LCC is averaging 38.1 points and giving up 11.5. Ada is scoring 42.1 and giving up 11.
The key for Ada this season has been offensive balance.
After graduating standout quarterback Konnor Baker, senior Mason Acheson has taken over. He’s completed 136 of 206 for 2,520 yards with 27 TDs.
“Mason appreciates the spot he’s in,” Fell said. “He hasn’t been a starter. He’s a great leader for us and pumps up the offense. … Besides (Kenton’s Grant) Sherman, I think he’s the best quarterback in the area.”
But, unlike many of Ada’s pass-happy years, the key this season is the running game. And that revolves around Kellen Decker, who has run for 1,468 yards (9.3 average-per-carry) with 19 TDs. He also has 15 receptions for 433 yards and six TDs.
“The key is Kellen Decker,” Fell said. “He’s also running back kicks and punts and is having as good a year as anyone in the state. With all these rainy nights this year, we’ve been running the ball a lot more.”
Overall, against the other team’s first team, Fell said his pass-to-run play ratio is about 50-50.
“He (Decker) jumps off the page how easily he makes guys miss with his slide he does, almost effortlessly,” Cooper said. “You can’t miss tackles on Decker.”
The Bulldogs also have a number of strong receiving targets this year. Micah Roberson (41 receptions, 710 yards, nine TDs), Matt Wilcox (36 receptions, 658 yards, six TDs) and Jake Ansley (35 receptions, 548 yards and five TDs) all have to be accounted for, as well as Decker.
“All those guys are pretty good,” Fell said. “They’ve been double-teaming Jake and that’s opened up the other guys.”
Ansley also plays middle linebacker and leads the team with 107 tackles. His brother, freshman Blake Ansley has 87 tackles from his linebacker slot. Wilcox, the free safety, has five interceptions.
LCC counters with plenty of speed and the possibility exists for explosive plays on nearly every down.
The power back is Jon Washington (756 yards, 6.9 average, seven TDs), with plenty of speed coming from Mykale Rogers (438 yards, 11.2 average, eight TDs). The backfield also includes quarterback Colin Stolly (237 yards, eight TDs), Kalito Lasenby (222 yards, four TDs), Ryan Pitts (206 yards) and Sam Huffman (115 yards).
“We’re pretty explosive and have so many guys who are fast who can rip off a big play,” Cooper said.
In the air, Stolly has completed 64 of 113 for 1,307 yards. He’s thrown 13 TDs and has four interceptions.
Another speedster, Darius West, leads the team in receptions (19 receptions, 383 yards, four TDs), along with Rogers (19 receptions, 295 yards, two TDs). Huffman had 12 receptions, 349 yards and five TDs.
With all LCC’s speed and talent, there have been games when they play played from behind until the second half. The T-Birds trailed Spencerville 20-7 with 2:37 left in the third quarter and were behind to Bluffton at the half.
But Cooper said, “The positive is our kids have shown up well in the big games. It’s disheartening, though, that we haven’t been more consistent. If we play consistent, we’re a good football team and have the potential to be really, really good.”
Fell said he fully expects LCC will come out ready to go on Friday.
“Both teams know what’s on the line,” he said.
Added Cooper, “They’re a good football team and they’re a lot like us.”