COLUMBUS GROVE — After going from two wins last year to a seven win season, a share of the Northwest Conference crown and a spot in the postseason, many might think Columbus Grove is content with what it has accomplished this year and the postseason is the icing on the cake.
After all this is the Bulldogs’ first playoff appearance in four years and their first NWC crown since 2005.
However, Columbus Grove is looking to rack up more wins as the Bulldogs enter the first round of the Division VI against Carey at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I don’t think our goal was to just get to the playoffs,” Schafer said. “I think it was to do a little damage. It was the reason we had the schedule we had.”
Schafer said the seeds of the turnaround were planted last season when the Bulldogs, with four seniors, were forced to play a lot of young guys. And while that did not translate into wins, it gave the enthusiastic Bulldogs experience.
A heartbreaking one-point loss to Bluffton in the final game of last season served as a motivator for the team this year but after opening the season against state-ranked Leipsic and Pandora-Gilboa it appeared the Bulldogs had a lot more work to do.
But in week three the hard work and perseverance paid off when the Bulldogs downed Patrick Henry, which went 7-3 and also made the playoffs. From that point, the Bulldogs began producing wins.
Since week three, Columbus Grove has gone 7-1. The lone blemish was a two-point loss, 23-21, to Spencerville on Oct. 5.
“It was a rough go early on so we looked at our guys and we said ‘we need a quality win,’” Schafer said. “We beat Patrick Henry. They (Patrick Henry) were 0-2 at that point but our kids could see they were good and I honestly think once we beat Patrick Henry they got that monkey off our back and we knew we were going to be good and right after that game we were talking conference championship and playoffs.”
Since that loss, Columbus Grove has three straight wins including a 42-13 victory against Bluffton in the regular season finale.
“Every game got us a little more prepared
The emergence of quarterback Blake Reynolds has added the necessary spark to the Bulldogs’ offense that also features a host of receivers in Caleb Barrientes, Trevor Taylor and Gabe Clement as well as running back Garrett Nemire. The sophomore signal caller has passed for 1,173 yards and 15 touchdowns with three interceptions. The trio of receivers have combined for 54 catches, 981 yards and eight touchdowns. Nemire spearheads the Grove’s ground game. The talented tailback has accumulated 910 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.
Defensively, Grove was third in the NWC in total yards allowed, yielding an average of 243 yards a game. On the ground, the Bulldogs have surrendered an average of 142.9 yards a game.
Schafer said the Bulldogs will focus on Carey running back Jordan Dasher who has 679 yards and eight touchdowns. Carey quarterback Ethan Beringer has passed for 1,136 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions.
As a team Carey, which has won its last three games, is averaging 35.6 points and giving up 20.6 points a contest.
“Carey is a very physical team, but we have seen it. You can’t tell me Spencerville isn’t a physical team” Schafer said. “We’ve seen it. We have played with it and we will see what happens.”
Division III - Region 12
vs. Wapakoneta (9-1)
Wapakoneta is looking to continue the momentum of winning a thrilling 26-24 game against St. Marys to capture a share of the Western Buckeye League title but the Redskins will have their hands full against a familiar foe in Trotwood-Madison.
The Rams come into the game on a two-game losing streak after losing to Xenia 29-29 and then fell to 41-25 in overtime to Wayne. Trotwood-Madison is averaging 34.1 points and giving up 18.4 points a contest.
Rams’ quarterback Cooper Stewart has passed for 856 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 232 yards and seven touchdowns. Dae’Vontay Latimer is the Rams’ leading ground gainer with 584 yards and eight touchdowns. Justin Stephens is Trotwood-Madison’s leading receiver with 23 catches for 307 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Tyler Wilcox leads the club in tackles with 94 and defensive end Kennedy Coates has recorded 7.5 sacks.
Division VII - Region 24
Covington (7-3) at
Lima Central Catholic (8-1)
Lima Central Catholic will look to return to its winning ways after dropping the season finale, 21-14, to state-ranked Division VI Lucas.
After losing its first three games to playoff-bound Minster, St. Henry and Ft. Loramie, the Buccs have put together a seven-game winning streak.
The Buccs, who come into the game posting back-to-back shutouts, are giving up an average of 13.4 points a contest. Parker Dysinger leads the club in tackles with 115 and sacks with 12
Offensively, Covington is averaging 32.5 points a game. Quarterback Joe Schmelzer, through nine games, has more than 1,000 yards passing and 13 touchdowns. Andrew Cates is the leading receiver with 367 yards and five touchdowns.
at Marion Local (9-1)
Marion Local dispatched Spencerville last year in the postseason and the Bearcats will try to avoid that same fate Friday night.
The Bearcats come into the game with three different running backs with more than 1,000 yards rushing. The trio of Cannan Johnson (1,113), Kale Lee (1,079) and Joel Lotz (1,044) combined for 42 touchdowns.
Marion Local is giving up an average of 10.8 points on defense compared to scoring 38.6 points per contest.
Flyer quarterback Nathan Bruns has passed for 1,669 yards and 16 touchdowns with seven interceptions. On the ground, Nolan Habodasz has carried the ball 151 times for 989 yards and 15 touchdowns. Nick Tangeman is the top receiver with 33 catches for 808 yards and 11 touchdowns.
In six of its games, Marion Local has given up seven or less points.
St. Henry (8-2) at
St. Henry comes into the game on a four-game winning streak. The Redskins are averaging 35.2 points and giving up 9.5 points per game. In all but two games, opponents scored more than eight points on the Redskins.
Mechanicsburg comes into the game after losing to Fairbanks 21-14 in overtime.
The Indians are averaging 33.6 points a game, giving up only 7.2 points a contest. Mechanicsburg has five shutouts this season.
Indians quarterback Logan Hurst has passed for 619 yards and four touchdowns. The Indians’ duo of Aaron Conley and Logan Hurst have combined to rush for 1,074 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Cincinnati Deer Park (7-3)
at Coldwater (8-2)
Coldwater comes into the game averaging 30.9 pointsand giving up 18.2 points a game. Cavalier running back Mitch Niekamp leads the team in rushing with 520 yards and 10 touchdowns. The duo of Ben Wenning and Jake Hemmelgarn have combined for 720 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Through the air, Hemmelgarn has passed for 1,975 yards and 23 touchdowns. Cole Frilling has hauled in 49 catches for 585 yards and nine touchdowns and Wenning has grabbed 35 balls for 416 yards and three touchdowns.
For Cincinnati Deer Park, the Wildcats are averaging 27.3 points and giving up 21 points a contest. Deer Park quarterback Jerry Heard has thrown for 349 yards and four touchdowns. Heard has amassed 553 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns. Dae’von Bryant is the Wildcats’ leading ground gainer with 738 yards and seven touchdowns.