Alter (6-1), Chaminade Julienne (5-2), Hamilton Badin (5-2) and Cincinnati McNicholas (5-2) all have something more in common than having great high school football seasons.
All are in the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed Division in which crossover games count as divisional play. All will play each other in the final three weeks of the regular season. Most important, all are in Division III, Region 12.
That means league titles and playoff hopes are at stake.
“You’re playing for your playoff life right now,” assured CJ coach Marcus Colvin. “We all have a chance to win a GCL championship. It’s a great challenge and we look forward to it.”
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That back-loaded, regular-season challenge revs up with Week 8 games. On Friday, Alter is at Badin and on Saturday CJ is at McNick (1 p.m.). In Week 9, Alter plays McNick at Fairmont and Badin is at CJ. Finally, in Week 10, Alter is at CJ and Badin at McNick.
Whichever team gets through that without a loss will rocket up Region 12. Alter at No. 5 currently is in the best position and McNick is No. 6. CJ can do no better than No. 12 and Badin is No. 17. The top eight advance to the playoffs.
This wasn’t unexpected for D-III, Region 12. A divisional adjustment due to competitive balance loaded this region with high-end programs. Trotwood-Madison (7-0) is No. 1 and also No. 1 in the state.
CJ has taken the most unlikely path to get into contention for a league title and playoff spot. Like last year, the Eagles were taken out by unbeaten Marion Local and Miamisburg in Weeks 1-2. But unlike last season CJ has responded with five straight mostly blowout wins.
“We took it on the chin, but you learn a lot about yourself,” Colvin said. “Even in a loss, we found a way to get better.”
With a mostly underclass lineup, CJ staggered to 2-8 two years ago. Now, those starting sophomores are seasoned seniors. That includes quarterback Ryan Peltier and linebacker Rocky Stark. Peltier has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and has overseen an offense that has scored 218 points during the win streak.
CJ’s leading tackler, Stark anchors the defense and gets a major assist from junior Shane Cokes, a recruitable 6-foot-3, 212-pound hammer at defensive end. “He’s mad that the teams don’t run to him anymore,” Colvin said. “If you want to be good you’ve got to tackle the run and they really help us do that.”
Alter and CJ are in the North Division, Badin and McNick in the Central. Divisional titles likely won’t be decided until Week 10. Last year Alter blew out CJ’s five-game win streak in the regular-season finale, 51-3.
“We’re all in the same boat (D-III, Region 12) and we’re all battling the same fight right now,” Colvin said. “We all have to play each other to see who’s going to get (into the playoffs). It’s going to be an exciting last three weeks. It’s a great challenge and we look forward to it.”
• All four Greater Western Ohio Conference divisional titles likely won’t be secured until after Week 10 games. However, Troy (5-2, 2-0) is at Sidney (7-0, 2-0) on Friday in a matchup that will greatly impact the American North Division.
Troy has mounted a four-game win streak and has lost only to Trotwood in the opener and Bellefontaine (6-1), the Central Buckeye Conference’s best team. Fueled by power back Isaiah Bowser, Sidney has dodged Piqua (34-33) and Tippecanoe (49-42) the last two weeks.
Bowser is among the state’s leading rushers and should be in contention as Ohio’s Mr. Football. He needs 100 yards to hit 2,000 and has 24 touchdowns. Committed to Northwestern University, the senior put a season-high 413 yards rushing and six touchdowns on Xenia in Week 4.
• The GWOC National East will further shake itself out this week. Like those GCL Co-Ed rivals, all five East teams are in D-I, Region 3 and own a combined 28-7 record. Beavercreek (5-2) is at Springfield (5-2) and Fairmont (6-1) hosts Wayne (5-2) on Friday. Centerville (7-0) has a crossover game at Northmont (5-2), which has lost only to unbeaten Winton Woods and Wayne in double-overtime.
• Xenia’s first win last week — 28-14 at Stebbins — had special meaning for coach Trace Smitherman. He resigned at Stebbins to succeed Bob DeLong at Xenia last spring. West Carrollton (1-6) visits Xenia (1-6) on Friday. Stebbins (0-7) is at Trotwood (7-0).
• Minster (3-4) is a great example of benefiting from strength of schedule. The Wildcats are ranked No. 6 in D-VII, Region 28 despite having lost four straight games. But that skid is deceiving: Two of those defeats are by a combined two points and Minster played Marion Local within 14 points.
Awaiting Minster are New Bremen (3-4), Versailles (3-4) and Anna (6-1) in Midwest Athletic Conference play. A couple of wins should be enough to land Minster in the postseason. The Wildcats won a D-VI state title in 2014 and were a D-VII state runner-up last season.
• St. Henry (5-2) also is fighting for its D-VI, region 24 playoff life. The Redskins have lost only to Coldwater and Anna by a combined five points. Marion Local (7-0) must get past Fort Recovery (4-3), St. Henry and Parkway (1-6) to win a rare unbeaten and outright MAC title.