Northeastern to begin defense of OHC North title

SPRINGFIELD — With the 2023 high school football season officially at its midway point, the division championship races in both the Central Buckeye Conference and the Ohio Heritage Conference will begin in Week 6.

The Northeastern Jets find themselves in an unfamiliar position: defending champions.

The Jets completed their first 10-0 season in 30 years last season, claiming the OHC North title for the first time since 2003. Northeastern graduated 10 seniors from that squad, including OHC North Player of the Year Cade Houseman.

The Jets have picked up right where they left off last season. They’re 4-1 this season, including a 28-21 victory over previously unbeaten Cedarville last week.

“I felt like that win on Friday was our first win of turning the page from last year,” said Jets coach Jake Buchholtz. “A lot of our kids had success because we had success last year and I think we were still riding the coattails of some of those seniors from last year. This was kind of that win that turned the page from last season. It was this team’s win and we’re officially a new team. I was happy for our kids to go out and get that one.”

The Jets open divisional play against undefeated West Liberty-Salem (5-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Tiger Stadium. Northeastern has won three straight since falling to Riverside 23-22.

Since 2018, five of the six OHC North teams have won or earned a share of the division title. This year, all but two OHC North teams — Fairbanks (2-3) and Triad (0-5) — have a winning record.

“I don’t think there’s any team in the North that can overlook another North team,” Buchholtz said. “We’re happy with the position we’ve put ourselves in through the first (five games), but I told our guys it’s kind of like a new chapter in conference play. … It’s going to have to be one game at a time.”

Last season, the Jets led WLS 16-10 in the third quarter before scoring 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win 33-10.

“We struggled with them last year,” Buchholtz said. “That was a tough game for us last year, probably one of the hardest, if not the most competitive game we played all season up until the playoffs. … We know it’s going to be a good atmosphere and they’re going to want to get one on us.”

In last Friday’s game against Cedarville, Northeastern scored a late touchdown on a 40-yard scramble by sophomore quarterback Diezel Taylor to win the game.

With five games under his belt, Taylor is starting to get comfortable under center after taking over for Houseman, Buchholtz said. He’s thrown for 801 yards and 10 TDs while completing 61.6 percent of his passes. He’s also rushed for 143 yards and three TDs.

“(Taylor) understands the offense and understands the speed of the game,” he said. “He got some reps last year, but really being the dude under center this year, I think he’s starting to understand how to read defenses for us. ”

There are several other key matchups set to open divisional play that could decide championships over the next five weeks.

Here’s a look at each division:

OHC South Division

Greeneview (2-3) is seeking its third straight South Division title. The Rams beat Triad 31-0 last week after dropping three straight games to teams with a combined 14-1 record — Waynesville, West Jefferson and West Liberty-Salem.

Cedarville is 4-1 and is seeking their first-ever Ohio Heritage Conference title. Southeastern (3-2) hasn’t won a league title since OHC’s inaugural season in 2001.

CBC Mad River Division

A new champion will be crowned in the Mad River Division this fall. Last year’s champ Urbana moved to the Kenton Trail Division with Shawnee taking their place in the small school Mad River Division.

The Braves are 4-1 this season and are seeking their first division title in over a decade. Shawnee travels to North Union for the first time ever this week. The Wildcats won the Mad River title outright in 2021 and shared it with Indian Lake in 2020.

At 2-3, Northwestern has its most wins since 2020. They’re seeking their first division title since 2018 and host Benjamin Logan (0-5) at Taylor Field.

CBC Kenton Trail Division

The CBC big school division will be a battle again as five teams have winning records this fall.

Division play opens with two huge matchups in Week 6. Two-time defending champion London (5-0) travels to Bellefontaine (4-1), while unbeaten Urbana (5-0) travels to Jonathan Alder (4-1) this week. Tecumseh (2-3) travels to Clark County rival Kenton Ridge (3-2).

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