CADIZ - It'll be the teacher vs. the pupil this week at Harrison Central. It's also a battle of unbeatens.
All of that aside, it's Harrison Central playing host to Martins Ferry in the opening week of Buckeye 8 League play, which means no other motivation is needed.
The Riders and Huskies will put their respective 3-0 marks on the line Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in a game that could have huge ramifications already in the Division IV, Region 15 playoff chase.
File Photo by Alex Kozlowski
Junior running back Nate Olmstead (21) is Harrison Central’s ‘Lightning’ to Maurtice Hython’s ‘Thunder.’ The Huskies play host to Martins Ferry on Friday.
Martins Ferry's Brian Styles
Harrison Central's Nick Pelegreen
The Huskies got to this point in the season thanks to victories against Wheeling Central, Weir and Caldwell.
''For the first time in a long time, we're fairly healthy going into Buckeye 8 play,'' Harrison Central coach Justin Kropka said. ''We're certainly happy to be 3-0 and we're looking forward to going against a very sound and talented Martins Ferry team.''
The Purple Riders, meanwhile, have been early season road warriors. They're preparing for their third bus trip of the campaign as they already own road victories against Heath and Ridgewood and routed Shenandoah in Week 2 at home.
''I certainly think that our seniors, who we expected to be good players, have filled that bill,'' Martins Ferry coach Dave Bruney said. ''I feel three or four of them are playing as well at their positions as anyone else in the Ohio Valley. We're tickled to death to be where we are and we're pleased with how our younger players have grown up rather quickly.''
The large amount of fans who are expected to converge at Harrison Friday might feel as if they're looking in a mirror as they watch the game.
''It's two similar teams playing each other'' Kropka said. ''A lot of the things that we do well are the same things that (Ferry) does well. We got a lot of the things we do, as a program, from Martins Ferry.''
Both teams have been fairly balanced on offense.
Harrison Central features workhorse tailback Maurtice Hython, who is one of the area's premier runners and leading rusher. He's carried the ball 47 times for 552 yards and five touchdowns. He's averaging 11.7 yards a rush.
''Harrison Central has a veteran team at a number of positions,'' Bruney said. ''They've got a lot of kids who've played a lot of football over the last four years and they always present a challenge because they've got tough kids and play so hard.''
While Hython is certainly the Huskies focal point, Bruney knows his team can't get too caught up in just shutting him down.
''Hython does everything you'd like your tailback to do because he's got good feet, he finishes runs well. But they've got other people capable, too,'' Bruney said.
Harrison Central senior quarterback Rashaen Mitchell has passed for 447 yards on an impressive 19 of 27 accuracy. He's thrown two touchdowns.
Mitchell's spreading the ball around well, too. Nate Olmstead and Josh Moore each have five receptions, Hython has caught four passes and senior Nick Pelegreen has made two catches.
The Riders defense has been suffocating with seniors Sean McGee and Zac Coole leading the way at the linebacker spot. Senior Cody Schau has been a ballhawk in the secondary.
''Ferry is a team that you have to take advantage of what they give you,'' Kropka said. ''You're not going to catch them out of position too often for some 70-yard play. They're disciplined and play well together.''
On the offensive side of the ball, the Riders have been impressive, scoring at nearly a 50 points per-game clip.
Senior Tyler Strama and junior Eric Flowers have split time at quarterback. Both have performed well as they've passed for 555 yards and six touchdowns.
Schau is the big-play threat in the passing game with 19 receptions for 343 yards and four scores. Junior speedster Brian Styles has made 10 receptions for 81 yards and junior Robert Vargo is a big target at tight end. He's made eight receptions for 97 yards and a score.
The Riders running game has also been impressive and it's used a bevy of options. Styles is the leading rusher with 170 yards and two scores, Brandon Laughman has 166 yards and three scores, while Marcus Sutton has 143 yards and two scores.
''Harrison Central has been good defensively,'' Bruney observed. ''To hold Wheeling Central to seven points was impressive. They're very athletic on defense.''
Pelegreen is the leading defensive player for Harrison Central with 39 tackles. Nate Maykowski has 24 stops, while Josh Legget, Niko Williams and Tyler Rose all have 21 tackles.