There is still plenty on the line for East Clinton as it hosts Blanchester Friday night in Lees Creek.
The Astros have not been eliminated from playoff contention and with a win could extend their season.
Blanchester also has much on the line. An outright league title and improved playoff seeding with a chance of hosting a game in Week 11.
The game Friday night, outside of county bragging rights, is plenty big. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Blanchester has won six straight in the series and holds a 12-10 edge over the last 22 seasons. East Clinton’s last win was 21-20 in 2015. The Astros won the first-ever meeting on Nov. 13, 1970 in Blanchester, 27-8.
For now, though, there are two teams on the opposite end of the spectrum. Despite being no worse than co-champs of the SBAAC National Division, Blanchester (6-3) has lost some tough ones, including a 43-0 defeat at state-ranked Tri-Village last week.
“We played poorly for a number of reasons (against Tri-Village),” BHS head coach Jon Mulvihill said. “We are healthier now, so let’s move forward.”
With that loss clearly in the rear-view mirror for the Wildcats, Blanchester will focus on East Clinton and not Week 11, which is assured win or lose on Friday.
“There are zero thoughts of resting,” said Mulvihill. “These boys worked too hard this year to miss an opportunity on the field.”
Mulvihill said the Astros have played well recently, despite a 2-7 record.
“They are very young but have played some quality games of late,” he said. “They have some pretty good athletes, one of which I know pretty well. Dameon (Williams) played for me since he was 6 years old up until this year. He’s a Swiss army knife for them (on the field). He’s a great kid, too.”
The Astros, like the Wildcats, have struggled with injuries this season. Mulvihill said despite that he expects to see plenty of Williams and fellow back Glenn Peacock on Friday night.
East Clinton head coach Steve Olds said that’s no secret.
“I think it’s pretty obvious what our game plan is going to be,” said Olds. “Ideally, we run the ball well, pick up first downs and keep their offense off the field. That’s been the game plan all year and it will be no different this Friday. Executing that game plan is, as always, the key.”
To keep Michael Mulvihill, Bryce Sipple and other Wildcats off the field is a difficult task but one East Clinton must do to win this one.
“Blan is well coached and their kids play physical football,” said Olds. “They have the ability to line up and run right down your throat if they want, but can spread you out and throw the ball just as well. On defense we expect them to load the box and try to stop our running game. Bottom line, if we want to be successful on Friday then we need to be willing to stand in there and take their best punch and punch back.”
The Astros have just two seniors, Adran Baker and Isaiah Conger, who will be playing their final game on the field at ECHS.
“Even before the injuries we were an extremely young team, but I think everyone in our locker room understands the situation,” said Olds. “I looked out at our defensive line against Williamsburg two weeks ago and realized we didn’t have a junior or senior in the group. Our offensive line doesn’t have a senior in it either. So to say we are young is an understatement.”
Olds admits the 2022 season has not been easy for anyone but there’s still at least one game to go and bright future ahead, given the youngsters who’ve seen time on Friday nights.
“This season has been hard on everybody, so we have been trying to stay as positive as possible with our message. These boys hear enough negativity away from the locker room, they don’t need it from me as well,” said Olds. “For some of our players, we are the most positive and stable thing in their life. And that should not, and will not change no matter whether we are 8-2 or 2-8.
“As hard as this season has been, there is still a belief that we can and will be much better in the future. This season has been tough, yes, but we have been through tougher and those that stick it out will be stronger for it.”