September 28, 2015

The regular season is half over and GWOC teams now head into divisional games, with a great slate of games for Friday night.  Northmont (1-4) visits Beavercreek (4-1), Wayne (5-0) is at Springfield (2-3), and Fairmont (2-3) travels to Centerville (2-3).  Here’s a quick look at each of the teams in the GWOC Central as we get set for league play:

BEAVERCREEK — many in the media projected Beavercreek to be down again this year, following a 3-7 season a year ago.  But the Beavers returned the bulk of their roster, including most of their offensive line and one of the GWOC’s best running backs a year ago, senior Tim Bradshaw.  The Beavers running game has been strong thus far, averaging 309.2 yards on the ground per game.  Bradshaw has again led the Beavers’ attack with 792 yards and 9 touchdowns through 5 games.  But the biggest improvement this year, and the reason the Beavers are sitting at 4-1 is their defense.  Last year, the Beavers struggled to stop both the run and the pass, while giving up over 35 points per game.  This year, the Beavercreek defense has been stingy against the run and solid against the pass, yielding only 14.8 points per game and boasting the league’s 4th ranked rush defense.  OUTLOOK: The Beavers could contend if they continue to protect the football and avoid turnovers.  While the Beavers rely heavily on the run and controlling the clock, they have shown that they can throw the ball, as senior QB Hunter Maloney has thrown a pair of touchdown passes this season.

CENTERVILLE — Defending Central champion Centerville enters league play at 2-3, having dropped contests to Fairfield, Springboro, and Elder.  Those teams are each 4-1.  Centerville has wins over Trotwood Madison and Lebanon.  Centerville lost a large senior class a year ago but was bolstered by some key transfers, including senior QB Jacob Harrison who was a three-year starter at Chaminade Julienne and a Navy commit.  Harrison has thrown for 1,274 yards and 13 touchdowns, with only one interception.  He has added another 299 yards rushing and four scores.  Offense has not been an issue for the Elks, a team averaging 426 yards and 39 points per game.  But the defense is allowing over 524 yards and 41.8 points per game.  OUTLOOK: The Elks have played a tough schedule thus far and beat a solid Trotwood Madison team.  If the defense improves, this team has plenty of offense to play with anybody.  A slow start to the season puts a lot of pressure on the Elks to perform in Central play if they hope to return to the playoffs in 2015.

FAIRMONT — The Firebirds (2-3) dropped their first three games of the season, including an overtime loss to Miamisburg in week 2, but have won their last two games and enter Central play with some confidence after dismantling West Carrolton 54-0 and dominating Greenville 24-6 last week.  Fairmont is led by senior QB Corde Kyles, who has thrown for 420 yards and run for 307 yards so far this season.  The Firebirds are 13th in the GWOC in total offsense and 7th in total defense and are looking for back-to-back winning seasons after going 6-4 last year.  OUTLOOK:  Fairmont opens league play at Centerville, a team the Firebirds took to overtime a year ago after having several chances to win in regulation.  That loss, cost the Firebirds a chance at a share of the GWOC Central championship and possibly a playoff berth.  The Firebirds defense will be heavily tested the first two weeks against Centerville and Wayne.  If the offense can score points, the Firebirds may once again find themselves in the mix in late October.

NORTHMONT — The Thunderbolts (1-4) are coming off a tumultous offseason in which long-time head coach Lance Schneider resigned.  Last year, the T-bolts finished a disappointing 4-6 after going 8-2 and making the playoffs in 2013.  This year, Northmont has played a challenging schedule which has resulted in losses to Hilliard Darby, Fairfield, Lakota East, and Springboro.  The T-bolts only win on the year was a 20-13 home win against Piqua in week 4.  Offensively, Northmont has struggled, averaging only 191 yards per game.  That puts the Thunderbolts near the bottom of the GWOC in total offense and in scoring offense (17th of 18).  On defense, the T-bolts fair slightly better, yielding 337 yards per game and allowing 28 points per contest, ranking them 12th in the conference in total defense.  Senior running back Avery Miliner returns, after rushing for 877 yards as a junior, and is coming off a big performance against Springboro in which he rushed for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns.  OUTLOOK: Although the Thunderbolts are off to a slow start, they will not be overlooked in the GWOC Central.  Miliner provides an opportunity for Northmont to sustain a solid running game.  If he stays healthy, Northmont will have enough fire power to stay close in games.  Sophomore receiver Jabari Perkins has provided a threat in the passing game with 11 receptions on the year and an 80-yard TD against Springboro.  The T-bolts traditionally play very well on defense in league play and are lead by Chuck and Jimi Saul.  The defense will need to play well and create turnovers to give the Bolts a chance in the Central.

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Wildcats were the team everyone thought may break out this year and contend for a Central title and playoff berth.  At 2-3, the Wildcats are on the verge of  having to look at next year to break out, although their 51-13 victory over Butler last week has many wondering if Springfield is peaking at the right time.  Senior QB Saalih Muhammad connects on over 60% of his passes and has a number of weapons on the offensive side of the ball.  His favorite target, junior Danny Davis, provides a threat in both the running and passing games.  Davis has rushed for 356 yards and 4 scores and tallied 335 receiving yards and 4 TD catches on the year.  He also has an 86-yard punt return.  The Wildcats have been one of the GWOC’s top defensive units, allowing only 84 passing yards and 8.3 points per game (both tops in the conference).  The offense is balanced and as they showed last week, explosive.  OUTLOOK: If the Wildcats can continue to play great pass defense, they have a chance to contend in the Central.  They will be tested early with an opening Central game at home against Wayne.  With 3 Central games at home, the Wildcats have a chance to gain some momentum and push for playoff spot.

WAYNE — The Warriors are again off to a great start at 5-0 this season.  After losing in last year’s Division I state title game, the Warriors filled a number of spots with transfers this year, including adding senior QB Messiah DeWeaver, who is committed to Michigan State.  Wayne has already beaten Moeller on the road in a nationally televised game, beaten traditional power Lakota West, and destroyed GWOC South leader Miamisburg 49-14.  The Warriors are loaded on both sides of the ball and are the odds on favorite to win the Central, after falling to Centerville last year in the final game of the season.  OUTLOOK: Wayne is without a doubt not only a Central contender, but could contend for another state title this year.  They will, however, be tested in their Central opener at Springfield by a very good Wildcat defense.  But the Warriors have too many weapons and are a matchup problem for anybody.  Tobias Gilliam is a playmaker on the defensive side that can disrupt any offense.