CENTERBURG — Last year it was East Knox that captured the attention of Knox County high school football fans.
The Bulldogs rolled to a perfect regular season and enjoyed a deep run in the playoffs. It was a ride many won't forget, and picked up fans throughout the region as it evolved.
But this year the story is being written by a new Knox County team. Centerburg ended several years of frustration on Friday night with an impressive, 35-28 double-overtime victory over East Knox.
“We’ve been waiting for this game for four years, ever since eighth grade,” senior Donnell Marshall told Knox Pages afterwards, gasping for air amid the excitement. “We tied with them. Who wants to finish on a tie? So we’ve been working really hard for the win against them. It feels amazing.”
That victory catapulted the Trojans to No. 10 in this week's inaugural Division VI state football poll. Centerburg (3-0) will visit Highland (2-1) in Knox Morrow Athletic Conference action this weekend.
Another interesting story is unfolding in Richland County. Scott Spitler wasn’t sure what to expect as Lucas prepared to embark on its foray through the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference. But the early returns have been overwhelmingly positive.
The unbeaten Cubs (3-0) were ranked fourth in Division VII when the first Associated Press state poll was released Monday afternoon.
Lucas is playing as a de facto member of the MOAC during the abbreviated regular season. The Cubs have wins over MOAC members and perennial playoff qualifiers Clear Fork and Pleasant so far.
“You’re talking about a tremendously talented conference. Last year the MOAC had three playoff teams (Shelby, Galion and Pleasant) and Clear Fork just barely missed out,” Spitler said last month. “It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for our kids.”
So far, so good.
The Cubs, who are playing all six regular season games on the road so more fans can attend the larger MOAC venues, opened with a hard-fought 18-15 win at Clear Fork. Victories over Ontario (28-21) and Pleasant (35-21) followed.
Lucas will visit Troy Christian (1-2) on Friday before concluding the six-game regular season with trips to Shelby (3-0) and Galion (2-1).
The Whippets nearly cracked the Top 10 in Division IV in this week’s poll, checking in at No. 11. Shelby is at Galion on Friday in a game rife with MOAC title and regional seeding implications.