Week 3 is upon us in high school football. Some teams are already playing their second league games while others are still tuning up for their conference foes.
Here are eight games to watch this week in Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana.
Submitting picks are writers Brendan Connelly, Alex Harrison, Kori Stewart and James Weber, in addition to digital content coach, Melanie Laughman.
More:2023 Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky high school football Week 3 schedule
Moeller (1-1) at East Central (2-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
What to watch: The reigning Indiana Class 4A state champions will hope for a better showing against the Crusaders than last year, when Moeller romped to a 43-14 win over the Trojans at Norwood’s Shea Stadium.
Moeller running back Jordan Marshall runs the ball during the Crusaders’ football game against Indianapolis Ben Davis Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.
This is a matchup of serious Mr. Football contenders at running back, as East Central’s Josh Ringer is on the opposite side of Moeller’s Jordan Marshall.
The teams have met each of the past three seasons. EC won 21-6 in 2020 and Moeller won 39-22 in its last visit to St. Leon in 2021.
Both teams were even on offense in last year’s meeting gaining about 400 yards apiece. But the Crusaders got more mileage from their drives, stopping the Trojans’ offense at key moments and forcing four turnovers. For EC to win this year, it has to flip the script on those moments.
EC has Ringer and senior quarterback Cole Burton leading the way for another championship run. Ringer has rushed for 342 yards and eight touchdowns. He rushed for 184 yards against the Crusaders last year.
Marshall, a Michigan commit, has 222 rushing yards and six total touchdowns in two games. He rushed for 129 against EC last year and two scores. Sophomore quarterback Matt Ponatoski was 12-for-14 last week in a 57-0 win over Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger. He threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns after throwing for 292 in a 49-28 loss to Indianapolis Ben Davis.
Picks: East Central (Connelly); Moeller (Weber, Harrison, Laughman, Stewart)
West Clermont (1-1) at Winton Woods (2-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
What to watch: The Wolves and the Warriors both won their Eastern Cincinnati Conference openers last week. West Clermont dominated Little Miami 33-14 while Winton Woods shut out overmatched Walnut Hills 49-0.
WC outgained the Panthers 383-209 last week. All of the Wolves’ offense came on the ground, as Bo Rickman rushed for 185 yards and three scores, and Landon Young rushed for 103 and one TD. WC threw five passes.
Winton Woods quarterback Vance George has thrown for 279 yards and three touchdowns through two games.
WW was more diversified, as Vance George threw for 176 yards on nine completions, and the Warriors rushed for 233, led by Tyler Gooding with 122. WW limited Walnut Hills to 59 yards offense after limiting Trotwood-Madison to 151 yards, only 36 on the ground in its season-opening win.
The Wolves are 0-3 against the Warriors in their three years of existence, including a 54-14 loss last year, and will have to figure out how to move the ball against the Warriors’ defense to flip the script.
Picks: Winton Woods (Connelly, Weber, Harrison, Stewart, Laughman).
Lebanon (1-1) at Anderson (2-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
What to watch: It appears that Anderson is getting along just fine after the graduation of Griffin Scalf, the ECC’s second-leading passer in 2022. Junior Justice Burnam already has 647 passing yards and nine touchdowns as the offense is averaging 46 points per game. Trace Jallick, Caden Piening and Mike Smith all have 100 receiving yards. The defense has allowed 276 yards per game but just 14.5 points per game.
Lebanon is off to a 1-1 start but has reasons for optimism. They had a balanced offensive attack while giving up 212 yards and 14 points in a win over Springboro. For the second straight year, the Warriors gave up a late-game touchdown to Milford in a back-and-forth game. The defense, which has given up 365 total passing yards, will have to step up against an Anderson team capable of doing that in one game. Cornerbacks Bryce Bohman, Zae Davenport and Jack Sako will be crucial pieces for Lebanon in this week’s matchup.
The Raptors have won all three contests since Lebanon joined the ECC in 2020. Last year was a high-scoring affair with a 44-41 final.
Picks: Anderson (Connelly, Weber, Harrison, Stewart, Laughman).
Lakota West (0-2) at Fairfield (0-2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
What to watch: This is practically a must-win game for both of these teams, who came into the season with hopes of winning the Greater Miami Conference.
The Firebirds have struggled mightily on offense, scoring only three total points and averaging 110 yards of offense in their two losses. They have come against probably the two best defenses they will play all year in St. Xavier and Princeton. Head coach Tom Bolden has led several potent offenses in his coaching career at Lakota West and Colerain, so he will see if his Firebirds can get something going against a Fairfield team that is not nearly as strong on the other side of the ball.
Fairfield has had two tough losses, a wild 58-51 loss to Huber Heights Wayne and a 24-21 loss to Sycamore to start GMC play. Senior quarterback Talon Fisher accounted for nearly 400 yards offense against Wayne but Sycamore held him to 50 yards passing and 93 on the ground.
Princeton wide receiver Antonio Hunter (3) and Lakota West defensive back Taebron Bennie-Powell (3) battle for the ball during their football game Friday, Aug. 25 , 2023.
Lakota West, of course, has one of the top defenses in Cincinnati if not all of Ohio, with several Division I commits. Fisher ran wild against them last year, rushing for 256 yards and throwing for 138 as Lakota West pulled out a 38-31 win. LW has won three straight against the Indians overall. The key is if the Firebirds can keep Fisher from going off again, and if he does, can they keep up on offense?
Picks: Fairfield (Connelly, Weber, Harrison, Stewart and Laughman).
Middletown (2-0) at Sycamore (1-1)
When: 7 p.m.
What to watch: Middletown hits the road for the first time in 2023 while Sycamore is beginning a stretch where it will host four home games in five weeks.
Head coach Don Simpson has the Middies off to their first 2-0 start since 2011. Quarterback Jeremiah Landers has been a key to the team’s success with six total touchdowns and running back Eric Schroeder gives Middletown a formidable one-two punch on the ground. Seniors Cammari Davis, Gabe Terrell and Jovaun Davis lead the Middies in tackles and are part of the reason opponents have scored just 19 points so far.
Sycamore’s task will be to stop Middletown’s run game that put up almost 300 yards in a week one win. The Aviators are coming off their first win since Oct. 29, 2021. The defense proved it could carry the Aviators to wins after holding a powerful Fairfield offense to 224 yards. This could be a battle of the running backs as state champion wrestler Eugene Harney has over 209 yards in two games.
Sycamore leads the series 8-6 since 2004. Middletown has won the last two games by a combined 10 points. Can the Middies keep their hot start going or will the Aviators pull off the upset?
Picks: Middletown (Connelly, Harrison, Laughman); Sycamore (Weber, Stewart)
Williamsburg (2-0) at Mariemont (2-0)
When: 7 p.m Friday
What to watch: Williamsburg averaged 50 points per game in its two wins. Quarterback J.J. Miller has thrown for 429 yards and rushed for 241 in two games.
Mariemont has played two more defensive games, averaging 25 points per game and allowing 19 and seven points in the victory. Quarterback Charlie Tully has led the way, rushing for 250 yards and four touchdowns, and throwing for 220.
The teams have met the past two seasons, with the Wildcats winning 30-21 last year and the Warriors winning 33-0 at Kusel Stadium in 2021. Miller rallied the Wildcats to victory last year, throwing for 196 yards and leading the Wildcats to two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, so the Warriors will look to slow him down this time.
Picks: Mariemont (Weber, Laughman, Stewart); Williamsburg (Connelly, Harrison)
Cooper (2-0) at Ryle (1-1)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
What to watch: It’s the annual Battle of Union, a game in which Ryle holds a 13-3 lead since the series’ inception in 2008. Cooper’s three wins came in a four-year period from 2012-2015.
Cooper junior Austin Alexander is second on the team with 191 receiving yards and 19 tackles, and leads the team with four sacks.
The Jaguars have been on the doorstep of winning and this year they have the talent to break through. Quarterback Cam O’Hara has led the team to two dominant wins, Elijah Laurent has stepped up as the lead running back, and Austin Alexander has increased his skillset both as a defensive lineman and a tight end.
Ryle, of course, has quarterback Logan Verax, but the Raiders proved that their rushing game is just as potent with 206 yards against Conner. Jacob Savage is a two-way threat and has combined with Kai Workman for 45 tackles.
The Raiders’ one flaw so far is that they’ve gotten off to a slow start offensively with 14 total first-half points through two games. The Raider defense allowed its offense to succesfully pull away from the Cougars last week but Cooper has the talent to match Ryle blow-for-blow.
Picks: Cooper (Connelly, Harrison, Laughman, Stewart); Ryle (Weber)
Beechwood (2-0) at Dixie Heights (1-1
What: 7 p.m. Friday
What to watch: The Beechwood Tigers, fresh off a 50-7 defeat of Campbell County, make the three-mile trip down Dixie Highway to face the Colonels for the fifth consecutive season.
The beat rolls on for the Tigers, who have a plus-60 scoring differential through two games under first-year head coach Jay Volker. Luke Erdman and Chase Flaherty have stepped up while freshman Tyler Fryman has been a pleasant surprise for a Beechwood team that has just 10 seniors on the roster.
The Colonels have been a streaky team so far. They gave up 22 straight points to Simon Kenton after holding a 12-point halftime lead, then scored 26 straight points to beat Hughes last week. Armani Gregg is a dual-threat quarterback and is one of three players with more than 100 rushing yards so far. Dixie boasts one of the best secondaries in Northern Kentucky with five interceptions through two games. That unit will have to step up against Tigers quarterback Clay Hayden, who has 549 passing yards already this season.
Beechwood holds an 8-5 advantage in the series and has won three of the last four.
Picks: Beechwood (Connelly, Weber, Harrison, Laughman), Dixie Heights (Stewart)
Alex Harrison 14-4 (7-2 last week)
Brendan Connelly 14-4 (8-1 last week)
Melanie Laughman 14-4 (8-1 last week)
James Weber 11-7 (7-2)