Westside programs vie for championships
As the 2019 high school football season draws to a close, several of our local teams are still in the hunt for a state title. A pair of regional final games set for Friday night feature a quartet of westside programs vying for that elusive gold trophy. The winners will move a step closer to complete a goal that most never get a chance achieve. Here's a look into what to expect from this weekend's games.
#3 ELDER v. #4 Colerain
The numbers three and four seeds battle for a chance to make it to the state semi-finals. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 Friday night. The Panthers (10-2) and Cardinals (11-1) are set to clash in the regional final for a second straight season. Colerain, last season's state runner-up will be looking to get past a hungry Elder squad who has payback on its mind. Elder was no match for Colerain a season ago and the 42-0 score was evident of that. This year however is different. Elder is back with experience and high level players like 6'5 TE Joe Royer. The Ohio State commit comes into the game with 57 receptions for 1080 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Panthers will also look to senior QB Matthew Luebbe to be a catalyst against Colerain. He led the GCL-S in rushing with 1099 yards on the ground and threw for another 2064 to rank second in the league through the air. The league's leading tackler, Colton Sandhas (88 tkls) and Connor Keyes (68 tkls) will lead the defense that must slow down the Cardinals' potent running game.
Colerain on the other hand is coming off another dominant season in the GMC. They have won an additional two games in the playoffs over league teams in beating Princeton and Fairfield. Colerain will need a strong performance from DB/RB Deshawn Pace (UC commit) on both sides of the ball to have a chance in this one. Colerain will likely be without leading rusher Jaylen Thomas who was in a car accident over the weekend and has undergone surgery. Although his injuries are believed to be non life threatening, it is unclear if he will be able to suit up for the Cardinals.
The Panthers are much improved and hungry. They squeak out a hard fought win.
#1 LaSalle v. #3 Harrison
LaSalle is back to where we all expected them to be after a down year in 2018. The Lancers (10-2) won the GCL south and have been dominate. A balanced team effort has led LaSalle to believe that they can capture their fourth state title in six years in a couple of weeks. The Lancers are led by junior QB Zach Branam who has passed for 1330 yards and rushed for another 995 to go along with 28 total touchdowns. He is doing it both through the air and on the ground. LaSalle can also go to RB Cam Porter who has 723 yards on the ground with 13 touchdowns. Playing in one of the toughest leagues in the country, LaSalle has been tested early and often and look to show that they are back as one of favorites to win a state championship.
Harrison (11-1) won the Southwest Ohio Conference and has not lost a game since early September. The Wildcats have an aerial attack that is second to none in the Cincinnati area. It all starts with QB Connor Kinnett. The 6'3 225 pound senior has passed for a massive 3532 yards and 36 touchdowns. Kinnett entered the OHSAA record books and sits at 41st all-time in single season passing yards. He has added another 418 yards on the ground and has become a real problem to deal with for opposing defenses. On the other end of those passes are a pair of wideouts that have torched many defensive backs this season. Junior Levi Tidwell (69 rec, 1289 yards)and senior CJ Young 49 rec, 908 yards) ranked first and second in the SWOC in receiving. Even with all that offensive power, if Harrison is to win this game it will be because of their defense. The most points scored on the Wildcats this season was a mere 18 but they have never faced a team like LaSalle.
LaSalle is on another level in this affair.