By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Lights. Camera. Distractions.
As if there wasn’t already enough at stake Thursday night when Miami East travels to Covington to play for the Cross County Conference lead, now not only is there one day fewer to prepare, but it will also be televised live.
The undefeated Buccaneers (6-0, 4-0 Cross County Conference) will share the stage with rival Miami East (5-1, 5-0 CCC) in a matchup that will decide the CCC championship, one way or another. The two are the only teams left undefeated in league play, and they both shared last year’s championship.
Last season, Covington blocked an extra point on the final play of overtime to hold on for a 21-20 victory and take control of the conference lead — both teams had been undefeated going into that game, too. But the Buccs were upset the next week, 34-30 at home against Twin Valley South, and both teams won out the rest of the way to share the title.
This season, Covington has won a number of tough games against good teams, including a 27-13 win in the season opener over St. Henry, a 27-26 nail-biter at Troy Christian in a matchup of the top two teams in the Division VII, Region 28 playoff standings, and just last week the Buccs made a statement with a 41-13 rout at Tri-County North, the third of the three contenders for the league crown.
Miami East, meanwhile, is just beginning the tough portion of its schedule after four straight blowouts against teams with a combined 4-21 record at this point in the season. The Vikings held off a scrappy Bethel team 28-14 in Week 6, knocking the Bees to .500 at 3-3.
Whichever team can handle not only the normal pressure of a league title game, but also the added attention that the Thursday night television stage will surely bring, will take the driver’s seat in the CCC — and then have to remain focused in the season’s final three weeks, but one step at a time.
Bethel, meanwhile, will host Twin Valley South — a team it held off 22-21 to defeat for a signature win last season. The Panthers and Bees both enter the game 3-3, and Bethel finishes the year with two 1-5 teams and a 2-4 team, giving them a good chance to hit the .500 mark again or even surpass it.
Milton-Union (5-1, 3-0 Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division) picked up its biggest win of the season in Week 6, scoring a late touchdown to defeat defending division champion Madison 13-10. Not only do the Bulldogs hold control of the Buckeye Division race, but it also bumped them up to the No. 3 spot in the D-V, Region 20 playoff standings, which would give them a home playoff game for the second straight year.
The Bulldogs face Brookville Friday night in their final non-division game, a team that defeated Milton-Union 33-14 last season en route to a 12-1 record and a trip to the regional final. Currently, Brookville is holding the eighth and final playoff spot — meaning a lot is on the line for both teams, even though it isn’t a division game.
Tippecanoe will be looking to win its first American North Division game as a member of the Greater Western Ohio Conference Friday night after a resounding 35-7 defeat at the hands of Troy in Week 6 to open league play. The Red Devils (4-2, 0-1 GWOC American North) will face Sidney (3-3, 0-1 GWOC American North), which was routed 33-13 last Thursday by Piqua.
The implications go beyond division play, though, as Tippecanoe’s playoff appearance streak may be on the line. The Devils are currently No. 11 in D-III, Region 12, with Piqua right behind in 12th. The Indians (4-2, 1-0 GWOC American North), meanwhile, will host Greenville (3-3, 0-1 GWOC American North) in search of their fourth straight win.
Troy Christian (5-1) still holds the No. 2 spot in the D-VII, Region 28 playoff standings, and it will face a tough test this week at home against Tri-County North (4-2). The Panthers will be looking to take frustrations out after their loss to Covington — which the Eagles can relate to, as they did the same following their close loss to the Buccs with a 48-0 beatdown of Ansonia in Week 6. Last season, the Panthers defeated the Eagles 41-28, but Troy Christian feels like a more confident team this season. It could be the toughest to call of all of Friday night’s games.
Lehman (4-2) — which shot up to the No. 4 spot in D-VII, Region 28 after holding off Riverside last week — will look for its fifth straight win at 2-4 Hardin Northern, a team the Cavaliers routed 49-13 last season.
And finally, Bradford (1-5) finally left the ranks of the winless teams in D-VII, Region 28 — and they have an opportunity to begin a winning streak, as well. They host 0-6 Jefferson — which is the only team that Manchester, the team that Bradford defeated in Week 6, has beaten this season.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.