MARION — The state of football in the Heart of Ohio has been better.
Of the 10 schools in the Marion Star's coverage area, all have at least one loss. River Valley is the only school in Marion County with a winning record after five weeks, and the Vikings are 3-2. If the playoffs were to start today, just five area squads would get into the postseason, even in the second year of its expansion to 16 teams per region.
Northmor and North Union are both 4-1 and both would host first-round games. The Golden Knights are fourth and NU is fifth in their regions. River Valley, Highland and Mount Gilead are all 10th.
The good thing is there's still a lot of football to be played. Elgin is 18th and Cardington 22nd, so those programs are close enough to make a second-half push into the postseason, and Pleasant, as a Division V school, could possibly sneak in if it can post a few wins over the next five weeks.
In some places, homecoming just means a little more. One of those places is North Union where Richwood annually welcomes back those who came before.
"Homecoming brings the past and the present together," said Nick Hajjar, North Union football coach and athletic director. "Every district and community has a way of doing it. For our Richwood community, it’s something special. It truly is what homecoming is about. What it used to be about is what it still is at North Union. Our kids and community rally around that."
It's a major event. There's a Wednesday parade through town. There are powder puff football and he-man volleyball games. There's the queen ceremony and all the pomp that goes into it, plus the annual dance to cap it all.
Special this year will be 92-year-old Dottie Cheney Wall being escorted before the game by her 92-year-old brother-in-law Dr. Les Wall. In 1947, Cheney was the homecoming queen and Wall the senior quarterback at Richwood High School. Seventy-five years later, they will return to the field.
"It’s timeless and that’s one of the special things about this week," Hajjar said as the Wildcats will host Northwestern tonight at 7 p.m. for homecoming and to open Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division play.
Here are Rob McCurdy's picks for the area's Week 6 high school football games slated for this weekend:
∎ Highland at Marion Harding: The Scots are humming right now and the Presidents are not. It's hard to see Harding turning that much of a corner in one week, especially against a Highland team that is surging in confidence right now. Pick: Highland.
∎ River Valley at Pleasant: The Spartans took a step back last week after showing promise against Shelby to open Mid Ohio Athletic Conference play as well as against Wynford and Whitehall. River Valley may have figured some stuff out with its defense, which isn't good news for a Pleasant squad searching for points. Pick: River Valley.
∎ Hardin Northern at Elgin: The Comets got stung by Waynesfield-Goshen, but the Tigers have been handing out punishment all year in going 5-0. This week is a measurement game, and a win will go a long way toward Elgin making the playoffs, but the Polar Bears are no slouches. In fact, they might be the second-best team in the Northwest Central Conference. Pick: Hardin Northern.
∎ Ridgedale at Crestline, Saturday 7 p.m.: This is a game the Rockets surely had circled this season. It's going to be one of the few where they are the favorite. Crestline has scored just 16 points all season, and the Bulldogs were beaten 86-8 last week by Upper Scioto Valley. Other than a 16-0 loss to North Baltimore, winless Crestline has been blown out of every game this season. Pick: Ridgedale.
∎ Cardington at Centerburg: The Trojans are 4-1 and atop the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference with Danville at 2-0. Cardington is now alone in the KMAC basement at 1-4, 0-2, after a tough 14-7 loss to East Knox. Pick: Centerburg.
∎ Mount Gilead at East Knox: If Mount Gilead is truly going to contend in the KMAC and solidify a playoff spot, these are the kind of games it must win. Pick: Mount Gilead.
∎ Northmor at Fredericktown: The Golden Knights can't afford to go two-down in the KMAC loss column, but neither can Fredericktown. The winner stays in the hunt; the loser likely falls out of contention. It's a big game for all involved. Pick: Fredericktown.
∎ Northwestern at North Union: The Wildcats finally get to open up league play with their first game in the Mad River Division. North Union will have emotion on its side. Besides homecoming, the Wildcats want to get the taste of a late-game loss to Jonathan Alder out of their mouths. All of North Union's goals are attainable even after a tough loss and the team needs to realize that. Pick: North Union.
∎ Last week: 7-2.
∎ Season: 35-8.
Rob McCurdy is the sports writer at the Marion Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-610-0998, Twitter @McMotorsport and Instagram @rob_mccurdy_star.
Marion Star Football Player of Week 5 Poll winner
Northmor's Bo Landin, who caught five passes for 150 yards and a touchdown during a loss to Danville, won the poll with 395 of 1,030 votes (38 percent). Other nominees were Ridgedale's Nathan Thiel, Highland's Dane Nauman, River Valley's Cayden Shidone, North Union's Owen Davis and Mount Gilead's Matthew Bland.
This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Friday Night Picks: Assessing the state of play at midseason