High school football Week 9: the biggest week of the WCAL season

Jake Gill (center) stiff arms his way downfield as Owen Beatty and Jaden Schlabach close in.
Jake Gill (center) stiff arms his way downfield as Owen Beatty and Jaden Schlabach close in.

A preview of every local Week 9 football game:

Game of the Week: Norwayne (6-2, 4-1 WCAL) at Dalton (6-2, 4-1)

The WCAL's premier rivalry is back for another round and the same thing as usual is at stake — a league championship.

Even if this one doesn't carry quite the same weight as some of Dalton and Norwayne's matchups in previous years — the teams have finished 1-2 in the WCAL standings four of the last six seasons — it looks very likely that the winner will end up with a share of the league title while the loser likely destined for a third-place finish.

So yes, plenty is on the line Friday night, as if there needed to be for these teams to be fired up for playing each other.

Last week: Norwayne 66, Chippewa 0; Dalton 55, Rittman 14

Playoff picture: Norwayne, No. 5 in Region 17 (Div. V), clinched playoff berth; Dalton, No. 4 in Region 21 (Div. VI), clinched playoff berth

Outlook: Norwayne's offense has been unstoppable for the most part, evidenced by another 60-plus-point performance in Week 8. That makes four games this season where the Bobcats have hit 60 points. Meanwhile, Dalton has figured things out offensively since a loss to Hillsdale, scoring 34 in an impressive win over Northwestern and 55 against Rittman with a running clock bleeding away extra time. This one should be pretty simple — whoever can stop the run better will probably win. Sammy Tomlinson is coming off back-to-back huge performances for the Bulldogs, and Norwayne's Jake Gill is the most dynamic player in the WCAL. It'll be another fun one in Dalton.

Northwestern (6-2, 4-1) at Hillsdale (5-3, 4-1)

Last week: Northwestern 22, Smithville 7; Hillsdale 36, Waynedale 0

Playoff picture: Northwestern, No. 3 in Region 22 (Div. VI), clinched playoff berth; Hillsdale, No. 5 in Region 25 (Div. VII), clinched playoff berth

Outlook: Four first-place place WCAL teams all playing each in Week 9? It doesn't get much better. Both of these teams have been on quite the journey since the start of league play. Hillsdale began with a 56-point loss to Norwayne in Week 4, which seems like an impossible way to begin conference play and still have a chance for league championship with two games to go. But here the Falcons are. They've righted the ship and their old-school style of play has churned out four straight wins — the longest active winning streak in the county. Meanwhile, Northwestern pulled off a win over Norwayne to announce itself as the conference front-runner but has somewhat struggled offensively over the past few weeks, including a 20-point loss to Dalton. With a potential league title — with Week 10 still looming — hanging in the balance, there will be no shortage of drama.

New Philadelphia (5-3, 4-2) at West Holmes (8-0, 5-0)

Last week: Lexington 10, New Philadelphia 7; West Holmes 63, Ashland 39

Playoff picture: New Philadelphia, No. 14 in Region 9 (Div. III), 86% playoff chance (all playoff percentages are according to Drew Pasteur's Fantastic 50 projections); West Holmes, No. 2 in Region 14 (Div. IV), clinched playoff berth

Outlook: Want some hard-hitting analysis? West Holmes is good. Really good. The Knights defense had its worst game of the year in Week 8, allowing Ashland to pile up more than 500 yards. West Holmes still won by 24. It's a safe bet that New Philadelphia, which has struggled offensively all season (13.4 points per game) won't put up nearly the same number of yards and points as the Arrows. Anything short of another big West Holmes win would be a surprise.

Ashland (4-4, 2-3) at Wooster (4-4, 3-3)

Last week: West Holmes 63, Ashland 39; Mansfield Senior 31, Wooster 11

Playoff picture: Ashland, No. 15 in Region 6 (Div. II), 89% playoff chance; Wooster, No. 16 in Region 7 (Div. II), 79% playoff chance

Outlook: These two have put on some entertaining games in the past, and it could be another close one at Follis Field. It'll all depend on how Wooster defends against an Ashland passing game that can attack all over the field with three quality receivers in Jon Metzger, Landon McFrederick and Grayson Steury. If the Generals can run the ball effectively and keep Ashland's offense on the sidelines as much as possible, they'll have their best chance to win.

Chippewa (2-6, 1-4) at Waynedale (2-6, 1-4)

Last week: Norwayne 66, Chippewa 0; Hillsdale 36, Waynedale 0

Playoff picture: Chippewa, No. 19 in Region 21 (Div. VI), 3% playoff chance; Waynedale, No. 23 in Region 17 (Div. V), 1% playoff chance

Outlook: With so many young players at key positions, it was bound to be a rebuilding year in both Doylestown and Apple Creek. It can be tough this late in year mentally, coming off shutout losses, but Chippewa and Waynedale will both be looking for positives to build things up going forward as the year comes to a close. Their offenses should be able to move the ball better this week and produce some points.

Rittman (2-6, 0-5) at Smithville (5-3, 2-3)

Last week: Dalton 55, Rittman 14; Northwestern 22, Smithville 7

Playoff picture: Rittman, No. 23 in Region 21 (Div. VI), 1% playoff chance; Smithville, No. 15 in Region 17 (Div. V), 98% playoff chance

Outlook: The stadium on the Smithville campus isn't anything new, but Friday will be a special night for the program as Keith Schrock Stadium will host its first game under its new name. Smithville will honor its legendary former coach, who is one of the winningest coaches in Ohio high school history, at the game. The Smithies won't have it easy on the field after back-to-back losses while dealing with a slew of injuries, but there is still plenty of excitement around the team, as they have a chance to clinch their first winning season in five years. Meanwhile, Rittman is searching for their breakthrough WCAL win, with sophomore Artie Sonego looking like one of the top backs in the league even in losses.

Canton South (6-2, 4-1) at Orrville (4-4, 3-2)

Last week: Canton South 49, Tuslaw 7; Orrville 39, CVCA 38

Playoff picture: Canton South, No. 7 in Region 13 (Div. IV), clinched playoff berth; Orrville, No. 14 in Region 17 (Div. V), 96% playoff chance

Outlook: Orrville got its biggest win in years at CVCA last week and is playing its best football of the season. QB Sawyer Hamsher has settled into the position and receivers like Brant Besancon and Mason Woodruff have been consistent playmakers for an offense that has improved every week. It'll be a tall task for Orrville to take down PAC-7 co-leader Canton South and its explosive offense, but the Red Riders are in the best position as a program in several years.

Triway (4-4, 2-3) at Fairless (6-2, 3-2)

Last week: Northwest 28, Triway 7; Fairless 40, Manchester 14

Playoff picture: Triway, No. 12 in Region 17 (Div. V), 99% playoff chance; Fairless, No. 6 in Region 17 (Div. V), clinched playoff berth

Outlook: Last season, Triway got its biggest win in recent years against Fairless, beating the then-undefeated Falcons convincingly to claim a share of the PAC-7 title. It hasn't been quite the same season for the Titans this year, who've gotten unfortunate injury breaks at seemingly every turn. Fairless will be motivated to make sure history doesn't repeat itself two years in a row.

CVCA (5-3, 3-2) at Tuslaw (3-5, 1-4)

Last week: Orrville 39, CVCA 38; Canton South 49, Tuslaw 7

Playoff picture: CVCA, No. 6 in Region 9 (Div. III), clinched playoff berth; Tuslaw, No. 18 in Region 21 (Div. VI), 1% playoff chance

Outlook: Nobody in the PAC-7 has experienced worse luck than CVCA, who has lost back-to-back games by a combined two points. The Royals third loss was by five points. They're a few breaks away from being 8-0, but that's how sports work sometimes. Tuslaw faces a tall task in making it close against what promises to be a motivated CVCA team led by the conference's best running back in Kyle Snider.

East Knox (2-6, 1-4 KMAC) at Loudonville (4-4, 2-3)

Last week: Fredericktown 31, East Knox 8; Loudonville 44, Cardington-Lincoln 12

Playoff picture: East Knox, No. 20 in Region 23 (Div. VI), 3% playoff berth; Loudonville, No. 11 in Region 23, clinched playoff berth

Outlook: Three straight losses to start conference play could have spelled doom for Loudonville but instead the Redbirds have won two in a row and are playing their best offensive football of the season, led by QB Matt Sprang and WR Zach Frankford. A matchup with East Knox gives them a great chance to make it three in a row and build serious momentum heading into the playoffs.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: High school football: game-by-game Week 9 preview