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No lead is safe in the ITCL

October 2, 2008
By MICHAEL S. BURICH, Assistant Sports Editor

No lead is safe in the Inter-Tri County League this season.

Crestview knows this all too well when it came back from 14 down to beat South Range last week, while seeing Columbiana come back from a 16-0 hole to beat the Rebels on Sept. 12.

Southern thought it was in a good position against Leetonia with a 16-0 lead on Sept. 19, but the Bears found away to come back and win.

Perhaps the most extreme example of an unlikely comeback was last Friday when Springfield came back from a 24-7 fourth quarter deficit to defeat Columbiana 27-24.

"I can't explain it," Columbiana coach Bob Spaite said. "It wasn't like we quit. They just didn't make any mistakes."

Spaite said he never saw anything like that conclusion in his career. He also said he has never seen a logjam like the one that currently envelopes the ITCL upper tier.

"I've never seen five teams at 2-1 in the league in my 15 years in the league," Spaite said. "Everybody is just so equal."

This week the Clippers (4-2, 2-1) hosts Mineral Ridge, who mounted a late comeback against United before losing last Friday.

"Everybody got hit, now who is going to get up off the mat?" Spaite said.

East Palestine

at South Range

Losing to Crestview in such a heartbreaking manner last Friday really hurt South Range, but the Raiders (4-2, 2-1) are already over it and looking forward to getting back in the ring against East Palestine (2-4, 1-2).

"East Palestine is a good team and we have to be prepared to play or we'll be in trouble," South Range coach Dan Yeagley said.

The Bulldogs come into the game in the unfortunate position of having to play a top-shelf team again after that team came off a loss.

"Just like Crestview, they're going to want to win even more now," East Palestine coach Jeff Sharkey said. "And we have to go up there which is twice as tough."

United at Springfield

United (4-2, 2-1) finds itself with a unique opportunity after beating Mineral Ridge last Friday. The Eagles are one of five teams in contention for the upper tier title.

"It's an exciting time here," United coach Ed Ridgeway said. "It has been a long time since United has been in contention for a league title."

Ridgeway said he isn't surprised y the tightness of the league race. He had an idea it would come down to this scenario.

"One of my coaches guaranteed me all of the league teams would have at least one loss," Ridgeway said. "He ended up being quite a prophet."

Ridgeway said there is no room for letdown for any team in the title hunt.

"You have to be on your toes at all times," Ridgeway said.

The Eagles will certainly have to be watching out for the Tigers (4-2, 2-1). Springfield is in the same boat and would love to make its last four games count.

"There's a lot at stake for them as well," Ridgeway said.

ITCL lower tier update

At 4-2, 1-2 in the ITCL lower tier, Wellsville, who hosts Jackson-Milton Friday, isn't exactly out of the running for the league title, but by judging what they have left on the schedule, playoffs are definitely a strong possibility.

The Tigers next three opponents are a combined 4-14. If they can avoid an upset in those contests and defeat a strong Southern team in the final week, a playoff berth should be in the cards.

Leetonia, who is at Lowellville Friday, is probably in a more difficult position after losing to Wellsville last week. Even though the Bears are 5-1 and 2-1 in the league, games against unbeaten McDonald and Western Reserve beckon. The Bears are going to need to win at least one of those games to ensure postseason play.

Southern (4-2, 1-2) hosts winless Sebring Friday, so it likely won't budge from its 12th slot in the Div. VI, Region 21 computer rankings this week even with a win. If the Indians can get a win against McDonald or Wellsville, they'll have a shot for the postseason.

There's also a scenario where most of these teams could get into the postseason with three or more losses. At this point, it doesn't look like most non-ITCL members of Div. VI, Region 21 are showing enough to be considered serious threats for the playoffs. Stay tuned.

As far as the ITCL lower tier race is concerned, Friday's McDonald at Western Reserve is one to watch as the winner will likely have the inside track to the title.

LISBON AT CRESTVIEW: The Rebels, 5-1, 2-1 in the ITCL upper tier, are on top of the world after beating South Range. Meanwhile, winless Lisbon is searching for an end to its losing ways.

WEST BRANCH AT MINERVA: It has been a while since these two played a game with so much on the line. West Branch (3-3) needs a win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, while Minerva (4-2) is actually still in the thick of Northeastern Buckeye Conference race.

STRUTHERS AT SALEM: One of these All-American Conference teams will walk away with its first victory Friday. The Wildcats have kept it reasonably close in defeat with the largest loss being a 31-0 failure against Canfield. Salem almost nicked its first win against Campbell last week.

BEAVER LOCAL AT CANFIELD: It hasn't been a good year for Beaver Local (1-5). This game closes out the AAC red tier league slate for the Beavers who have yet to win a league game.



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