The Hot Corner
OHSAA Playoffs Round 1: Analysis
Only five wins separate the Kings Knights from the Division II Football State Championship as Coach Andy Olds’ squad capped off a perfect regular season with a 43-14 rout of Anderson.
Entering the postseason with the three seed in Region 6, Kings clashes with Northwest (6-4) in a battle of the Knights this Friday at 7:30 p.m. In this edition of The Hot Corner, I break down everything to know about this first round matchup.
Overview: Kings is perfect through ten games for only the third time in team history. Although the Knights have had a strong track record in the regular season over the past five years, these talented squads have failed to advance past the regional finals. Two losses at the hands of Trotwood-Madison in 2010 and 2011 are all that have separated Kings from a state semi-finals berth.
However, this postseason Kings won’t have the opportunity to renew their rivalry with Trotwood or any other past playoff foes. With numerous conference realignments over the past several years in Southwest and Central Ohio, the complexity of this year’s playoffs will offer a wide array of new matchups. In fact, no player on Kings’ roster has any experience against Northwest.
Key factors to watch:
Northwest’s struggles vs. winning teams: One benefit of Northwest’s difficult non-conference schedule earlier this season was giving the team a taste of this year’s postseason competition. However, in three games against Region 6 playoff teams, the Knights were 0-3 with a cringe-worthy -76 point differential. Their only other loss came at the hands of Talawanda: a team Kings dropped 63 points on back in week two.
The Barnett Factor: Not many defenses have been able to contain senior running back DeAndre Barnett. The speedster’s 1310 rushing yards was the second-best of all ECC running backs in 2014 and more than Northwest’s two leading rushers combined. Considering Barnett faces a rush defense that allows an average of 177 yards on the ground per game, expect Kings to pound the rock early and often.
Clutch Kicking: When senior kicker Adam Woeste lines up for a field goal, Knights fans have complete confidence in their kicker. Woeste was a perfect nine for nine on field goal attempts this season, including a long distance kick from 48 yards out. Northwest hasn’t been nearly as consistent, converting just ten of 17 extra point attempts on the season with three different kickers. These missed opportunities could be the difference on the scoreboard this Friday.
Fourth quarter blues: Kings’ ECC-best 113 points scored during the second quarter this season have kept the Knights ahead. Coach Olds’ squad has only found themselves trailing by double digits once this season (Week 2 vs. Talawanda). An early lead could be enough to put away Northwest, considering they average just four points per game in the fourth quarter and overtime, ranking last in the SWOC (Southwestern Ohio Conference).
Deja vu from Anderson game: Ground and pound is the name of the game for Northwest’s offense with predictable play calling. The Knights have used run formations on over 75% of all of their offensive snaps this season, only once completing more than 50% of their passes. After Kings handled Anderson’s run heavy scheme with ease, look for the defense to replicate their game plan from a week ago.
Prediction: Kings 41, Northwest 17
Final Thoughts: Unlike previous years, there is a clear distinction between the elite and the average in this Region’s bracket. Kings, along with top seeds La Salle and Mount Healthy, should find themselves on the right end of blowout victories. DeAndre Barnett will continue to demonstrate his collegiate-level abilities with over 200 yards on the ground while finding the end zone three times. Expect a much more competitive battle on the gridiron next week in a battle of the undefeateds between Kings and Mount Healthy.