A pair of high school football games involving City League teams should help bring the pursuit of Division II, Region 7 and Division III, Region 10 playoff berths into focus this weekend.
On Friday, Oct. 19, Brookhaven plays host to Beechcroft and Marion-Franklin travels to Eastmoor Academy.
Beechcroft is the two-time defending champion in the City League-North Division, but the winner of its game against the Bearcats could clinch a Region 7 playoff berth as well as move one step closer to winning the league title.
The game's focal point likely will be Beechcroft quarterback Maurice Hale, who had rushed for 720 yards and was 79-for-131 passing for 1,371 yards with 15 touchdowns through six games. The Cougars improved to 6-1 overall and 5-0 in the City-North with a 66-13 win over Columbus East on Oct. 12.
Beechcroft's top receiver has been Khaleed Franklin, who had 29 catches through six games. Darius Ford and Antonio McCloud had 21 and 19 receptions, respectively, through six games.
Brookhaven will attempt to stop the Cougars' spread offense with a secondary that is led by senior safeties Casey Gayle and Shadrik Browne.
The Bearcats improved to 6-2 and 5-0 with a 48-7 win over Centennial on Oct. 12.
"Our defense is playing well right now," Brookhaven coach Trevor White said. "We've had some great linebacking play from Paul Hughes. We know Beechcroft is going to be a tough team every year. Hale's a lot like (Marion-Franklin quarterback Corry) Benson, who can beat you with his arm and legs. You have to hope your defensive backs can defend well enough."
Brookhaven lost to Marion-Franklin 20-14 in its season opener Aug. 24, as Benson rushed for 35 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown, and was 4-for-16 passing for 106 yards.
The health of Benson is at the center of the Marion-Franklin-Eastmoor game.
Through seven games, Benson was 43-for-91 passing for 737 yards with nine touchdown and two interceptions and had rushed for 442 yards and five touchdowns. The Red Devils, who also are in Region 7, improved to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the City-South with a 53-14 win over Columbus West on Oct. 12.
Benson has been battling a shoulder injury and primarily carried the ball in a 7-6 win over Walnut Ridge on Sept. 27.
Senior Joe Alverson, who was the Red Devils' second-leading rusher through seven games with 318 yards, has been taking snaps at quarterback as well.
Jaron Dukes, a wide receiver who has verbally committed to the University of Michigan, had 22 catches for 306 yards and six touchdowns through seven games.
"(Benson has) been doing therapy (on his shoulder), and hopefully he gets back healthy for Eastmoor week," said Marion-Franklin coach Brian Haffele, whose team has won at least a share of the City-South title every year since 2004. "We've had to think outside the box this year."
Marion-Franklin's defense, which features linemen Shevone Hairston and Shemar Moss and linebackers Michael Champion, Alijahwon Tarvin and David Wilborn, will try to stop an improving Eastmoor offense.
Eastmoor, which is in Region 10, fell to 5-3 and 4-1 with a 21-6 loss to Walnut Ridge on Oct. 12. The Warriors had averaged 54.6 points during their three previous games.
Through seven games, quarterback Davion Barrow had thrown for 858 yards and eight touchdowns, running back Derrick Wilson had rushed for 574 yards and the top receivers were Javon Booth (18 catches) and Devon Edwards (8 catches, including 5 touchdowns). Martine Perez, who missed the first six games with a broken tibia, is another player who should see playing time at running back.
"We're just trying to get better," Eastmoor coach Jim Miranda said. "People will talk about Marion-Franklin not being the team that they were (in recent years), but you can never underestimate them."
Whetstone sweeps City soccer titles
On Oct. 11 at Crew Stadium, the Whetstone girls soccer team beat Centennial 3-2 and the Whetstone boys soccer team edged Walnut Ridge 2-1 in City championship games.
The Braves boys team lost to the Scots 3-2 on Sept. 4 and went 9-2-1 in City play during the regular season to place second behind Walnut Ridge (11-0-1).
In the City championship game, Matt Dascenzo and Collin Tuttle each scored for Whetstone, which improved to 10-5-1 overall, and Lamin Sanneh scored for Walnut Ridge, which dropped to 12-2-1.
The Centennial boys team went 10-1-1 in the City but had to forfeit wins over Walnut Ridge (2-1 on Sept. 11) and Independence (13-2 on Sept. 4) because it had used an ineligible player.
Beechcroft finished 7-2-3 in the City and Northland was 6-5-1.
In the girls City championship game, Alana Bruzzese, Marlee Christian and Haley Varney each scored for Whetstone and Brooklyn Briggs and Carly Scheel scored for Centennial. Whetstone also edged Centennial in the teams' regular-season contest, winning 2-1 on Oct. 2.
City holds finals in golf, cross country
Whetstone also captured City championships in boys golf and boys cross country last week and Centennial won the girls cross country league title.
On Oct. 10, the Whetstone boys team scored 37 points in the league meet to finish well ahead of runner-up Centennial (109) as well as Columbus South (110), Eastmoor (119), Walnut Ridge (140), Africentric (141), Mifflin (186), Northland (188), Independence (192), Marion-Franklin (197) and Beechcroft (268).
Centennial's Kevin Adams was the individual champion, finishing first in 17 minutes, 8 seconds.
"It was amazing," Adams said. "It was worth it to push really hard."
Rounding out the top seven finishers were Eastmoor's Jalon Lewis (17:35), Whetstone's Isaac Boateng (17:54) and Hayden Palmer (18:03), Centennial's John Neutzling (18:09), South's Marquez Hardgrove (18:12) and Whetstone's Kellen Kincaid (18:14).
"I felt like I was going to quit at the second mile, but I had to stay with it," Lewis said. "I closed strong and got second place in my (personal-best time)."
In the girls meet, Centennial scored 41 points to edge Whetstone (42) for the title, with Northland (77), Africentric (92) and Eastmoor (97) rounding out the standings.
Centennial's Kate Ryan finished first in 19:50, with teammate Emiyah Kelly (20:31), Northland's Mackenzie Pahren (20:33) and Jasmine Owens (21:17), Centennial's Carmen Godsi (21:27) and Whetstone's Julie Hausman (21:29) and Bianca McLemore (21:35) rounding out the top seven.
In the City golf tournament Oct. 9 at Mentel Memorial, Whetstone shot an 183 to win its third consecutive title.
Centennial (204) was a distant second, followed by Briggs (230), Walnut Ridge (232), South (246), Eastmoor (253), West (254), South (268) and Independence (269). Marion-Franklin and Mifflin did not have a team score.
Whetstone went 11-0 in the City during the regular season and finished first overall with 42 points. Centennial (38, 10-1) was second, followed by Briggs (32, 8-3), Walnut Ridge (30, 7-3-1), South (24, 6-4-1), Eastmoor (22, 5-6), West (20, 6-5), Brookhaven (16, 5-6), Mifflin (6, 3-8), Independence (6, 1-10) and Marion-Franklin (4, 2-9).
Whetstone's Dylan Matthews was overall league medalist with a 43.0-stroke, nine-hole average. Centennial's Phil Pezzata (44.5) had the second-best scoring average, followed by Whetstone's Carson Matthews (44.6), Briggs' Kyler Hogle (46.3) and Centennial's Andrew Swisher (46.3).