Thomas Hinkle is no stranger to Jacob Kennedy and the Johnstown-Monroe High School football team.

Thomas Hinkle is no stranger to Jacob Kennedy and the Johnstown-Monroe High School football team.

The Fredericktown quarterback has started for the past three seasons, making him a primary focus when the teams meet Friday in an MBC showdown at Frank H. Chambers Stadium. But his experience, speed and strong arm can be a devastating combination in the Freddies' spread offensive formation.

"(Hinkle) has a really good arm. I remember it from baseball when he was their ace pitcher," said Kennedy, a senior linebacker for the Johnnies who had 20 tackles, eight for loss and one sack through four games. "He's a pretty athletic kid, so he can get out and run, too. We have to keep him in check."

That's easier said than done. Hinkle, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior, has completed 50 of 82 passes for 957 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.

"They have a lot of good athletes and that gives him a lot of options," said Kennedy, whose team played Loudonville last Friday with a 17-game MBC win streak on the line. "You just have to be disciplined, and everyone has to do their job. If one person reads the wrong key or misses their gap, you can have big problems."

Hinkle's primary weapons are senior wingback Tony Lybarger (16 catches, 326 yards, 4 touchdowns) and senior running back C.J. Ruhl (15 catches, 311 yards, 5 touchdowns). Ruhl also has four interceptions as a linebacker. Nathan Cubbage and Brandon Helmick both have two interceptions for the Johnnies.

"They have a lot of good receivers and play well within their scheme," said Johnstown coach Mike Carter, whose team had won 21 of 22 league games entering last Friday. "(Hinkle) does a good job of leading their offense and he came in with a couple of years' experience. He's a good runner, and a good athlete who plays a lot of different sports and he does a good job of playing in their system."

The Johnnies have won five of the last seven meetings. The last Fredericktown win was 32-14 in 2005, but the games have been close since then. Johnstown won 35-32 in 2006, 20-13 in 2007 and 28-14 last season.

"It's just been a great series with great games," Carter said. "It's been a dogfight every year."

Kennedy said the game had more ramifications than just the battle for the top spot in the MBC.

"This game is usually around the midway point of the season, and it's always tough," he said. "It's pretty much a make-or-break game in terms of making the playoffs."

The Johnnies will be trying to reach their fourth consecutive postseason, this year as a Division IV team instead of in Division V. They moved to 2-2 after a 48-19 win over Centerburg in their MBC opener with 423 yards rushing including a pair of 100-yard performances. Senior running back Brad Couts ran for 172 yards in 29 carries with touchdowns of 1 and 2 yards and senior quarterback Riley Cannon added 102 yards on 11 carries with touchdowns of 24 and 3 yards.

Junior Nick Schuler also had 49 yards in four carries and junior Frank Chambers added 26 yards in five carries with a 3-yard run. Chambers also added a 26-yard interception return to cap the scoring.

Couts moved to 627 yards through four games on 109 carries with eight touchdowns.

Freshman linebacker Corbin Grassman also had an interception for the Johnnies.

"One thing we learned from (the Centerburg) game was that we have to play all four quarters," Kennedy said. "We got up big (42-14 early in the fourth quarter), but (Centerburg) kept playing. They made some plays, so we have to continue playing hard and not let ourselves get into bad habits."



Next game

FREDERICKTOWN at JOHNSTOWN-MONROE

•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

•Last meeting: 2008, Johnstown 28-14

•Fredericktown (4-0 before last Friday) to date: Defeated Highland 54-20; def. Berne Union 48-13; def. North Robinson Colonel Crawford 42-14; def. Northridge 64-7; played Danville last Friday

•Johnstown (2-2 before last Friday) to date: Lost to Granville 27-7; lost to Heath 50-20; def. Lakewood 42-6; def. Centerburg 48-19; played Loudonville last Friday

•Top Freddies: Nathan Cubbage (WR/DB), Brandon Helmick (RB/LB), Thomas Hinkle (QB/DB), Tony Lybarger (WR/LB) and C.J. Ruhl (RB/LB)

•Top Johnnies: Riley Cannon (QB/LB), Frank Chambers (FB/DE), Brad Couts (RB/LB) and Jacob Kennedy (FB/LB)