Vikings (6-3, 4-1 in MSL-Ohio) Lions (6-3, 3-2)
It would be an understatement to say the Bexley High School football team picked up a much-needed victory Oct. 25 at London.
The 28-20 win snapped a three-game losing streak and, more importantly, gave the Lions control of their Division IV, Region 13 playoff destiny entering the regular-season finale Friday, Nov. 1, against visiting Columbus Academy.
"At the end of the game it was more relief than anything," said coach John Smith, whose team is 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division. "It had been a long three weeks here, longer than any three weeks I have ever been through."
After opening the season with five consecutive wins, a feat last accomplished in 1982, the Lions lost at home to West Jefferson (21-14 on Oct. 4), at Madison Plains (47-31 on Oct. 11) and at home to Ready (62-13 on Oct. 18).
Bexley trailed London 20-14 after three quarters and hurt itself by losing three of its four fumbles in the game. However, Rasheed Morgan's 33-yard touchdown run followed by Adam Hirsch's extra point gave Bexley a 21-20 lead with 11 minutes, 9 seconds to play. Quarterback Andre Stewart had an 11-yard scoring run with 1:25 remaining to seal the win.
Morgan rushed for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Bexley finished with 359 yards rushing on 50 attempts while holding the Red Raiders to 116 yards on 42 carries.
"It wasn't a pretty win, but it was a win," Smith said. "It was a well-needed win, and we'll take them any way we can get them."
Like Bexley, Academy also is in a must-win situation when the teams meet in their annual battle for the Mayor-Headmaster Trophy. The Vikings, who have won the last four meetings and seven of the last 11 in the series, qualify for the Division VI, Region 21 playoffs with a win.
Entering the game, the Lions are projected to be fifth in Region 13 and the Vikings, who are 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the MSL-Ohio, are projected to be 10th in Region 21. The top eight teams in both regions advance to the postseason.
"It's Academy week and that is pretty much all that needs to be said," Smith said. "We haven't given them much of a fight the last four years and it is nice to be back in the situation to be competing when the game means something."
Bexley's last win in the series came in 2008, a 42-20 victory that helped the Lions secure their last postseason berth.
"They are probably one of the most well-coached offensive football teams that I have ever gone against," Smith said. "They get the most out of their kids and if you make one mistake, they will take advantage of it."
With the postseason at stake, Smith will be making sure his team is ready for the challenge.
"We'll make sure they are doing the right things in preparation for this coming week," he said. "I think the kids are in a positive frame of mind and anytime you can play a rivalry game of this magnitude, this is why you play high school football."