On the opening night of CCL action Friday, Sept. 28, the Watterson High School football team will try to show that it's closed the gap against Hartley after losing to the Hawks 34-0 last season.

If nothing else, the Eagles have been much more competitive this fall compared to a year ago while the Hawks again look like one of the area's top Division III programs despite a pair of losses.

Watterson lost to Cleveland Benedictine 17-14 on Sept. 21 to fall to 2-3. That same night, Hartley lost to Clarksville Clinton-Massie 34-31 to drop to 3-2.

The Hawks have beaten Watterson each of the past six seasons, including last fall when they went 11-2 overall and 3-0 in the CCL and the Eagles finished 2-8 and 1-2.

"We're in good shape (in computer points)," Hartley coach Brad Burchfield said. "Obviously, our goals are always to win the CCL and do well in the playoffs, and (playing a team like Clinton-Massie prepares us for) that. (Playing the Falcons helps) you understand the intensity of the game and that that's how well you've got to play."

Hartley was leading the Falcons 17-10 midway through the third quarter when it failed to convert a fake-punt attempt on fourth-and-5 from its own 12-yard line.

Clinton-Massie tied the score shortly afterward to help grab the momentum and never trailed again.

According to Burchfield, the designed play on the fake punt was the same one his team ran for a touchdown during a 45-21 loss to the Falcons in a Division IV state semifinal in 2012. That was the only other meeting between the programs.

"We were trying to go up two scores," Burchfield said. "Probably got a little bit selfish with that and I feel terrible about that. We're going to have to live with that for a little while, but the effort was tremendous. It was a great football game."

Jalan January rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Miles Fleming completed four of 11 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Hawks' offense.

In Watterson's loss to Benedictine, Tommy Bair rushed for a 32-yard touchdown and quarterback Jacob Hoying hooked up with Antonio Auddino for the two-point conversion to tie the Bengals at 14 in the fourth quarter. Benedictine made the game-winning field goal as time expired.

Bair rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals and has 509 yards and five touchdowns on the ground this season. Hoying has completed 84 of 130 passes for 880 yards and four touchdowns.

"I give credit to our seniors (for our improvement from last year)," Watterson coach Brian Kennedy said. "We've got a good senior class, guys that are good leaders and have worked really hard in the offseason. There were some games last year that we just didn't finish, so that's kind of been our theme.

"We want to get back to that winning tradition, but this year with 35 kids and a lot of them haven't played varsity football, you're not sure what you're going to get. So far we've done some good things. Two wins is great, but we have to continue that."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek