With the non-conference schedule out of the way, the Southwestern Conference race begins Friday night.
And as usual, the bid for gridiron supremacy in the league looks like a battle that could go down to the wire. Only two teams, Westlake and Berea, head into conference play with winning records, each at 2-1.
Westlake will host Amherst (1-2) at Lou Duchez Field, while Berea will host Brecksville (1-2). Each of the other four schools are 1-2 as well, with Olmsted Falls hosting Midpark and North Olmsted traveling to Avon Lake.
The Eagles are coming off a 34-14 loss to Lakewood and have dropped two in a row since a season-opening win on the road with Valley Forge. Still, veteran head coach Mike Ptacek feels his team is still capable of doing some damage in the SWC this season.
“We still feel good about our football team,” Ptacek said Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve got a lot of good, talented kids who are still working hard every day. We’ve had some good practices this week, and I still believe we’re going to get better.”
Turnovers have been a problem for the Eagles so far this season. North Olmsted is averaging three miscues per game, putting pressure on both the offensive and defensive units.
“The turnovers are something we’re aware of, without a doubt,” Ptacek said. “We’re working a lot on taking care of the football every day in practice. The mistakes have definitely put pressure on our defense and killed a few offensive drives for us.
“You see turnovers every Saturday on TV, and you see them on Sunday as well. It’s part of the game, but it seems like we’ve been in a rut because the ball just isn’t bouncing our way. We’ve just got to hustle a bit harder to the ball when it’s lose,” he said.
Going into the Avon Lake game, sophomore quarterback Brad Novak has completed 61 percent of his passes, completing 27 of 44 for 473 yards and five touchdowns.
He’s spread the ball around, with Mark Remy getting six receptions for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Tight end Brian Kozlak has five receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown, while Shamir Tomlinson has caught seven balls for 66 yards.
The running attack, however, hasn’t kept pace. In fact, Novak is the team’s leading rusher with 167 yards in 31 attempts. No other Eagle has hit the 100-yards mark so far this season
As all coaches in the league will confirm, there are no easy games in the SWC. Traveling to Avon Lake will be no easy task despite the Shoremen’s 1-2 mark, Ptacek said.
“They may be 1-2, but they’re lost to two pretty tough teams,” he said, referring to Avon Lake’s losses to Avon in the opening game and last Friday night at Massillon Jackson. Jackson prevailed in that contest, 30-16.
“They’ve been at the top of the SWC quite a few times over the past several seasons,” Ptacek continued. “They’re always ready to play, and their stadium is always a tough place to play.
“We’ve got to be ready to play four quarters of football. We’re not at the point where we can just walk into a game and think we can win it. We’ve got to have everybody show up and play four full quarters of football,” he added.
In the West Shore Conference, the big game will be at Avon as two undefeated squads take the field. The Eagles will take on visiting North Ridgeville in a meeting between two of the league’s preseason favorites.
In the other two WSC games, Elyria Catholic (2-1) travels to Midview (2-1) in the Panthers’ first-ever game in the league. Rocky River (2-1) makes the trek out west to Vermilion (1-2), while Bay (1-2) continues non-conference play at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin (2-1).