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Intriguing matchups for Weeks 3 and 4

We’re now exactly five weeks from the first Friday night of high school football season.

As the dog days of summer begin to wind down, here’s a look at some of the most intriguing area matchups in Weeks 3 and 4 of the season.

Week 3

Poland at Canfield

The Battle of 224 is a great rivalry, and was renewed last year after a two-season hiatus. The matchup lived up to its billing, as Canfield pulled out a 24-12 victory in a game that was within one possession for much of the night.

This year, the Cardinals come in with Indiana commit Broc Lowry back at quarterback and are in search of another strong campaign. Canfield went 11-2 last season, and brings plenty of firepower back this season.

Poland, meanwhile, will be replacing some key players — particularly quarterback Jack Fulton.

However, coming off an 8-4 campaign in Tom Pavlansky’s first season as coach, the Bulldogs have a bit of momentum. Poland won six consecutive games to conclude the regular season last year before falling to West Branch in the opening round of the postseason.

JFK at Garfield

These two teams have become accustomed to plenty of winning over the past few seasons, and in fact went a combined 23-4 a year ago.

Garfield has won each of the last three matchups between the teams, but never by more than two scores. That said, the G-Men have a big question mark in their backfield this season, as star tailback Anthony Demma graduated.

Kennedy isn’t without its questions to answer, though. Antwan Brown graduated from the backfield, but the Eagles do return mobile quarterback Caleb Hadley and mauler Patrick Valent in the trenches. In addition, Chris Campana showed flashes of his abilities last season, including a 120-yard, two-touchdown night against Western Reserve. Antonio Smith also figures to provide some important play in the run game.

Week 4

Liberty at Brookfield

Both teams will be battle-tested coming into this matchup. Liberty opens the season with Western Reserve, Girard and Lakeview, while Brookfield will have played Ursuline, Springfield and Western Reserve by Week 4.

The Leopards went 5-5 in Joe Simon’s first year as head coach, and came within an eyelash of upsetting LaBrae and Garfield in the final two weeks of the 2021 campaign.

Brookfield went 7-4 last season and was knocked out of the playoffs by LaBrae. The Warriors and Leopards did not meet in 2021.

Brookfield returns Donovan Pawlowski under center, and he has a solid supporting cast to power the Brookfield offense. Liberty, meanwhile, will need to replace quarterback DC Ferrell, who transferred to Ursuline, but returns leading receiver Chris Cunningham.

Harding at Massillon

Like many of Harding’s 2021 contests, the Raiders’ matchup with Massillon was a thriller.

Harding trailed by as much as 21 in the second quarter and 16 in the second half before staging a late rally. In the end, the Raiders came up just shy in a 49-46 loss to the Tigers.

The Raiders will enter having faced Medina, Buchtel and Hudson in Weeks 1-3, providing plenty of time for Harding to sharpen before it seeks its first win over Massillon since 2016.

Also aiding Harding is the return of dynamic quarterback Dalys Jett, who picked up a handful of Division I offers during the offseason. He threw for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns, the latter of which marking a WGH record, and also tallied 545 yards and 11 touchdowns on 99 rushes, according to statistics compiled on wghfootball.com.

He’ll be without receivers Tyirq Ivory and Dom Foster, but does have tailback Ryan Powell at his disposal. Powell, a 3-star recruit according to 247Sports, also has a number of D1 offers to his name, including a few at the Power 5 level. He ran for 308 yards and four touchdowns on 45 rushes last year, according to the team’s statistics kept on DigitialScout.

Fitch at Ursuline

Speaking of 2021 thrillers, Ursuline and Fitch produced what was certainly among the best games last year. The Irish blocked a Fitch field goal with three seconds remaining after stopping a 2-point conversion just 28 seconds earlier to win 48-47.

Ursuline went on to finish as the state runner-up in Division IV, while Fitch topped Harding in the opening round of the Division II playoffs before falling to Archbishop Hoban a week later.

The Irish added D.C. Ferrell to the offense to replace outgoing quarterback Brady Shannon, and return a few of last season’s key playmakers, including tailback Christian Lynch and receiver Marc Manning.

Fitch, meanwhile, is tasked with replacing Devin Sherwood, but have D.J. Williams and Jamell James in the backfield, as well as Iowa State commit Cam Smith outside. Up front defensively, Brian Robinson has picked up offers from the likes of Georgia this offseason, and Xavier Dahn joins the Falcons after playing for Ursuline a season ago. Smith will feature as a safety.

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