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Top matchups of Weeks 5, 6

Staff file photo / Brian Yauger Girard’s Michael Palmer shoves Lakeview senior Nate Fox away while running down the field during their matchup last season.

Another Summer Friday means another look at some of the Mahoning Valley’s top high school football matchups. This is the third installment of our weekly series, and we’ll be taking a look at Weeks 5 and 6.

What’s intriguing about these weeks of the season is most teams will have found their identity by this point, and this is when the playoff picture truly begins to take shape. Some of these matchups also will provide playoff-type atmospheres.

Week 5

Ursuline at Harding

For two years in a row, the Raiders and Irish have gone down to the wire. Harding took the 2020 matchup on a last-minute rushing touchdown, while the Irish won last season on a kickoff return in the game’s final minutes.

This season’s matchup could keep that trend going.

Both teams are retooling a bit, but still will feature plenty of playmakers.

Harding will be led by quarterback Dalys Jett, who set a few records in his first campaign with the Raiders as a junior last year. Between Jett and tailback Ryan Powell, both of which have received Division I offers this summer, Harding will have a balanced attack this year.

Ursuline, meanwhile, is replacing its starting quarterback, tailback and receivers, but has plenty of firepower on deck. Quarterback D.C. Ferrell transferred into the program during the offseason after a successful first season at Liberty, and Ursuline also has experience at tailback in Christian Lynch, who saw carries last year. At receiver, Marc Manning and Will Burney will figure to lead the unit.

Both teams will be plenty battle tested by this time, but this game could provide a nice midseason litmus test for each program.

Canfield at Chaney

Canfield won last year’s matchup, 35-6, but Chaney gets key player Jason Hewlett back and installed Seth Antram as head coach during the offseason.

Antram was head coach at Boardman last season, but was Chaney’s offensive coordinator the year before that and has familiarity with Chaney’s roster.

The Cardinals will feature Indiana commit Broc Lowry at quarterback and will be coming off a bye week before visiting Rayen Stadium. Chaney, meanwhile, won’t have that week off. Both teams will have faced Poland by this point, in terms of a common opponent.

With Hewlett and Lowry taking centerstage, this game features two of the Valley’s top playmakers, and like Ursuline/Harding, will provide a nice midseason checkpoint for both squads.

Week 6

Austintown Fitch at Massillon

This one may have felt like a missed opportunity for Fitch a season ago at Falcon Stadium.

Fitch led 14-0 one play into the second quarter and took a 21-17 lead into the fourth before the Tigers rallied with a 14-point quarter to win the game, 31-21.

Fitch will feature one of the area’s best tailback tandems this season in Jamell James and D.J. Williams, providing a steady ground game for the Falcons as they look to replace starting quarterback Devin Sherwood, who graduated.

Fitch also has playmakers out wide and on defense, particularly in Cam Smith, a 3-star safety committed to Iowa State. He features at receiver, too.

In the trenches, Brian Robinson has picked up plenty of impressive offers during the offseason and will figure to be a wrecking ball for the Falcon defense.

Given the sort of firepower Fitch does return, the Falcons could be in the mix against always-talented Massillon again this season. A win would figure to be a massive boost for Fitch’s playoff seeding, as well.

South Range at Girard

These two teams are no strangers to success, and this Week 6 matchup just might decide the Northeast-8 crown.

Girard brings back plenty of skill players, but will be retooling along the line. Nic Bengala, who took over quarterbacking duties last season due to injuries, will return under center for the Indians. He threw for 1,017 yards and five touchdowns last year, and added 632 yards and 10 touchdowns on 104 rushes.

Michael Palmer also returns after producing 1,174 yards and 14 touchdowns on 165 carries last year. He was the team’s No. 2 receiver with 393 yards on a team-high 33 receptions. He also hauled in five touchdown receptions.

South Range brings back quarterback Billy Skripac, who tossed for a gaudy 2,277 yards and 27 touchdowns last year. He also ran for 670 yards and 10 touchdowns on 116 carries.

Shane Lindstrom returns in the receiving corps after a 2021 season in which he caught 28 passes for 630 yards and seven touchdowns. He also returned a pair of punts for touchdowns.

jwhetzel@tribtoday.com

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