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Intriguing games of Week 9, 10

Staff file photo / Joel Whetzel Harding's Ryan Powell stiff arms Kylen Foster during a game last fall.

Two weeks from today, teams will be putting on their pads and plunging into their regular season schedules.

This will mark the final week of our series discussing the top high school matchups in the area. As such, today we’ll delve into Weeks 9 and 10.

Week 9

Harding at Chaney

Harding won last year’s matchup, 35-26, despite giving up more than 400 yards of offense to the Cowboys. The Raiders used an explosive first half to take a 35-12 lead into the break before withstanding a Chaney surge in the second half.

This year could be similar. Chaney welcomes back star quarterback Jason Hewlett, who missed most of last season with a leg injury, and also returns its other two quarterbacks who saw playing time: Andrew Gault and Matt Jones. Seth Antram, who was Boardman’s head coach a season ago, will try and figure out a way to maximize their athleticism and impact.

Harding also is set at quarterback, as Dalys Jett returns for his senior campaign after bursting onto the scene a year ago. He also features as a dual-threat, and has budding tailback Ryan Powell at his disposal.

Given the playmakers of this matchup, another high-scoring, exciting affair could be in order.

Week 10

Harding at Fitch

Speaking of the Raiders, they conclude the season with Austintown Fitch. There’s plenty of familiarity between the programs, as Harding and Fitch have collided in both the regular season and postseason in each of the last two years.

Last year, Fitch took both matchups — 42-33 in the regular season finale and 35-28 in the opening round of the Division II playoffs.

The Falcons return plenty of firepower from that squad, but are replacing cerebral quarterback Devin Sherwood, who walked on at the University of Virginia. Still, Fitch’s tailback spot is loaded with Jamell James and D.J. Williams, while Cam Smith will figure into the offense in a multitude of ways. Smith also highlights the Fitch defense at safety, which is what Iowa State recruited him to play. Defensive lineman Brian Robinson also is a standout and holds impressive offers from programs such as Texas A&M and Georgia.

As mentioned, Harding has its own offensive firepower, and the Raiders were in both games with the Falcons last season. With each team featuring plenty of star power, expect this matchup to be one of the area’s best in 2022.

Salem at West Branch

A heated rivalry between a pair of teams that qualified for the postseason a year ago — what more could you ask for?

Last season, these two provided fans with an all-time classic. West Branch capped its undefeated regular season with a thrilling 43-42 win in overtime over the Quakers, a game in which the Warriors tied things up with just 31 seconds to go and then went for two and the win in the extra period.

This year figures to be an exciting one, too.

West Branch, which finished 13-1 last season, returns Eastern Illinois commit Dru Deshields, a dual-threat quarterback capable of putting up video game-like numbers. As a junior, Deshields threw for 3,661 yards and 40 touchdowns and added 1,126 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing.

That said, he loses many of his favorite targets, including his top three receivers, as well as star tailback Steven Marra.

Salem, meanwhile, went 8-4 last season before falling to Ursuline in a hard-fought postseason matchup. Ursuline also knocked West Branch out last season.

The Quakers return their star quarterback, Jackson Johnson. As a junior, he threw for 2,733 yards and 33 touchdowns and added 1,238 yards rushing and 20 rushing scores.

He does lose top target Blaize Exline, but Caden Swiger enters his senior season after grabbing 27 passes for 405 yards and five touchdowns.

jwhetzel@tribtoday.com

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