Coldwater, Marion Local might not be done this season

The initial hint that things are done differently at Coldwater is long before kickoff. Scattered outside Cavalier Stadium are at least a dozen bicycles, most leaning against the brick facade and none locked.

That’s the way it is in this Mercer County hotbed for high school football. Always has been. We’re told hundreds of bikes are parked in front of the school during weekdays, even mopeds. Those, too, remain unlocked.

What isn’t different is the community’s enthusiasm for football. That’s easy when the best show at least within four miles regularly contends for small-school state championships. Cavalier Stadium was filled to its 3,500-seat capacity on Friday night. Hundreds more spectators lined the playing field and even more were perched on surrounding high spots outside the stadium for a good view.

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What they saw was Marion Local's 13-7 defeat of Coldwater in the latest matchup of Midwest Athletic Conference titans. Enthusiasm was high and play was a defensive delight. This was championship caliber football that didn't disappoint.

“Right now we’ve got to get our kids mentally back,” Coldwater coach Chip Otten said. “These are tough losses against physical teams. You never know how young guys are going to respond.”

Anyone game for Round 2? The unexpected fallout of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance initiative – which started this fall – has lumped Coldwater and Marion Local in Division VI, Region 24.

That’s significant, because barring upsets, a regional final showdown awaits these teams. The popular theory among MAC teams is the OHSAA wanted to break the grip on state title appearances the 10-team conference has been hogging of late. Coldwater has played in eight consecutive state title games; Marion Local six. Minster (twice) and Fort Recovery have joined in the championship fun of late.

Here’s why the OHSAA wants more of that, not less. MAC programs rarely, if ever, are hit with OHSAA violations. They travel well, spend money, win championships and represent the best in Ohio high school football. Anything else? Sure, no transfers to sort out.

Coldwater’s drop from D-V has everything to do with other programs being harder hit by competitive balance and passing Coldwater in the revised numerical formula. That will be adjusted each spring.

Now, besides addressing the remainder of a worthy MAC schedule, both Coldwater (1-2) and Marion Local (3-0) will be keeping track of each other. That’s a state title lock that will be broken.

“In years past the winner of this game was excited and relieved,” Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin said. “We won. That’s a huge boost in our league standings and we don’t have to play them again. We’re done for 360 days of preparing for them. It’s not the euphoria that it has been. If it was wild (Friday), and it was, it’ll really be wild Week 11-12-13 whenever it happens and it’ll be so much fun.”

• Seven Greater Western Ohio Conference teams are 3-0 through Week 3, a record for the 20-team mega-affiliation. Sidney (American North), Trotwood-Madison (American South) and Miamisburg (National West) all have separated from other divisional teams. It’s the entire National East that continues to thrive.

Wayne (2-1) is the only East team with a loss. Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairmont and Springfield all are 3-0. Centerville and Fairmont are genuine surprises. After missing the playoffs the last two seasons, the Elks have renewed playoff hopes in Brett Ullery’s first season as coach. Centerville is at Springfield in a major Week 4 showdown.

Fairmont, led by second-year coach Dave Miller, has allowed just 18 points, a GWOC low. Fairmont hosts Springboro (1-2) in Week 4.

• There are four Week 4 games on Thursday: Dunbar vs. Cincinnati Shroder at Welcome Stadium, Lebanon at Beavercreek (ABC 22 / FOX 45, Ch. 45.2, Ch. 995, Spectrum,, Ponitz at Riverview East Academy and Vandalia Butler at Northmont (Spectrum Sports, Ch. 1311, 311 and 99). All are at 7 p.m.

• The first Associated Press state football polls will be released on Monday.

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