Alter’s John Bivens returns a first-half kickoff 59 yards to set up a score. Alter played Columbus Bishop Hartley in a D-IV high school football state semifinal game at London on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

High School Football: Alter eyeing another playoff push

Knights have won five straight games after season-opening loss

The high school football playoffs are a month away and the drive to join in that bonus fun is revving up for contenders. For Alter, that annual postseason quest began in earnest after a stunning 13-12 loss at neighboring rival Fairmont in the season opener.

Alter (5-1) is one of many area teams that was bumped up one division because of Ohio High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance initiative that began this fall. Lumped in Division III, Region 12, the Knights are fighting for their postseason life despite taking a five-game win streak against visiting Purcell Marian (1-5) in a Week 7 game on Friday at Fairmont.

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Alter is ranked No. 7 in its region this week. Only the top eight teams in each of the seven divisions and 28 regions qualify for the playoffs.

“We knew we faced a challenge after that first game,” veteran Alter coach Ed Domsitz said. “The kids responded well. Our team has done what it has needed to do from that point on.”

Like last season, Alter has been a victim of playing teams with losing records. That’s significant, because teams earn second-level computer points for wins accumulated by beaten opponents. Through six games, Fairmont is the only team with a winning record Alter has played. Its five wins are against teams with a combined eight wins.

But that all changes in Weeks 8-10 when Alter is at Badin (4-2), hosts McNicholas (5-1) and finishes the regular season at Chaminade Julienne (4-2). Those are essentially regular-season playoff games for the Knights, who are looking to extend a streak of 16 straight seasons in the playoffs.

As usual, Alter is loaded with outstanding seniors. But it’s two go-to juniors who provide an offensive charge. Quarterback Connor Bazelak is an effective passer and runner. John Bivens, a load at 6 feet and 204 pounds, ranks No. 2 in the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed with 755 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.

“He’s got speed, the ability to run by you or over you,” Domsitz said of the 6-foot, 204-pounder. “He’s very strong. In my mind, he’s one of the best running backs in Southwest Ohio.”

Senior linebacker Alden Simms is a two-time All-GCL North Division pick and leads the Knights in total tackles (56). He’s complemented by Lane Harshbarger (42), the other senior inside linebacker, and junior defensive lineman Nathaniel Armstrong (48).

Alter and CJ are both 3-0 in the GCL North and could decide that title in Week 10. Crossover games against GCL Central teams also count as divisional games.

Strength of schedule is key for playoff contenders. Bellbrook (4-2) is No. 4 in D-III, Region 12. CJ is No. 15 and Badin (4-2) is No. 17.

“We feel like we’ve got to win out,” Domsitz said. “If we don’t, we’re going to need some help. You lose the first one and your back is to the wall. We’re D-III so there is not a whole lot of room for mistakes.”

• There are eight unbeaten area teams heading into Week 7 games: Belmont (Southwest Public League), Trotwood-Madison, Sidney, Centerville (Greater Western Ohio Conference), Valley View (Southwestern Buckeye League), Clinton-Massie (Southern Buckeye Conference), Greeneview (Ohio Heritage Conference) and Marion Local (Midwest Athletic Conference).

On Thursday night Belmont was scheduled to play Ponitz (2-4) at Dayton’s Welcome Stadium and Tippecanoe (3-3) was at Sidney.

• The GWOC National East will somewhat shake itself out on Friday. The five-team division of Centerville (6-0), Beavercreek (5-1), Fairmont (5-1), Springfield (5-1) and Wayne (4-2) is a combined 25-5 and all are lumped in D-I, Region 3.

That glaring combined record will take a hit when Beavercreek hosts Wayne on Friday and Northmont (4-2) visits Springfield. Beavercreek has beaten Fairmont, but is No. 8 in the region, just ahead of No. 9 Northmont. Centerville is No. 1, Fairmont No. 3, Wayne No. 6 and Springfield No. 7.

Miamisburg (3-3), which also figured to contend in Region 3 since being bumped up from D-II, takes a three-game losing skid against visiting Springboro (2-4). Beavercreek suffered its first loss 27-24 on a last-second field goal at Springboro last week.

• Franklin (5-1) lost senior standout running back Ryan Montgomery to a blown ACL in the first quarter last week against Waynesville. He leads with the with 740 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns and also would have been a key returner in basketball. On Wednesday, he verbally committed to the University of Cincinnati.

That’s the second significant offensive loss for the Wildcats. Senior quarterback Braden White has been out with injury since a Week 3 win at Piqua. Sophomore QB Braden Woods has responded with 471 yards passing, five TD throws and no interceptions.

Franklin hosts Bellbrook (4-2) in a key SWBL Southwestern Division matchup on Friday.

• Miami East (5-1) is in great position to win out and earn a Cross County Conference title. The Vikings have beaten Fort Loramie (4-2), Bethel (5-1) and Covington (2-4) the last three weeks and are 4-0 in the conference. East’s only loss was 31-14 to Lehman Catholic (5-1) in Week 2.

Miami East (D-V, Region 20), Bethel (D-VI, Region 24) and Loramie (D-VII, Region 28) all are in contention for playoff spots. The CCC expanded to 12 teams this season with the addition of Loramie and Tri-Village in football.

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