East’s defense put up a solid effort last week in the shutout of Milford, allowing just 147 yards, including 93 in the passing game, and causing three turnovers, including two interceptions.
“Our players and coaches did a great job preparing for Milford,” Haynes said. “They are well coached, coach (Tom) Grippa is known for his passing attack so we were geared up for that and I thought the kids really responded well. … Anytime you give up 42 points (in the opener) and there were three really big plays, the kids and coaches want to redeem themselves. I thought they did that.”
The offense played what Haynes called one of its “best games in a couple years,” producing 300 yards rushing, including quarterback TJ Kathman and running back Eric Davis both topping 100 yards.
This week against Middletown will be another opportunity to build. The Middies (0-2) opened with losses to Kings and Springboro.
“They are going to be athletic, well-coached,” Haynes said. “They play good defense. They did against two pretty good offensive teams in Kings and Springboro. We’ve got to be ready. We’ve had a great week of practice, but the GMC week to week is going to be a grind. Excited about playing this week.”
As for West, the Firebirds had arguably an even tougher challenge to start the season against nationally-ranked, defending Division I state champion St. Xavier. They were leading 14-10 at halftime, but the Bombers picked off Mitch Bolden and returned the interception for a touchdown early in the third quarter and outscored them 21-0 in the second half to win the game.
Lakota West, which recorded less than 200 yards of offense, rebounded against West Clermont with 329 yards, including 252 on the ground with Cameron Goode topping 100 yards rushing. The defense produced two turnovers and held West Clermont to 141 yards.
Now West faces a strong passing team in Oak Hills (0-2) with quarterback Jaxon Schreiber throwing for 414 yards over the first two games, including 34 attempts last week in a 14-6 loss to Coldwater. The Highlanders, who opened with a 28-14 loss to Turpin, will be trying to test a strong Firebirds secondary led by senior cornerbacks Alex Afari (Kentucky) and Jyaire Brown (Ohio State).
Firebirds coach Tom Bolden said in the preseason he was looking forward to a competitive conference schedule, but he is eying a second straight GMC title and that quest begins now.
“The goal is to win the GMC title again,” Bolden said. “We know it won’t be easy. The GMC is a tough conference, week in and week out. We’ll take it game by game, but we think we’ve got the talent to do it, and we’ve just got to stay locked in and focused. The kids know my expectations, and I expect to win games. If we do what we’re supposed to do, good things will come.”