High Schools: Lakota West hosts Mason in battle of last two GMC unbeatens

Tom Bolden knew his Lakota West football team would be tough to beat on defense. The offense has come along as he hoped as well, but the Firebirds are still seeking more consistency on that side of the ball.

This week, that could be the key to maintaining their perfect record as West (6-0, 5-0 Greater Miami Conference) hosts Mason (5-1, 5-0 GMC) on Friday in the Firebirds’ homecoming game. It’s a matchup of the last two teams without a GMC loss.

Mason’s defense leads the conference with just 166.0 yards allowed per game, while surrendering just 6.3 points per game. West has the edge in scoring defense with only 5.5 points allowed per game, but West is just behind in yards given up per game at 172.5.

“Defensively they are really good,” Bolden said. “Statistically they have the best defense in terms of yards given up so we have our work cut out for us offensively. Their defensive coordinator, Coach (Barak) Faulk does a great job, and they are disciplined. You aren’t going to trick them so you have to hope to outperform them.”

West leads the GMC in passing yards per game (318.7). Quarterback Mitch Bolden leads the conference with 1,035 yards passing and 13 touchdowns. He leads the team in rushing as well with 307 yards and four touchdowns on 69 carries.

Coach Bolden would like to see more production from the running backs, though.

“Mitch doing a good job throwing and running, but from the running back position, we need to run the ball a little better,” coach Bolden said. “The offensive line is developing each and every week, and we’re getting close to taking that next step.”

Right now that seems to be the only thing missing.

The defense, led by Jacob Asbeck (35 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks) and Mike Brankamp (42 tackles), has two shutouts and the first-team unit hasn’t allowed a touchdown since the opener against St. Xavier. Brankamp has double-digit tackles each of the last three games.

On special teams, Tyler Bohn is perfect on his five field goal attempts, including a long of 46 yards, and punter Ben Minich has pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line four times while averaging 38.2 yards per punt. West has returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns.

“We’re playing really good defensively, offensively we’re pretty good, and we’re doing some good things on special teams, but I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet,” Bolden said. “We get better every day in all three phases, so hopefully we can keep it going Friday.”

Mason has used two quarterbacks this season, more recently turning to senior Quinten Kaylor after using Larson Brown early. They’ve combined to throw for 754 yards, while Shelvon Hibbet leads the ground attack with 368 yards and four touchdowns.

West’s defense will be up to the challenge, Bolden said.

“It’s a huge game in terms of the conference standings, the Harbin point rating system,” Bolden said. “We’re approaching it as a huge game. It’s homecoming so there’s no lack of motivation for us. That’s a very good football team. They are well-coached, they play hard and we’ll be fired up to play them.”

Elsewhere in the area…

There are several other big games of note Friday.

Fairfield (5-1, 4-1 GMC) travels to Hamilton (2-4, 1-4 GMC) in a local rivalry game, seeking to bounce back from its first loss following last week’s 28-14 defeat against Princeton.

Monroe (4-2, 2-1 Southwestern Buckeye League) travels to Franklin (2-4, 2-1 SWBL), as the Wildcats have won two of their last three since league play began. The Hornets rebounded from two straight losses and have won two in a row against Oakwood and Carlisle.

And, still unbeaten Badin (6-0, 1-0 GCLC) travels to play Alter (4-2, 1-0 GCLC).

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