Harrison High School football coach Derek Rehage said he hasn’t seen a running back tandem like Edgewood’s Wade Phillips and Elijah Williams in a while.
The Cougars will be just as leery of Wildcats quarterback Connor Kinnett when Edgewood (4-0, 1-0 Southwest Ohio Conference) travels Friday to play Harrison (2-2, 1-0) in a matchup between the top two offenses in the conference.
Phillips and Williams lead the league in rushing with 535 and 494 yards, respectively. Kinnett has twice as many passing yards as anyone in the SWOC with 1,040.
“That tandem there, that’s a special group,” Rehage said. “It’s the way they do it. With that Wing-T, they hit you inside, inside, then outside, so it’s a heck of a 1-2 punch. It’s a challenge. We’ve got to make plays to stop them on third down, and when we’re on offense, we have to convert, but it’s probably going to come down to, ‘Can we stop the run?’ and ‘Can they run the ball?’ ”
Edgewood coach Scott Clemmons certainly hopes his Cougars can run the ball as they have been. They lead the league with 396.8 yards of offense and 40.5 points per game overall with the majority of the offensive production coming from Phillips and Williams.
Harrison averages 374.3 yards of offense per game, ranking second in the SWOC, and a third-best 27.8 points per game. Kinnett accounts for 10 touchdowns through the air and has just one interception. He also leads the team in carries with 56 rushes for 181 yards and three more scores. Levi Tidwell has 21 receptions and 384 yards as his main target.
“They’ve got a quarterback that sees the field well, reads coverage well and his receivers do a good job,” Clemmons said. “They make plays. For us, it’s about ball control, moving the ball, long sustaining drives, minimizing mistakes, not having turnovers. The more we have the ball, the more we dictate what’s going on.”
Clemmons said the defenses are both very similar. The Cougars are allowing just 9.8 points per game to lead the SWOC and Harrison’s scoring defense (17.0 points) ranks third.
Evan Brown is a leader for Edgewood’s defense with three sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception, while Tanner Polisini has three of the team’s seven fumble recoveries. Simon Shirley has a fumble recovery and an interception for the Wildcats.
“Harrison is always one of those teams where defensively they fly around,” Clemmons said. “Their players do a good job reading you. They hit you. That’s always been a trademark. They have some good linebackers, their defensive backs are fast, and up front they come off the ball fast. Their defense and ours have size, speed and get after it.”
Edgewood, Harrison and Little Miami are all 1-0 in the conference, while Talawanda is the only team not to play a SWOC game yet. Clemmons said Harrison is just the next challenge on the schedule, though last year the Wildcats were the Cougars’ biggest challenger.
Harrison, which dropped games to East Central (Ind.) and Anderson earlier this season, is coming off a 8-3 finish last year and its lone loss in the conference was to Edgewood, a 28-17 decision in Week 5.
Rehage said it’s a much different squad this season after losing 14 players to graduation.
“We’re a younger team, and we have about five guys dealing with significant injuries, so we have a lot of young guys playing,” Rehage said. “Our quarterback is good, the receivers are pretty good. It’s just a matter of, can we give them time to throw the ball and catch the ball and work on what we’re pretty good at? Our defense is very young, but we played well against Ross. We’re still growing, so Edgewood will be a tough test for us. They are the favorite as the two-time defending league champions and they beat us last year, so we’ll see what happens.”
What: Edgewood (4-0, 1-0 SWOC) at Harrison (2-2, 1-0 SWOC), 8:30 p.m.
Where: Bill Kuntz Field at Wildcat Stadium, 9830 West Road, Harrison
Series: Harrison leads 7-5, but Edgewood won 28-17 last year