Prep football: Ross, Mt. Healthy in search of consistency

Shay Mather (5) of Ross looks for running room during the Rams’ season opener against Badin on Aug. 25 at Virgil Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton. Ross lost 36-6. CONTRIBUTED PHOHTO BY DAVID A. MOODIE
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Shay Mather (5) of Ross looks for running room during the Rams’ season opener against Badin on Aug. 25 at Virgil Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton. Ross lost 36-6. CONTRIBUTED PHOHTO BY DAVID A. MOODIE

The Ross-Mt. Healthy prep football matchup will feature two teams trying to figure some things out.

Ross is 0-4 under first-year coach Kenyon Commins and looking to become efficient in the triple-option offense without its top quarterback. Mt. Healthy is 1-3 and playing well defensively, but doesn’t have its No. 1 quarterback either.

The Southwest Ohio Conference rivals will meet Friday night at Robinson Field in Ross Township.

“Staying positive to me isn’t hard because you’ve got to keep the big picture of this in play,” Commins said. “I guess this is what coaches talk about when they’re 0-4, but I think our guys are learning how to work. It’s not just going to happen. You’ve got to make it happen.”

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It’s a personal game for Commins because he’s a Mt. Healthy guy, a 1996 graduate who also coached with the Owls.

“Mt. Healthy has been and always will be a special place to me,” Commins said. “People will never know how great the people are there.”

The Rams haven’t done much scoring, and their highest point total fell just short of a victory.

It’s been this kind of season for Ross: The Rams scored in the final seconds of regulation to get within 22-21 at Western Brown. Commins chose to go for two, but a delay-of-game call moved the ball back, so he decided to kick. The extra point hit the crossbar and bounced away.

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“We haven’t exactly helped ourselves,” Commins said. “Sometimes we can’t get out of our own way. When we’re consistent, it’s good football. But the consistency isn’t there yet. It comes in spurts.”

Senior Ethan Minges is the Ross quarterback, having replaced the injured Dylan Zimmerman. Commins said he’s not sure when Zimmerman, who got hurt in Week 2, will return to action.

“We’re anxious to get him back,” Commins said. “At the same time, he’s a junior, it’s a knee thing, and I’m not going to rush him back. There’s just no point in it. When he’s 100 percent, he’ll come back.”

The RHS coach said Minges is a capable QB, calling him a very aggressive player who needs to make sure he stays within the confines of the triple-option system.

Four of the Rams’ last six games are at home.

“Our mentality is great,” Commins said. “These kids are so resilient to begin with. That’s a tribute to some of our seniors like Logan Fuller and Joe Valentine and Tommy Woodruff and T.J. Vicars and Logan Lange. They’re just consummate workers. I think that’s what’s starting to shine through and keeping everybody together.”

And the 0-4 start? Commins admitted he wasn’t expecting that.

“This is a real-life thing,” he said. “When your marriage goes bad, you can’t just say the heck with it — you’ve got to work at it to get better. If you mess up as a father, you’ve got to work to be a better father. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. You’re 0-4, so what are you going to do? You can’t give in on the family. Times are tough, so let’s see where they’re at. I know what their attitude would be like at 4-0. It’s 0-4 … are you going to be there when I need you?”

At Mt. Healthy, a difficult nonconference schedule left the Owls at 0-3 before they rebounded for a 20-14 victory over Little Miami last week.

The win snapped the program’s six-game losing streak.

“Six in a row — that’s never happened since I’ve been here,” Mt. Healthy coach Arvie Crouch said. “We needed to get a win bad, and thank God the kids keep believing in what we’re doing and working hard. I enjoy coaching these guys. I had some really good teams where I really didn’t have fun coaching them because it was so stressful to keep it all together. These guys are fun. We will keep getting better.”

The Owls lost junior quarterback Michael Crawford to an ACL injury in Week 1, and his season is over. Crouch said sophomore Brandon Lanier has shown promise as the new QB.

Lanier has completed 20 of 51 passes for 408 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing (96 carries, 221 yards).

“Brandon’s definitely more of a physical runner than Michael was, but Michael is probably a better passer,” Crouch said. “We’re going to hang our hat on Brandon and see what happens these next six games.”

A pair of juniors, end Lonnie Phelps and linebacker Alex Howard, are major contributors up front on defense. Mt. Healthy is strong against the run, but …

“Pass defense is our Achilles heel. It has been ever since I’ve been here,” Crouch said. “We’ve got to get better at that. It’s that simple.”

The Rams are 0-5 against the Owls since the SWOC was formed. The average score has been 42-8.

Friday’s game

What: Mt. Healthy (1-3, 1-0 SWOC) at Ross (0-4, 0-1 SWOC), 7 p.m.

Where: Robinson Field, 3425 Hamilton Cleves Road, Ross Twp.

Last year: Mt. Healthy won 37-7

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