In the second round of the playoffs, there are usually a few games in each division that serve as a preview to the rest of the excitement we'll see as we approach the state championships. This week's matchup between the West Liberty-Salem Tigers and the Taft Senators looks to be one of those games as the Senators comes into the game as 2-point favorites in what essentially amounts to a toss-up. The playoffs are an interesting time of year as 7 teams fulfill their most ambitious goal in winning a state championship while the other 217 playoff teams will end their season with a loss. This matchup is no different as the winner will continue their playoff run while the loser will end its 2019 season with a loss. The Tigers, one of the top teams in Division 5, come into the game ranked 17th. The Senators come in ranked 14th. A new matchup on the schedule for each team, Sunday's game is a chance for each to test its skills and strategies against an unfamiliar opponent. Usually, matchups from the previous year are used in developing a strategy for upcoming games. For these two, no such opportunity will be afforded.
West Liberty-Salem comes into the game on a 4-game winning streak. After last week's 21-14 win against the Madeira Mustangs, they are 10-1 and look to continue the positive momentum. In recent weeks, the Tigers haven't been quite as successful producing points but they remain the 8th-ranked offense in Division 5, scoring an average of 42.4 points per game. While their defense has given up more points than usual in recent weeks, they deserve every bit as much of the credit for this season's successes as the offense. Over the course of the season, they've given up an average of 11.1 points per game, which ranks 6th in their division.
Taft will look to continue the momentum of their 9-game winning streak, the most recent addition to which was a 35-3 win against the Blanchester Wildcats last week, bringing their record to 10-1. While the Senators haven't been the most high-powered offense throughout the season, they have been improving week to week. In the last 4 weeks, they've averaged 35, up from their season average of 27.1, which ranks 50th in Division 5. Their defense hasn't been much better throughout the course of the season, ranking 3rd with an average of 10.4 points allowed per game. In recent weeks, they have improved, giving up an average of 1.5 points over their last 2 games.