In the first 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 Marion-Franklin Red Devils and the Licking Valley Panthers looks to be one of those games as the Panthers comes into the game as 3-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 Red Devils, one of the top teams in Division 4, come into the game ranked 19th. The Panthers come in ranked 4th. 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.
Marion-Franklin is currently on a 2-game winning streak, which they hope to continue on Sunday. Coming off of a 45-14 win against the Columbus South Bulldogs, they are 7-3 and their confidence continues to build as they finish up the year. The Red Devils have struggled on offense, scoring only 21 points per game over their last 3 games. On the year, they rank 41st in Division 4, scoring an average of 28.8 points per game over the course of the season. They aren't a top defense in terms of points allowed either, but they have given up less points in recent weeks. While they rank 43rd in their division on the season with 20.8 points allowed per game, they've given up an improved average of 11 points over their last 2 games.
Licking Valley will look to continue the momentum of their 10-game winning streak, the most recent addition to which was a 42-21 win against the Licking Heights Hornets last week, bringing their record to 10-0. The Panthers offense is the 4th-ranked offense in Division 4, scoring an average of 41.5 points per game over the course of the season. In their last 2 games, however, they haven't been quite as explosive as they've averaged 35 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 10.4 points per game, which ranks 3rd in their division.
Prediction: Licking Valley to win (99.00% chance of victory)