In the playoffs, there are usually a few games in each division each week that serve as a preview to the rest of the excitement we'll see as we approach the state championships. This week's state semifinal matchup between the Licking Valley Panthers and the Girard Indians looks to be one of those games as the Panthers comes into the game as 1-point favorites in what essentially amounts to a toss-up. The playoffs are the best time of the year but also come with a great deal of drama as many powerhouses will even see their seasons cut short. Each week, it's do or die and, after this week is complete, half of the current playoff teams will be eliminated. The Panthers rank 9th in the division while the Indians rank 8th. 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.
Licking Valley is currently on a 4-game winning streak, which they hope to continue on Sunday. Coming off of a 30-0 win against the St. Clairsville Red Devils, they are 10-3 and their confidence continues to build as they finish up the year. The Panthers offense is the 16th-ranked offense in Division 4, scoring an average of 35.8 points per game over the course of the season. In their last 7 games, however, they've cooled off, averaging 33.71 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 12.8 points per game, which ranks 7th in their division.
Girard will look to continue the momentum of their 11-game winning streak, the most recent addition to which was a 43-18 win against the Hubbard Eagles last week, bringing their record to 12-1. On offense, the Indians have been one of the best in the state this season, ranking 5th with 45.8 points per game. Recent weeks haven't been quite as explosive as they've averaged 39.2 points per game but they remain one of the most explosive offenses statewide. On defense, their last few weeks haven't even done justice to how good they've been all season. They've given up 27 points per game over their last 3, down from their average of 16.2, which ranks 17th in their division on the season.
Prediction: Licking Valley to win (80.30% chance of victory)