The high school football season got under way in a big way Thursday night at Cincinnati Princeton for the first two of eight games in three days as part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.
In the opener, Cincinnati Winton Woods flattened Cincinnati Western Hills 48-0. Then, in the nightcap, host Princeton had two huge defensive stands in the red zone at the end of each half and blanked Cincinnati McNicholas 7-0 in a dramatic win.
Hosea Simpson had a big day for Winton Woods
Winton Woods' junior running back Hosea Simpson had 147 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. With the game starting at 6 p.m. Thursday night, Simpson likely scored the first touchdown of the Ohio high school football season when he burst through the line for a 46-yard score on his team's third play - at 6:05 p.m.
"Coach called a trap and it was open," Simpson said. "I just saw the hole and I hit it. My line did a great job and it was wide open."
He also had a 3-yard touchdown later in the game.
"It felt good to get back out there," said Simpson, who was a 1,000-yard rusher last year as a sophomore. "My offensive line did a great job. I think I could have done better. Our defense played a great game."
Winton Woods' Marlon Woods blocked a Western Hills punt and recovered it for a touchdown to put his team up 14-0. The lead went to 21-0 when Winton Woods recovered a fumbled Western Hills snap for a score and 28-0 when WW quarterback Julian Johnson scored on a 1-yard run.
"We came to make a statement this year," Simpson said of the Mustangs, who were 6-4 last year. "Everybody didn't expect us to do so well. But I think we made a statement that we're coming out to play. We want to make some noise this year. We want to get to the playoffs this year."
The 5-9, 194-pound Simpson boasts 4.52-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
"I'd say I'm like a pounding running back," he said. "I don't like too much fanciness."
When asked what he did to prepare for the season, Simpson said, "I was just working out hard with our team. I was working out with my family here, my brothers, and just coming out to play."
Simpson, considered one of Ohio's top junior prospects, said colleges are sending him mail on a regular basis.
"I get a lot of letters and questionnaires," he said.
Winton Woods coach Troy Everhart, now 37-24 in his seventh year with the Mustangs, talked about what makes his run-oriented offense a success.
"The offensive line is pretty good," Everhart said. "We have five seniors on that line. We have a junior that rolls in there. That's a dominating offensive line. Each one of those guys power cleans 250 pounds and can squat over 400. They are a tough group and they get holes. Then, Hosea is just so explosive. He gets up in there and makes things happen.
"This was a good opening week. It is so hard to get ready in high school football with the days that they allot. I thought we were better this week than we were in our scrimmage."
Princeton Holds On
In the nightcap, there were more than a few anxious moments for the home crowd. Princeton ended up slamming the door on McNicholas four times inside the Vikings' 30-yard line.
The game's only touchdown came on Darius Edwards' 25-yard touchdown pass to Dorian West with 1:12 left in the first quarter. The game ended with McNick at the Vikings 21-yard line and quarterback David Klonne throwing an incomplete pass in the end zone on the final play.
"That made me nervous," said Princeton coach Brian Dodds, whose Vikings registered their first shutout in his two-plus years at the school. "A tipped ball, a bad pass or somebody falls down, and it's a different game. But we held in there and it was a great defensive effort.
"We're extremely excited. We started two sophomores on defense and we're very young there. We had one kid get hurt and put a sophomore in. For us to shut them out - a spread team, a high octane team - we're very happy. Coach (Steve) Klonne is a tremendous coach. You can see that. Their kids are tremendously well disciplined. We just made plays."
"Last year, we struggled big time. It was a rough year. We were 3-7. Colerain beat us up and Brookhaven beat us. We lost a lot of seniors. For us to come in here and win like this with a young team, it's huge."
For Princeton senior offensive tackle and co-captain Aaron Brown, it was a relief to get that first win of the new year.
"It feels so good to get that first win, coming out in your senior year and the new season," said the 6-6, 290-pound Brown, ranked as the state's No. 2 senior by Ohio High. "It's great coming off a bad year. We've worked up to this game and I think we accomplished what we set out to do.
"We did a good job of coming off the ball and firing out. That's what we needed to."
Regarding being a team leader, Brown said, "It means a lot. I know I have to be a leader on this team."
Dodds talked about what makes Brown special.
"I can see him two years from now being 6-7, 320 and having really good feet," the coach said. "He's that kind of kid. He has grown so much in the last year. He has great feet for a big man. He also has that leadership ability. He's not a vocal guy. He just gets the job done. He's an intense kid on the football field and gets his job done. I could see him being that prototypical lineman down the road."
Brown has recruiting visits coming up to Auburn Sept. 3, Ohio State Sept. 10, Louisville Sept. 17, Virginia Tech Sept. 24 and Miami (Fla.) Oct. 1.
"Ohio State, I've known Ohio State my whole life," Brown said. "It's a great school with great coaches. I could see myself there. Basically, all of the schools I could see myself going there. The big thing will be how I feel with the coaches."
The Kickoff Showdown continues Friday night at Miami's Yager Stadium in Oxford as Liberty Twp. Lakota East tackles Lebanon at 6 p.m. and West Chester Lakota West - with Ohio State commitment Josh Chichester - meets Mason at 8:15 p.m.
Saturday's schedule at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium features: Sycamore against Cincinnati LaSalle at 11 a.m., Cincinnati Moeller against Cincinnati Withrow at 1:45 p.m., Cincinnati Colerain against Cincinnati St. Xavier at 4:30 p.m. and Huber Heights Wayne against Cincinnati Elder at 7:15 p.m.