Indian Hill football coach Tony Arcuri is expecting an electric environment Friday night as the undefeated Braves host undefeated Reading.
Reading coach Pat McLaughlin has heard the enthusiasm surrounding the Blue Devils in the school and in the community.
A Cincinnati Hills League championship is on the line starting at 7 p.m. Friday. Reading (9-0, 6-0 CHL) and Indian Hill (9-0, 6-0) are two of just three area teams still undefeated entering Week 10 (Fenwick being the other).
But, there are also significant playoff implications for both teams in Division IV, Region 14.
“If Indian Hill wins, I think they will be second and Reading anywhere from No. 5 to No. 7,” said playoff projections analyst Steve Shuck.
“If Reading should win, they could go as high as third. Indian Hill would drop to either fourth or fifth.”
What links the CHL coaches and their team’s mindsets this week is the challenge to prepare for the game itself as just another on the respective teams’ schedules this regular season.
“Obviously everybody is very excited,” McLaughlin said. “But, we are treating it like another game. We treat it as normal.”
Arcuri said the basic fundamentals of football ring true even in Week 10 with extra anticipation as being a sidenote. He’s emphasized poise and consistency to his players.
“A possible perfect season and a CHL title don’t come around often,” Arcuri said. “Seize the opportunity.”
In fact, Indian Hill, ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press Division IV state poll, has a 9-0 record for the first time since the 2006 season – the year it finished 10-1.
Indian Hill junior quarterback Reed Aichholz has been a catalyst for the Braves. The left-hander wears No. 15 and reminds McLaughlin of a young Tim Tebow. Aichholz has thrown for 1,996 yard and 13 touchdowns. He’s rushed for 780 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Junior Dawson Aichholz (654 yards), senior Nick Heidel (582 yards) and sophomore Colin Shaw (451 yards) are among the top statistical receivers in the CHL for the Braves, ranked No. 3 in The Enquirer Division IV area coaches’ poll.
Defensively, junior linebacker Dan Becker has 97 tackles. Senior defensive lineman Marcus Baskin and freshman Dimetrious Baylor have four sacks each.
“We need to put a full and complete game together and play like we are capable of playing,” Arcuri said. “We have yet to do that.”
Reading, which is 9-0 for the first time since the 2003 season, is also projected to make the playoffs in Division IV, Region 14. The Blue Devils will likely make the postseason for the first time since the 2006 season (7-4 record in ’06).
But, Reading players and coaches prefer not to dwell on this special season or look ahead to the postseason. McLaughlin has them focused just on Friday night.
Reading, ranked No. 5 in The Enquirer poll, must figure out how to stop Reed Aichholz and also to utilize its running game in the offense.
“I’m thinking (only) about Indian Hill,” McLaughlin said. “Tony has done a great job.”
McLaughlin has 13 seniors, 13 juniors and the rest are underclassmen on a team of 55 players. He likes the character of this group and said this season has been a step in the right direction. McLaughlin said the program is building a foundation for the next couple of years.
Reading is led by several players including senior quarterback Sam Ashbrock (739 yards passing and eight touchdowns), senior running back Neriah Brooks (777 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns) and senior defensive lineman Tyler Cromer, who has 76 tackles, including 4.5 sacks.
Junior running back/safety Baden Pinson has rushed for 678 yards and seven touchdowns. Junior safety/wide receiver Alex Wachendorf has 63 tackles and two interceptions. Senior defensive end Zach Thurston has 57 tackles including 3 ½ sacks.
All those players will be key on Friday night.
“I think it’s going to be a great high school football game,” McLaughlin said.