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Hornets-Redmen highlight start of OVC

It's a new league race with an old look.

After finishing near the bottom of the Ohio Valley Conference race the past few years, the Coal Grove Hornets and Rock Hill Redmen are poised to make a challenge at the title.

Both teams are 3-2 coming into the game. Hornets first-year coach Steve Cook is hoping the non-league success will carry over into the league race but he knows it won' t be easy.

"We real pleased with our progress up to this point, but now we're getting into Ohio Valley Conference play. We have a good conference. People are pretty evenly balanced, this year more than others," Cook said.

"This will be a tough game for us. Rock Hill has a good football team. They have a lot of upperclassmen and we don't. We respect Rock Hill very much. (Coach) Bob McCollister has done a lot of good things with his program."

While Coal Grove is riding its first three-game winning streak in four years, Rock Hill is coming off back-to-back losses to a couple of powerhouse teams in Portsmouth West and Wellston.

Rock Hill coach Bob McCollister wants his team to get back on the winning track as it faces a third straight road game.

"We played two really good football teams. Last week we were in the game until late. We missed some big plays early and we had trouble throwing because of the rain. But our guys kept fighting. We were pleased with our effort," said McCollister.

The big play is a concern for Cook. He said Rock Hill tailback James Russell has the speed to break the game open.

"I'll be surprised if Rock Hill doesn't just want to try and come out and run the ball right at us. What we want to do is stop the big play. They have a big-play offense," said Cook. "They're capable of scoring quickly. Russell is a heck of a runner. I don't think we have anyone to catch him."

Conversely, Coal Grove utilizes a running game that wants to control the ball and eat time off the clock.

"Coal Grove is back to doing what it did a few years ago under (coach Dave) Lucas. They're trying to restore an old tradition so they're doing what they did in the past. And you can see they're getting better and beginning to understand the concepts. They've improved every time out. That's the mark of a well-coached football team."

Even though the Hornets lineup is filled with freshmen and sophomores, McCollister said Rock Hill won't take the game lightly. He's fully aware of the rivalry.

"It's one of those games you never know what can happen, especially if the weather is bad," said McCollister who noted the heavy rain that's in the forecast.

Also in the OVC, Fairland hosts South Point while new league member River Valley plays its first conference game-ever at Chesapeake.