Fairfield (9-2 in 2013) vs. Withrow (8-3)
WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. Thursday at Lockland
WHAT TO WATCH: Fairfield was much deeper at skill positions this summer and the Indians return seven starters on defense. Junior quarterback Hunter Krause threw for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Watch for sophomore running back Kesean Gamble (5-11, 225) who has plenty of potential in the Indians’ backfield. Senior defensive lineman Marquis Jarman also played well earlier this month in the preseason. Withrow, which starts its first season in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference, has to replace 33 seniors. The Tigers earned a playoff berth last season. Drake is in his first year as Tigers head coach after he was a Walnut Hills assistant the past two seasons.
Madeira (8-3) vs. Norwood (5-5)
WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. Thursday at Shea Stadium, Norwood
WHAT TO WATCH: Another game in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown, Madeira has made three consecutive postseason appearances. The Mustangs return multiple key players including senior Colin Voisard, who threw for 651 yards last season. Six starters return on defense and the defensive unit is expected to lead the team this season. “I really like how this team has followed the past Madeira teams in their commitment, work ethic and team first attitude,” Madeira coach Mike Shafer said. Experience is the strength of Norwood this season as the Indians return nine starters on defense. Norwood lost three games in September by a combined four points last season.
Blanchester (4-6) vs. Clinton-Massie (14-1)
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Blanchester
WHAT TO WATCH: Clinton-Massie was on two straight Division IV state titles and the Falcons are loaded with talent again for this season. This game marks the 50th meeting between the two schools in the Cider Keg game and will be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. Blanchester, which finished second in the Southern Buckeye Conference National division last season, has 13 seniors and strong underclassmen, coach Jack O’Rourke told The Enquirer in the preseason. Clinton-Massie returns eight on defense and six on offense. Senior running back Chayse Wolf rushed for 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Watch for junior quarterback Hunter Fentress to also make a significant impact.