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Simple for Seattle: Beat LA to clinch the NFC West

SEATTLE — For all of their wild inconsistency this season, the path is straightforward for the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle can wrap up its third NFC West title in the past four seasons with a win over the listless Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night.

At this point, the Seahawks clinching the division title is a formality, holding a three-game lead over Arizona with three games remaining.

The Rams can only dream of that kind of success after another lost season that culminated with this week's decision to fire coach Jeff Fisher.

"We realize that there's a lot at stake with every one of these games, as it has always been," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "But now you know you have a chance to make some noise in your division."

The more important task for Seattle is trying to regain control of the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a coveted first-round bye in the playoffs.

The Seahawks (8-4-1) are a half-game behind Detroit in the NFC standings, but face a far easier schedule than the Lions over the final three weeks.

While Seattle closes with Los Angeles, Arizona and San Francisco, the Lions finish off the season at the New York Giants, at Dallas and home for Green Bay.

While the immediate focus is taking care of the division, there is a decent chance if Seattle can finish 3-0 it will end up with a bye.

"Owning the division has been something for a long time first off, it's the first thing that you get a shot at and we want to focus at what's closest at hand," Carroll said.

"Also, when you win the division, you play a playoff game at home. This is such a decisive advantage, we feel, to play here."

While Seattle is all but assured of a fifth straight playoff appearance, the Rams (4-9) are without direction after the decision to fire Fisher.

The hype that surrounded the Rams' return to Los Angeles has been replaced by apathy after four straight losses and just one win since Oct. 2.

Couple Fisher's firing with the short week and there's no telling how motivated — or indifferent — the Rams will be even with a three-game win streak over the Seahawks.

"The players are just super resilient," interim Los Angeles coach John Fassel said. "I anticipate they'll go out there and put it all on the line for themselves, the team and coach Fisher."

Seattle will be trying to recover from a rarity: A blowout loss. The 38-10 loss to Green Bay last Sunday represented the first loss by 10 or more points in Russell Wilson's career and most lopsided Seattle setback since the 2011 season.

"That's not the norm for us," Wilson said. "We want to get back to playing great football, which is being very efficient and score as much as we can."

Here's what else to watch:

RUSH, RUSH: For the past few weeks, the Seahawks' pass rush has disappeared. Over the past three games, Seattle has just one sack, that coming when Aaron Rodgers fell down in the third quarter of last Sunday's blowout loss.

The Seahawks have five total sacks over the past five games. This would seem a good week for Seattle to try and get the pass rush started again. Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff has been sacked 10 times in the past three games.

GOFF GROWTH: It's been a trying four weeks for Goff since taking over as the starting quarterback. He stepped in as the starter in Week 11 against Miami and is winless thus far. In the past two weeks, Goff has thrown four interceptions, one touchdown and been sacked seven times.

"It's gotten a little more comfortable, I'm starting to see the field even more every game so that's been fun," Goff said.

THE DONALD: Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald has made life miserable for Seattle in the past.

In five games against the Seahawks, Donald has four sacks and 28 total tackles. Carroll said it's Donald's combination of quickness getting off the snap and instincts that has made him so difficult for Seattle to handle.


Fox hits for 25 to pace 4-0 Pointers
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL

SOUTH POINT, Ohio — South Point came back from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat Coal Grove 58-49 in a boys high school basketball game.

Tayshaun Fox led South Point (4-0 overall, 1-0 Ohio Valley Conference) with 25 points.

Evan Gannon paced Coal Grove (1-2, 0-1) with 12 points. Aaron Music and Daniel Rutherford scored 11 apiece.

COAL GROVE 11 19 8 11 — 49: Music 11, Case 3, Rutherford 11, M. Sites 6, K. Sites 2, Jones 4, Evan Gannon 12.

SOUTH POINT 5 17 20 16 — 58: Shaffer 3, Hall 6, Whitt 7, Fox 25, Runyon 9, Brandt 4, Wade 4.

HUNTINGTON ST. JOE 55, BUFFALO 36: John Morrison scored 23 and Deaundra Murphy added 19 for Huntington St. Joe in a victory at Buffalo. Austin Starcher led the Bison with 10 points.

POINT PLEASANT 67, NICHOLAS COUNTY 50: Braydon Ralclusky and Doug Workman both netted 16 points and Cason Payne tacked on 14 for the Big Blacks (1-1). Luke LeRose led Nicholas County with 17 points.

POINT PLEASANT 13 20 14 20 — 67: Payne 14, Ralclusky 16. Rairden 6. Yates 2. Workman 16, Harbour 9, Derenberger4.

NICHOLAS COUNTY 12 11 18 9 — 50: Lerose 17, Grose 9, Huffman 5, Nutter 9, Ser-geon3, Milam 7.

GALLIA ACADEMY 53, CHESAPEAKE 31: The Blue Devils (3-1, 1-0 Ohio Valley Conference) beat the Panthers for the first time in 25 years. They raced to a 12-0 lead and built the margin to as large as 40-12.

Justin Peck led the Blue Devils with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Zach Loveday scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked six shots. Jake Stevens paced the Panthers (0-3, 0-1) with 13 points.

WAHAMA 63, SOUTHERN 62: Mason Hildreth sank two free throws with 5 seconds to play as the White Falcons won a Tri-Valley Conference game with the Tornadoes.

Philip Hoffman, a Marshall University baseball signee, scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for Wahama (IT, IT TVC) to back Noah Litchfield's 23 points.

Crenson Rogers led Southern (3-1, 1-1) with 22 points.

TRIMBLE 62, SOUTH GALLIA 47: Tyler Slack scored 19 points as the Wildcats (3-0 overall and TVC) defeated the Rebels (0-4, 0-3). Caleb Henry led South Gallia with 19 points.

POCA 47, HURRICANE 34: Luke Frampton scored 16 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as the Dots (2-0) defeated the Redskins (1-3). Steven Shine led Hurricane with eight points.

CHAPMANVILLE 66, WIN-FIELD 55: Drew Williamson scored 29 points as the Tigers (2-0) won at Winfield. Braedon McGrew led the Generals (1-1) with 17 points. Tate Hancock scored 16 points, Andrew Huff 11 and Christian Frye 10.

TRIMBLE 62, SOUTH GALLIA 47: Tyler Slack scored 19 points as the Wildcats (3-0 overall and TVC) defeated the Rebels (0-4, 0-3).

Caleb Henry led South Gallia with 19 points.

Girls

BELFRY 58, TOLSIA 41: Lena Harrison and Kailee Rash each scored 16 points to lead Belfry past Tolsia (1-1).

Taylor Parsley paced Tolsia with 14 points and Mariah Finley added 11.

Tolsia's next game is Friday against Elkins in Fairmont.

BELFRY 10 18 14 16 — 58: Harrison 16, Rash 16, Maynard 9, Keene 7 Brewer 5, Phillips 5.

TOLSIA 14 11 8 8 — 41: Parsley 14, Finley 11, Jude 6. Nichols 5. Cloud 5.

SYMMES VALLEY 71, ROSE HILL CHRISTIAN 23: Jensyn Shepherd scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Vikings to a rout of the Royals.

Payton Walsh scored 11 points and made six steals for Symmes Valley (5-3), which plays again at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Sciotoville East.

McKinley Sparks led Rose Hill Christian (2-4) with eight points.

ROSE HILL CHRISTIAN 4 2 7 10 — 23: Size-more 5. Fife 2, M. Sparks 8. D. Sparks 2. Trimble 2, B. Sparks 4.

SYMMES VALLEY 22 20 16 13 — 71: Crab-tree 6, Hunter 4, Shepherd 12, Napier 2, Ross 7. Hayes 8, Cade 5, Conley 2, Kifts 8, Baldwin 6, Walsh 11.


SPORTS IN BRIEF

Fairland basketball team to hold toy drive

ROME TOWNSHIP, Ohio — The Fairland High School boys basketball team is sponsoring a toy drive. Any student who brings a new, unwrapped toy to the Dragons* 7:30 p.m. Friday game with Ironton will be admitted free.

Fairland enters the game 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Fighting Tigers are 2-1 overall and will be playing their OVC opener.

NFL: Optimism low for San Diego, Oakland

IRVING, Texas — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell isn't saying whether he's optimistic that San Diego and Oakland can keep their teams, while Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay considers both franchises all but gone.

Dean Spanos of the Chargers and the Raiders' Mark Davis weren't talking at the NFL owners meeting Wednesday in the Dallas area. And no new specifics were revealed by Goodell a day after city and county officials in Oakland agreed to open negotiations with an investment group on a $1.3 billion plan for a new stadium.

The Chargers face a Jan. 15 deadline to decide whether to join the Rams in Los Angeles, part of a deal struck almost a year ago when owners agreed to let the Rams leave St. Louis. A Chargers-written ballot measure asking for $1.15 billion in increased hotel taxes to help fund a new downtown stadium was soundly defeated last month.

Earlier this year, Davis said he was committed to moving the Raiders to Las Vegas, where a $1.9 billion stadium project has been approved.

MLB owners, players ratify labor deal

NEW YORK — Baseball owners and players have ratified the sport's new collective bargaining agreement, extending their labor peace to 26 years through 2021.

The sides announced their approvals Wednesday, a day after holding votes in separate telephone meetings.

The union said its executive board unanimously ratified the Basic Agreement, Benefit Plan Agreement, Joint Drug Agreement and Joint Policy on Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse.