WILLOW WOOD, Ohio - The Chesapeake Panthers travel to Symmes Valley on Friday for a 7 p.m. high school football game with the Vikings in a contest of neighboring school districts and rivals.
The Panthers (1-1) enter Friday night's game after a win over Southern Ohio Conference opponent Oak Hill (35-13) and loss to SOC-member Minford 54-21. The Vikings will be the third SOC member, albeit from the smaller school division of that league, the Panthers will have played.
It's a game Chesapeake head coach Todd Knipp can use to clean up a problem area that's plagued his Panthers through its first two games - penalties.
"It's something we constantly talked about," Knipp said. "The penalties are really something we look at as unforced errors."
Against Oak Hill, the Panthers were flagged 14 times for 110 yards, but were able to compensate for that with a dominant ground game the Oaks were unable to stop. While Chesapeake was penalized just five times for 49 yards against the Falcons, one Panthers player was ejected from that game for fighting.
Knipp said its time for his team to put the previous two games behind it and focus on the next five weeks of opponents beginning with the Vikings.
"I'm pretty familiar with them," Knipp said. "We used to scrimmage Rusty when I was at Rock Hill. I know their kids are excited, we're going to get their best game, we've got to come in with the right mind set. That involves focusing on the three big areas of football - blocking, tackling and taking care of the football."
Taking care of the football is an area that hurt Chesapeake more than penalties in the loss to Minford. The Panthers fumbled five times, losing two, leaving it unable to capitalize on 420 rushing yards against the Falcons.
Tackling, or lack thereof, was also an issue for Chesapeake.
Will Todd has been the constant through both of Chesapeake's games. On the season, Todd has carried the ball 29 times for 274 yards and a TD so far this season, the only Panther back to go over the 100-yard mark in both games the team has played.
"Our defense, we definitely need to step it up and that's what we're really focusing on this week," said Todd who had six assisted tackles against Minford. "Going back to the fundamentals. There should be nobody that can rush they they're running back did on us."
Kamren Harless rushed for 101 yards against the Falcons after gaining just 73 on 21 carries against the Oaks. Quarterback Donald Richendollar, after gaining 127 yards in the season opener, was limited to 59 yards on eight carries last Friday.
Symmes Valley (2-0) has been looking forward to a rematch of its 49-0 loss to Chesapeake at Phil Davis Field in 2018 and will come with an experienced senior at quarterback and a steady dose of the wishbone offense directed by head coach Rusty Webb.
Coming off wins against South Gallia (14-12) and Fairfield Christian Academy (37-0), the Vikings will be ready to play against the Panthers.
"All of our kids are looking forward to the challenge," Webb said. "Chesapeake is really fast, they are athletic and they're more physical up front than they have been in the past. They are impressive."
Webb said his Symmes Valley team has impressed him with how hard it has played. A young team with mostly freshmen and sophomores in starting positions, the Vikings have had production and leadership from the juniors and seniors on the team.
Junior Josh Ferguson leads the rushing attack for Webb with 274 yards on the season. QB Jack Leith adds a second ball carrier Chesapeake will have to account for.
The five Viking seniors - Leith, TE/DL Christian Gilbert, OL/DL Dwayne Eplin, OL/DL Tobey Smathers and TE/DL Dillon Reed - have never beaten Chesapeake during their high school careers. The Panthers have won the previous five meetings including the last three by shutout.