In no particular order...
1. Surprise! Western Reserve, New London and South Central all sit at 4-1. It may not exactly be a HUGE surprise that Western given its past success this decade is 4-1, but I guess its the way they've gone about it after stumbling to a 4-6 injury-marred season in 2007. WR has had blowout wins (Black River, Margaretta), a loss that saw them rally from three touchdowns down only to lose (Norwayne), a comeback victory (New London) and a win that saw them hold off an opponent late (Plymouth).
And again, it wasn't a surprise NL was 3-0 given its schedule, but with just over 30 kids on the roster I think most expected depth to catch up to the Wildcats given what they lost from a year ago once they hit the FC schedule. However, the team lost a heart breaker to Western after leading 27-13 at halftime and beat Monroeville for the first time in 12 years in a game that sounds like a few costly turnovers deep in Monroeville territory kept the game closer than maybe it should have been.
At South Central, the Trojans still can't seem to figure out so-so Crestline of the North Central Conference, but seemed to generally surprise most when it knocked off Keystone on the road and although Monroeville is winless (see further down), beat the Eagles on the road for the first win over Monroeville in 18 years. We'll see what SC has in the second half, however, as they got three 4-1 teams in NL, WR and Crestview, the unbeaten St. Paul Flyers and a vastly-improved 2-3 Plymouth team.
2. St. Paul is better than last year. I know, I know, this shouldn't surprise me at this point, but yet, it kinda does. I knew they'd be the usual 8-2/9-1 and knew the offense would be fine, but I'm surprised at how dominant their defense is given they replaced eight starters that included the top six leading tacklers, top six leading sackers and top three or four interception leaders. What this team did to Crestview in week 5 basically just made the statement to the rest of the Firelands Conference that if they thought last year was bad (average FC win of 48-7), they haven't seen nothing yet.
3. Bellevue is back. After an extremely healthy run of Northern Ohio League titles and playoff appearances, many wondered what was "wrong" with Bellevue after a stretch from 2005-07 produced just a 14-16 record. Well, if the first five weeks of this season are an indicator, Bellevue is back and not only poised for a playoff berth this season, but looking at their roster could be the best team in the area in 2009. The Redmen hammered a pair of 4-1 Sandusky Bay Conference teams in Perkins and Clyde and its lone setback is to a top five Division IV team in Fostoria, who got a Superman performance out of Micah Hyde. The Redmen are currently third in Region 10, and I don't look for them to slip much further, if at all.
4. Monroeville and St. Mary are both winless. I think heading into the season many expected SMCC to struggle given its schedule and the loss of Ryan Heath and Ryan Wasylik along with a new coaching staff. But this is also a program that at the same time has had quite a run of success from 2002-07 and halfway through first-year coach Jason Zieger's rookie season the bottom has completely fallen out in blowout losses to St. Paul (51-7), Northwood (24-7) and Oak Harbor, who was winless at the time (34-7). With the likes of Perkins, Huron, Clyde and Edison left on the schedule, realistically it may get worse before it gets better.
Meanwhile at Monroeville, what can you say? The injury bug bit early, it bit often, and it bit hard. Not only did they lose key two-way starters, but they lost most of them for the season and three or four of them came within the first two weeks of the season and then there was a couple more broken bones to some underclassmen in a JV game at St. Paul two weeks ago. The Eagles weren't going to have an easy time replacing the offensive production of 2007 as it was, but this is simply too much. To put it in perspective, the last Monroeville team to sit at 0-5?? 40 years ago in 1968.
5. Sandusky and Seneca East are both 2-3. I really can't figure this one out. I looked at what both teams had coming back, I looked at their schedules and figured both were a lock to be 3-2 or 4-1 after five games and here we sit and they both have a losing record and each had a devastating loss to a traditional struggling program at home. Sandusky lost to Southview to start the season, a team that had lost 31 straight games, and Seneca East lost to Plymouth, a team that hasn't won more than four games in a season in 10 years.
Those losses may prove to be extremely critcal too, as Sandusky still must face Fremont Ross (4-1) and Napoleon and Findlay, teams who may have losing records, but are traditionally bad news for the Streaks this decade. It's even more daunting for Seneca East after it's 33-27 loss to 1-3 Mohawk last weekend, as to finish with a winning record in 2008 they will have to get through both Hopewell-Loudon (5-0), a team who has won 44-of-45 regular season games, and Carey (5-0).