Area prep football coaches preview Raiders-Bengals playoff matchup

The state of Ohio is becoming recognized nationally for the football talent it produces and Greater Cincinnati high schools are no small part of that equation. 

The Enquirer checked in with area high school football coaches whose gridiron expertise gives them credentials to analyze what fellow Cincinnati Bengals' fans can expect from the playoff game against the Las Vegas Raiders this Saturday.

Anderson head coach Evan Dreyer watches his team during their scrimmage against Mt. Healthy, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021.

Evan Dreyer, Anderson

Dreyer has longed for a winner in Cincinnati since suffering through the 1990s, when "Shake-N-Blake" T-shirts were the lone bright spot through 11 losing seasons in 12 years. 

"I've put a brown bag over my head at Riverfront Stadium," Dreyer laughed. 

In the same realm, Dreyer has been forced to deal with the reality that a Cincinnati curse is present. 

"Who is going to let us down more? The Reds or the Bengals?" Dreyer said. "I remember the Reds' playoff game against the Mets when I was almost crying of disappointment. Then it was the Carson Palmer knee injury and you say, 'what's gonna happen to us next?'"

More:Paul Daugherty: Are the playoffs enough for Bengals fans? Not after what they've been through.

So how do the Bengals end the curse? There are parallels between the Bengals' offense and Dreyer's Anderson Raptors, who have been the highest scoring offense in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference two straight years.

"Me being a guy who loves to throw the ball the way the Bengals do it, it's gonna come down to protecting Joe (Burrow) and avoiding third and longs," Dreyer said. 

Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals is pressured by Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Kansas City Chiefs in the first quarter of the game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In the ECC, Anderson's offense had to try to slow down several stellar pass-rushers, like a talented defensive line from state-champion Winton Woods. Same goes for Saturday when the Bengals attempt to contain Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. 

"When they bring heat, the running back can't be isolated on a pass-rusher," Dreyer explained. "With Winton Woods, we never wanted our running back blocking (ECC Defensive Player of the Year) (Jayron) Gibson 1-on-1." 

Dreyer has a special connection to the Bengals as a lifelong friend of punter and fellow McNicholas grad Kevin Huber. Dreyer had conversations with Zac Taylor when the current Bengals head coach was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks head coach at the University of Cincinnati. 

Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber (10) stands by between drills during training camp practice at the Paul Brown Stadium practice field in downtown Cincinnati on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021.

"He (Taylor) knew football; there was no question. His ability to communicate his ideas and his strategy were at a high level," Dreyer said. "I love reading about him because I think at UC, he got a raw end of the deal. The culture at UC then was so different than it is now. I hope people never compare his UC tenure to what he is now, because it's unfair." 

Wyoming's Perry McMichen (15) dunks Wyoming head coach Aaron Hancock as they win the OHSAA Division IV State Championship football game between Wyoming and Girard on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton. Wyoming defeated Girard 42-14.

Aaron Hancock, Wyoming

Hancock, who won a Paul Brown coaching award from the Bengals in 2020, says the 31-year curse is not in the heads of the players going into Saturday. He felt the same in 2018, when it had been 41 years since his Wyoming Cowboys last won a state championship. 

"They're just focused on their next opponent and just moving forward with executing the game plan," Hancock said. "They're a youthful group that is very motivated to change the curse, but half of them don't know about the whole history of it."

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