Matt’s Space: Division I football title returns to Cleveland but ‘Queen City’ still reigns supreme

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Brian Carozzoni dives into the end zone in the 28-20 St. Ignatius win over Elder in the D-I final (Photo by Gary Housteau)

With Cleveland St. Ignatius’ 28-20 win over Cincinnati Elder in the Division I football state championship Sat., Nov. 7, the big school title has returned to the city of ‘Progress and Prosperity’ for the first time since 2001.

But Cincinnati football still reigns in the big-school division.


Division I football has become Ohio’s version of the Civil War.

It is North vs. South, the shores of Lake Erie vs. the banks of the Ohio River…

It is Cleveland vs. Cincinnati.

With Cleveland St. Ignatius’ 28-20 win over Cincinnati Elder in the Division I football state championship Sat., Nov. 7, the big school title has returned to the city of ‘Progress and Prosperity’ for the first time since 2001.

The win marked an unprecedented tenth state title for Ignatius further emblazoning the program’s rich tradition and lore into Ohio high school football history.

But other than the legendary Ignatius program, high school football in Cleveland has been the ‘Mistake by the Lake’ in terms of state championships with the ‘Queen City’ reigning supreme.

Since the Ohio High School Athletic Association implemented the playoff system in 1972, Cincinnati holds a 16-10 advantage over Cleveland for big-school football championships – and for those keeping track at home – Cleveland can thank Ignatius for all 10 titles.

Of those 10 titles, Ignatius defeated a Cincinnati school in the finals in six of those championship runs and is a perfect 5-0 against Cincinnati’s formidable Greater Catholic League in title games.

Not to take anything away from Ignatius by any means, but on the bigger scale, the Wildcats are about where it ends for Cleveland high school football.

When the geography is expanded, the big-school division has been decided between a Northeast Ohio school and Southwest Ohio school 28 times since 1972. Northeast Ohio schools have a 17-11 advantage in that instance and include representation from Warren, Youngstown, Lakewood, Berea, Parma, Massillon, Akron, North Canton, Brunswick, Solon and Mentor in addition to Cleveland.

But for the sake of this argument, Cincinnati high school football has proven to be a better brand of football – especially when the only representation from Cleveland is one school.

Cincinnati has had six different schools win big-school state titles, including Archbishop Moeller (1975-77, 1979-80, 82, 85), Princeton (1978, 83, 87), Fairfield (1986), Elder (2002-03), Colerain (2004) and St. Xavier (2005, 07).

Of course, of those schools that have played Ignatius in the finals (Moeller, Princeton, St. Xavier and Elder), none of them have been able to knock off the Wildcats going 0-5.

But I am talking about one city’s high school football against another’s and not one school against a city.

The Cleveland vs. Cincinnati high school football debate is not a new one and everyone has an opinion or an argument for both sides.

But the numbers certainly favor the Cincinnati schools when it comes to championship football.

Ignatius has accomplished something no other high school football team in Ohio has ever done winning 10 state titles. Hats off to head coach Chuck Kyle and the remarkable program he has built into a football powerhouse. It has certainly been fun to watch.

But for a city to be dominant over another it needs to have more than one representative.

Of course, lost in the argument is Ohio’s capital city – Columbus.

With only two OHSAA state titles coming out of Columbus, that is a column for another day…

For The Record

Ignatius’s record-setting 10 state titles came in 1988-89, 1991-95, 99, 2001 and now 2008.

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