Who plays the best football? Conference countdown kicks off today


Ohio High School Leagues and Conferences

Who plays the best football in the state? Today we start answering that
argument – or adding to it. Over the next several days I’ll announce the
Top 10 football conferences in the state according to a variety of
criteria. Today we release the honorable mention selections, the “First 5 Out” and Nos. 6-10…let the debate – and countdown – begin.

Who plays the best football in the state? Today we start answering that argument – or adding to it. Over the next several days I’ll release the Top 10 football conferences in the state according to a variety of criteria including recent performance, state titles, tradition and obviously opinion.

Today we release the honorable mention selections, the “First 5 Out” and Nos. 6-10. The remaining release schedule will be:

No. 5 on Thursday
No. 4 on Friday
No. 3 on Monday
No. 2 on Tuesday
No. 1 on Wednesday

Don’t like the rankings? Disagree? Agree? Let me know by email at efrantz@bucknuts.com.

Ok, let the games and debate begin.


All-American Conference

Cincinnati Hills League

Inter-Tri County Conference

Ohio Cardinal Conference

Ohio Heritage Conference

Principals Athletic Conference

Southeastern Ohio Athletic League

Southwestern Buckeye League

Suburban League

Toledo City Athletic League


Northwest Ohio Athletic League: One of Ohio’s oldest conferences, the NWOAL has had its share of football success. Archbold (state champ 1988, runner-up 1982), Liberty Center (state champ 1997, runner-up 1993 and 1998), Montpelier (runner-up 1973), Patrick Henry (state champ 2005) and Wauseon (1993 state champ 1993) have all been players at the state championship level.

Blanchard Valley Conference:
While everyone else has had trouble with the MAC, the BVC is the lone small-school conference in the state to go toe-to-toe with the behemoth and hold its own. Dola Hardin Northern has a state title and Liberty-Benton played for one last year.  Both dismissed MAC teams from the playoffs en route to their title game appearances.

Western Buckeye League:
Talk about competitive, talk about the WBL. Last year there was a four-way tie for the league title (each team had two losses). Kenton (state titles in 2001-02 and runner-up in 2003) and St. Marys Memorial (state titles in 1990, 1992-93 and runner-up in 2004) have made the most news statewide recently but the league does have an extensive state finals history with Defiance (1997 state champ), Celina (1983 runner-up) and Van Wert (2000 runner-up) adding to the resume.

Fort Ancient Valley Conference:
Anderson’s recent trip to two straight state finals (1-1 in title games) has elevated the FAVC’s standing. Regular playoff participants Turpin, Kings, Edgewood and Winton Woods haven’t hurt its credentials.

Northeast Ohio Conference:
One of the state’s largest leagues – both in actual school size and membership – also plays some of its best football. Of the 18 teams in the NOC, 17 have been to the playoffs. Macedonia Nordonia (runner-up 2002), Solon (runner-up 2002) and Brunswick (runner-up 1995) have all reached the state finals. Other notable members are regular playoff participants Strongsville and Mayfield.


10. North Coast League: Started in 1984, the North Coast League was founded by six parochial high schools: Cleveland Central Catholic, Parma Heights Holy Name, Mentor Lake Catholic, Parma Padua Franciscan, Bedford St. Peter Chanel and Garfield Heights Trinity. Through the years key additions have been Elyria Catholic, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, Archbishop Hoban and Villa Angela-St. Joseph. Tough is right. Since its creation, the NCL has had teams in the playoffs 21 times and for 10 straight years. The flagbearer is Lake Catholic, which owns 17 playoff appearances and is 3-0 in state title games. Chanel won a state title in 2001. When you factor in state titles won by members before they joined the NCL, 60-percent of the league’s schools have at least one state football championship. Seven of the 10 have played in the state finals.

9. Ohio Valley Athletic Conference:
The largest high school conference in the country (it contains 46 schools in two states – Ohio and West Virginia), the OVAC has a lengthy athletic and football history. Alumni include Lou Groza, Lou Holtz, Dom Capers, Joey Galloway and Chuck Howley. Of course when you speak of the OVAC in recent years, the team on the tip of everyone’s tongue is Steubenville. The Big Red – one of just three programs in Ohio history with over 700 wins (Canton McKinley and Massillon Washington are the others) – are going for a unprecedented seventh straight undefeated regular season. Steubenville has two state titles and a runner-up finish in the last four years. Other teams of note (both traditionally and recently) in the OVAC are Bellaire, Martins Ferry, Shadyside, St. Clairsville, Hannibal River, Steubenville Central Catholic, Bridgeport and Beallsville.

8. Federal League:
Located in the heart of Ohio’s football foundation, the Federal League is comprised of some of Ohio’s most storied programs – i.e. Canton McKinley. The Bulldogs own three state titles and have been to the championship game six times. All told seven of the eight teams own playoff berths and several (Youngstown Boardman, North Canton Hoover and Uniontown Lake) have played in state championships. This season the league will play host to the reigning Ohio Mr. Football – Hoover’s Erick Howard. Howard is the only Mr. Football ever from Stark County and is only the second junior to win the award (Euclid, Ohio State and NFL alumnus Robert Smith is the other).

7. Greater Western Ohio Conference:
Forged when the Western Ohio League and Greater Miami Valley Conference joined forces at the turn of the century, the GWOC has steadily gained momentum and respect since its first season in 2001. Centerville (state runner-up 1991) and Wayne (state runner-up 1999) have traditions that rival any program’s in Ohio, while Clayton Northmont has recently added its name to Ohio’s “Who’s Who” in the big school ranks. Last season four of the six schools in the GWOC Central Division made the Division I, Region 4 playoffs (Centerville, Wayne, Kettering Fairmont and Northmont). That’s impressive in a region that also includes the GMC and GCL. Piqua is the only GWOC school to win a state title (2006), but others have played in the state final, including Lebanon, which owns a state title prior to becoming a GWOC member. Programs at Troy, Trotwood-Madison, Vandalia-Butler, Springfield and Springboro also ooze success and tradition. This season GWOC teams will play the likes of St. Ignatius, Moeller, Glenville, Canton McKinley, Pickerington Central and Lakota West.

6. Ohio Capital Conference:
Central Ohio’s big school conference is Ohio’s largest affiliation (32 schools) and also one of it most successful and deepest. Recently Pickerington Central (state semis 2008 and runner-up 2006), Dublin Coffman (state semis 2007 and 2001), Hilliard Davidson (state champ 2006 and state semis 2005), Worthington Kilbourne (state semis 2004), Dublin Scioto (state semis 2003) and Upper Arlington (state champ 2000) have made notable impacts at the Division I level. At the lower levels, Sunbury Big Walnut won the D-III state title in 2007 and reached the state semis last season. The NFL and collegiate alumni from this league are numerous.

5. Released Thursday

4. Released Friday

3. Released Monday

2. Released Tuesday

1. Released Wednesday

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