I love the Fall. I love playoff football. And I love the fact that
this week we have both. In this edition of the Insider: A Public School will win the D-I State Title? A MAC team will win D-VI? D-III is Brutal? Hot Teams? Tough Regions? Best Games?
Week 11 is here…
A Public School will win the D-I State Title: Maybe. Sound far-fetched? If it does, consider…of the last 15 Big School State Championships, private schools hold a slim 8-7 lead. This year public schools could even the record. Five of the top six teams in the final Muscle Milk & JJHuddle D-I Power Poll are public schools, including poll champion Colerain and runner-up Whitmer.
A MAC team will win D-VI: I will take Marion Local, Minster and Delphos St. John’s and you can have the field. Even bet? I didn’t think so. In all its year’s as Ohio’s top conference regardless of classification, you’d be hard-pressed to find a season in which the MAC sent three teams as dominating as these three into one division in one postseason. Expect two of these teams to make the state semifinals and one to win the state championship. Speaking of which, DSJ’s state title last year was the 20th earned in football by the MAC (all since 1989). No other league or conference even comes close to matching that feat. It also marked the 11th time in 17 years of the Division VI final that a MAC school has won that classification. Soon it will be 12 in 18.
D-III is Brutal: We are about to see what the Wild West was like. D-III is that crazy and wide open. Region 12 alone has five undefeateds and two 9-1 teams. Favorites? Steubenville, Mooney, Alter, Mentor Lake Catholic, Jonathan Alder, Chagrin Falls, Springfield Shawnee, Dover, Columbus DeSales…the list goes on.
D-V will have a new champion: For the first time since 2007 we won’t see Youngstown Ursuline in the Division V state championship game. For the first time since 2008 we won’t see the Irish win the D-V state title. So who does? Coldwater, which has played in the last two state finals against Ursuline, qualified for the playoffs (for the 15th straight time) but has struggled lately. Our top four favorites are Lima Central Catholic (odds on favorite), Kirtland, Nelsonville-York and Versailles.
Centerville (D-I R4): Since starting 1-3, the Elks have won six straight in decisive fashion. In wins over Springboro, Kettering Fairmont, Northmont, Wayne, Springfield and Beavercreek, Centerville is averaging 53 points and 473 rushing yards per game. The Elks won the Greater Western Ohio Conference Central Division title and are a No. 8 seed in the playoffs. They’ll play at Middletown in the regional quarterfinals. Last year, Centerville’s archrival Wayne – the GWOC Central champion – also earned the No. 8 seed and rode an opening round win at Middletown all the way to the D-I state final. Can the Elks do the same?
Napoleon (D-III R10): The Wildcats were 2-5 after Week 7. You read that right – 2-5. But thanks to a three-game win streak to end the season (victories over Perrysburg, Sylvania Northview and Bowling Green), Napoleon earned the No. 7 seed in R10. The Wildcats play at Clyde in the regional quarterfinals.
Versailles (D-V R20): For 19 straight years, every football player at Versailles had experienced the playoffs. Then the streak ended. Now another has started. Versailles, a five-time state champion, is in the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and for the first time under head coach Bob Olwin. The Tigers have adopted and now excel at Olwin’s spread offense (that he made famous during a lengthy stint at Sherwood Fairview). Don’t be surprised to see the Tigers win Region 20. Sophomore QB Nick Campbell has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 30 TDs this season.
TOUGH REGIONS (rank in the Muscle Milk & JJHuddle Power Polls)
D-I, REGION 4
Ranked Teams: Colerain (1), St. Xavier (3), Middletown (9), Moeller (10)
D-II REGION 5
Ranked Teams: Howland (3), Walsh Jesuit (5), Aurora (6), Kent Roosevelt (9)
D-IV, REGION 14
Ranked Teams: Kenton (1), Hartley (2), Eastwood (3), Genoa (6)
D-IV, REGION 16
Ranked Teams: Waynesville (4), Maderia (7), Chaminade Julienne (8), Clinton-Massie (10)
D-VI, REGION 24
Ranked Teams: Marion Local (2); Minster (3), Fort Loramie (5), Springfield Catholic (6)
Kettering Alter vs Dayton Thurgood Marshall (D-III R12): This is the game everyone in Dayton wanted to see two years ago. Now they get their wish. In 2009, undefeated Thurgood Marshall was averaging 553 rushing yards and 57 points per game before late season sanctions by the OHSAA (playing an ineligible – and third string – player) forced the Cougars to forfeit their first three wins and therefore miss the playoffs. Alter won the D-IV state title that year and many wanted to see an unstoppable force meet an immovable object. Now they get to. Marshall is back to its old tricks. Earning just the program’s second playoff berth, the Cougars are again led by a potent running attack. Senior RBs Tavon Crisp (over 1,500 yards; 28 TDs) and Denzel Norvell (over 1,350 yards; 20 TDs) lead the Cougars. Alter, which has made the state semifinals three straight years, is led by junior QB Malik Zaire who was offers from Ohio State, Wisconsin and UC.
Athens vs Jackson (D-III, R12): How nice is this? We have an official “unofficial” Southeast Ohio Championship game pitting the winners of the Southeast Ohio Athletic League (Jackson) and Tri-Valley Conference (Athens). Athens, making its first playoff appearance since 1990, owns “quarterfinal” and “semifinal” wins over Alexander and Nelsonville-York. Jackson, which has won 19-straight regular season games, beat Ironton and Gallia Academy in its “quarterfinal” and “semifinal” games.
Ravenna vs Ravenna Southeast (D-III R9): Just 10 miles and 16 minutes separate these Portage County rivals who don’t play during the regular season.
Amanda-Clearcreek vs Ironton (D-IV, R15): Two traditional powers with a combined 45 playoff berths, 13 state finals and four state championships.
Springfield Catholic vs Minster (D-VI, R24): Familiar foes. The Wildcats and Irish are squaring off for the fourth year in a row and Minster has won the previous three. The Wildcats, who were a No. 8 seed, beat SCC 44-21 in the first round of the playoffs last year. In 2009 Minster went 1-9 and its only win was a 32-0 victory over the Irish in Week 2. In 2008 Minster beat SCC 28-6 in Week 2. The Irish went 8-4 that year. So is this the year SCC gets it done? The Irish have their best chance thanks in large to senior QB Brian Kelly. A four-year starter, Kelly is one of the best “unknown” QBs in the state. This season he’s torched opposing defenses for 3,083 yards and 40 TDs. In his most recent outing – a two-quarter stay against Cedarville – Kelly completed 18-of-29 passes for 278 yards and tied his own school-record with six TDs. Earlier this season Kelly broke his own school record of 415 yards in one game with 432. Senior WR Jake Aldridge is Kelley’s favorite target (77 catches, 1,224 yards and 14 TDs). Minster is coming off its first win over Coldwater since 1993.
Coming Friday…all 192 teams and 96 games…we tell you who wins.