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Solon, Chagrin Falls, University and Wets G prepare for the firs
Solon, Chagrin Falls, University and Wets G prepare for the first-round tests in state playoffs
By TONY LANGE
The Ohio High School Athletic Association has 717 football-playing schools this year. There are six divisions determined by student enrollment. Each division has approximately 120 schools in it and 32 schools from each advance to the state playoffs.
There are four regions in each of the six divisions. Each region has approximately 30 teams in it. The top eight teams from each region advance to playoffs.
DIVISION I REGION 1
7 p.m. Saturday
At Harry E. Winters Stadium/natural grass
No. 5 Solon Comets (9-1) at
No. 4 Willoughby South Rebels (8-2)
Having won 29 of their last 30 regular season games, the Solon Comets have had a home playoff game the past two seasons. This year, they're on the road.
With the top four teams in each region having a home game to open the playoffs, the No. 2-seeded Comets headed into their final game against Strongsville last Friday appearing set for another playoff opener at Stewart Field in Solon. That wasn't the case.
Even though the Comets won their last game of the year against Strongsville, it didn't give them many computer points being that Strongsville is a 1-9 team this season. After the finals points were in, St. Ignatius, Cleveland Heights and South all passed the Comets.
Having played five games at Stewart Field and five games on the road this season, the Comets have only lost one game and it was at home, head coach Jim McQuaide said.
"We're happy to be in the playoffs and we're going to show up no matter where they tell us to play," he said. "We're not playing at Stewart field, but we would never miscount the opportunity to play no matter where it is."
The South Rebels are coming off an 8-2 season, with their two losses coming to Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, 49-27, in week one and West Geauga, 42-28, in week three. The Rebels have since gone on a seven-game win streak to finish the season with their most recent win coming against Eastlake North, 45-26, last Thurday.
Against Eastlake North, South's standout Kareem Hunt rushed for 485 yards and scored six touchdowns. The 5-10, 185-pounder has rushed for 2,289 yards and 37 touchdowns this season.
"Well, first of all they're ranked ahead of us in the region, so we congratulate them for that," McQuaide said. "It doesn't matter who you are playing, if a guy rushes for 485 yards -- he scored 37 touchdowns this year. So, that's a huge test for us."
While the Rebels made it to the playoffs last season, they lost in the first round to Austintown-Fitch, a team the Comets beat in the regional semifinals. Solon went on to lose in the regional finals to St. Edward, the eventual state champion.
While the Comets share a title of the Northeast Ohio Conference championship, the Rebels are the Premier Athletic Conference champions this season.
<B>TONY'S TAKE:<P> The Comets win by 10 points.
DIVISION II REGION 5
7:30 p.m. Friday
At Conway Field/natural grass
No. 8 West Geauga Wolverines (7-3) at
No. 1 Walsh Jesuit Warriors (8-1)
After falling to regional opponents Aurora, 17-7, and Kenston, 12-9, in the regular season, the West Geauga Wolverines' playoff hopes appeared to be broken as they were the No. 10 seed in Region 5 heading into their final game.
With their 28-25 win last Saturday against Beachwood, however, the Wolverines were able to snag the No. 8 spot and slide past Kenston and Canfield, which both lost their last regular season game.
West Geauga head coach Lou Cirino was unavailable for comment.
With their No. 8 regional finish, the Wolverines will travel to take on the Walsh Jesuit Warriors in Cuyahoga Falls.
The Wolverines' last trip to the postseason was under former head coach Dave Bors in 2009, when West Geauga lost 28-7 against Ashland in the first round.
The Warriors are returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They lost 28-7 to Aurora, the eventual state champions, in the regional finals that season.
Before defeating Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin 35-14 last Friday, the Warriors were ranked No. 10 among Ohio Division II teams by the Associated Press.
The Warriors' only loss this season was in week two when St. Vincent-St. Mary beat them 48-46. While that was a close loss, Walsh also has a number of close wins this season. The Warriors beat Louisville, 27-26, Bishop Watterson, 26-24, and Lake Catholic 14-12. Those games started the Warriors season at a shaky 3-1 record.
The Warriors went on to clinch the North Coast League Blue Division crown, powered by running back Brock Jones. He had 221 yards rushing and four touchdowns last Friday against NDCL.
With a two-dimensional offense, opponents have to play a full-field defense as the Warriors' quarterback, Nick Wargo, is more than capable of finding the open receiver downfield.
Perhaps the biggest difference maker for the Warriors this season, however, has been their kicker Ross Martin who is 86-of-86 on extra points in his career.
Martin's fourth-quarter 29-yard field goal gave the Warriors a 27-26 victory against Louisville. His 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was the difference maker in the Warriors 26-24 victory against Bishops Watterson.
Martin also has had five field goals this season in the 40-plus yard range including 45 and 50-yarders against Hoban.
<B>TONY'S TAKE:<P> Walsh wins by a field goal.
DIVISION III REGION 9
7:30 p.m. Friday
At C.S. Harris Stadium/artificial turf
No. 8 Firelands Falcons (10-0) at
No. 1 Chagrin Falls Tigers (10-0)
For the third straight season, the Chagrin Falls Tigers have secured a home playoff game. They face a whole new region and a whole new division this year.
Coming off back-to-back state runner-up performances in Division IV, Chagrin Falls will play its first Division III playoff game this Friday since the 2008 season, when the Tigers lost 21-17 to Walsh Jesuit in a regional semifinals matchup.
Chagrin Falls is very excited to get the No. 1 seed in Region 9 this season, head coach Mark Iammarino said.
"I think that speaks a lot in itself," he said. "We're excited to be at home. It's an additional fun evening for our fans, students, community to play a home playoff game."
The Tigers will approach the playoffs the same as they have the last three seasons, Iammarino said.
"Our formula will stay the same in how we prepare, how we practice, how we get ready for Friday night," Iammarino said. "The attitude changes because it's playoff time and somebody is going to be going home after the game. That kind of brings out a sense of urgency for both teams. We try to embrace that. You're not guaranteed next week."
Before beating Perry last Friday, the Tigers were ranked No. 4 among Division III Ohio teams in the state poll by the Associated Press.
This Friday, the Falcons will travel to Chagrin Falls from Oberlin in a first round matchup of unbeatens. It is the only No. 1 versus No. 8 matchup of its kind in the state's 24 regions.
There are 96 first-round playoff games across Ohio and only two other matchups involve unbeaten teams. One is a No. 3 versus a No. 6 matchup and the other is a No. 2 versus a No. 7 matchup.
"Any team to go 10-0 and beat all 10 teams on your schedule has to be an outstanding football team," Iammarino said last Saturday. "We're in the process right now of learning more about them. I am sure it will be a great challenge for us, which we're excited about."
The last time the Falcons went 10-0 was in 1972. This is their first season in school history to advance to the playoffs.
Chagrin Falls went 10-0 in 2009. The Tigers are 37-3 in three seasons now, losing two state championship games.
<B>TONY'S TAKE:<P> Chagrin Falls wins by two touchdowns.
DIVISION III REGION 9
1:30 p.m. Saturday
At Scovil Field/artificial turf
No. 6 St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish (8-2) at
No. 3 University School Preppers (9-1)
While University School is ahead in the region rankings and is playing at home, its first-round matchup against St. Vincent-St. Mary is not necessarily in their favor.
Some predicted the Fighting Irish to win the state championship before the season kicked off. And the Irish looked the part as the statewide Associated Press poll ranked SVSM No. 3 in Ohio among Division III teams after a 7-0 start.
All the playoff teams in Region 9 are extremely good, University School head coach Jim Stephens said.
"Everyone has a tough game. No one has an easy team," he said. "We expected to play a good team and we're just happy it's at home."
While nearly all Division III teams across the state are playing at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, University School is unable to do so because their home stadium does not have lights. Therefore, to keep the home field advantage they earned, the Ohio High School Athletic Association granted the Preppers a Saturday afternoon game, Stephens said.
More than half of the Preppers' games this season have been Saturday afternoons.
"We get to play in an environment that we know," Stephens said. "We play well at home and we hope to continue to do so."
While the Fighting Irish started their season at 7-0, they've dropped two of their last three games including a 41-21 loss to Cardinal Mooney in week eight and a 42-31 loss to Youngstown Ursuline last Friday.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous weapons for the Fighting Irish is their quarterback-receiver duo of Kevin Besser and Jordan Hargrove. Against Ursuline, Besser threw for 364 yards, 188 of which were to Hargrove.
While the Fighting Irish lost 27-20 to Cardinal Mooney in the regional semifinals in 2010, the Preppers dropped out in the first round with a 51-27 loss to Padua Franciscan.
"They were very disappointed by their playoff performance last year," Stephens said. "They weren't real proud."
Since the Preppers' week five loss this season, 36-21 to Willoughby South, they've gone 5-0 without a completely healthy lineup.
This Saturday, star wideout John McKelvey, linebacker Michael Classen and lineman Tal Tamir are expected to be full games for the Preppers after nursing injuries, Stephens said.
"We need everybody," he said.
<B>TONY'S TAKE:<P> The Preppers score a last-possession touchdown to win the game.
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