High School Football Playoff Preview
BY MATT JAWORSKI
SPECIAL TO SENTINEL
Editors note: This article was written prior to the ruling by the Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court which ruled Mayfield Hts and Edgewood would not be in the playoffs.
Division 1 Region 1 – Saturday, November 3rd at 7:00 PM
#1 St. Edward (10-0) vs. # 8 Mayfield (6-4) at Lakewood Stadium (Lakewood, OH)
Mayfield played one of the roughest schedules in Northeastern Ohio. Their reward was a game in round one against St. Edward. The Eagles come from behind victory over St. Ignatius in the 50th anniversary of the Holy War, makes them the favorite to win the Division I state Title. Ed’s is looking for their second state title, having taken home the hardware in 2010. For Mayfield to win, the Wildcats will have to outplay the Eagles, which is no easy task. Larry Pinto’s team cannot afford to turn the ball over. The Wildcats will need to control the ball and keep the St. Edward defense on the field.
Pick: St. Edward
#2 St. Ignatius (9-1) vs. #7 Austintown-Fitch (9-1) at Byers Field (Parma, OH)
Chuck Kyle was denied his 300th career win this past week and St. Ignatius suffered their first loss of the year. The defending state champions are loaded at every position. In their bid for the school’s 12th state title, St. Ignatius will do what they’ve done all year long – play fundamentally sound, tough football. This will not be an easy game though for the Wildcats. They’re stellar offense will face a Falcon’s defense that has only allowed one opponent to score more than ten points. However, not many schools have offensive weapons like Michel LaManna, Tim McVey, Conor Hennessey, and Michael Siragusa.
Pick: St. Ignatius
#3 South (10-0) vs. #6 North Royalton (9-1) at Harry E. Winters Stadium (Willoughby, OH)
Make no mistake about it; the Rebels are not a one man wrecking crew. While Kareem Hunt (and rightly so) receives the attention for his gaudy numbers and running ability, South has a pretty good quarterback in Casey Klicman and stable of receivers, including Anthony Federico and Tony Walton, to move the football. Often overlooked, the South defense has limited their opponents this year. South finished the year on top of the Sentinel’s high school football rankings. North Royalton can put up points too. The Bears scored more than 40 points five times this year. However, their defense is more suspect than that of the Rebels. North Royalton’s defense has given up 35 points or more four different times this year.
#4 Mentor (9-1) vs. #5 Warren G. Harding (9-1) at Jerome T. Osborne Stadium (Mentor, OH)
Early on, it appeared Mentor might not make it to week 11. Offensively, the Cardinal s were not clicking. However, Mitch Trubisky and company put it all together and collected a NOC title. Trubisky has great receivers at his disposal – Conner Krizancic, Brandon Fritts, Corey Plavcan, and Matt Schaefer. When Mentor wants to keep it on the ground, Trubisky will either keep it himself or hand it off to Nick Delisa or one of the receivers. This is not the strongest Mentor team to make the playoffs, but their offense is difficult to slow down. The third ranked team in our high school rankings knows the legacy of past teams. They can’t afford to let Harding hang around in the contest. This is a game featuring two former LEL foes. While Mentor left the LEL for the NOC, Harding stayed put and claimed the 2012 LEL title. In order to win this game, the Cardinals will have to shut down Boston College running back recruit Leshun Daniels and his talented quarterback Jimmy Rumple.
Division 2 Region 5 – Friday, November 2nd at 7:30 PM
#1 Tallmadge (8-2) vs. #8 Kenston (6-4) at Tallmadge Rosiaky Stadium
After another rough start to the season, the Bombers got their act together. Loses to Hudson and Chardon were followed by a six game winning streak and two more losses to close out the year. Tallmadge wrapped up their 7th Suburban League title in the last ten years. The Blue Devils are a well balanced team. For the Bombers to pull out the upset, they’ll have to force turnovers, which have been a problem as of late for the Tallmadge running game.
#2 Kent Roosevelt (9-1) vs. #7 Akron Ellet (8-2) at Roosevelt Stadium
Kent needed double overtime to down Ravenna and earn the second seed. The Rough Riders are lead by University of Pitt recruit Tra’Von Chapman, who can either run the ball or throw it. Against the Ravens, Chapman ran for 162 yards and 4 touchdowns, but passed for less than 100. It’s worth noting though, that Ravenna wanted Chapman to run the ball and not throw it to his favorite target Trei Thomas. Roosevelt will host Ellet, who has not been to the playoffs since 1991. For what it’s worth, Ellet lost to Tallmadge 37-15 earlier in the season. Tallmadge is the only school Ellet played with a record better than .500. The Orangemen have struggled to score at times this year, and they’ll have their hands full keeping Roosevelt off the scoreboard.
#3 Aurora (9-1) vs. #6 New Philadelphia (8-2) at Veterans Stadium
The only ding on the Greenman has been their inability to beat Chagrin Falls. Fortunately for Aurora, the Falls are in Region 9. Aurora, a former state champion (2008), enters week 11 as one of the heavy favorites to claim the Division II title this season. Three of the Greemen’s first four games were close, including the loss to Chagrin and a win against 37-21 victory over Ravenna. The New Philadelphia offense runs through sophomore running back Jamal Johnson, who set a school record for rushing yards in a season, topping the 1,600 yard mark.
#4 Chardon (8-2) vs. #5 Warren Howland (8-2) at Chardon Memorial Stadium
This is one of the tougher games to judge. The Hilltoppers have been battling injuries since August. They appear to be getting healthy, but the big is: Can the injured players come back and play effectively? It’s tough to step into a complicated offense like Chardon’s Wing-T without missing a beat. Senior quarterback T.J. Benenati leads the Hilltoppers offensively. Look for Matt Bolden, Alex Muir, and Reilly Hawkins to make an impact offensively. Defensively, the LeMaster brothers (Pete and Jack), R.J. Pikus, and Joey Fodor are impact players. The knock on Chardon in the second half has been slow starts. The Toppers cannot afford to get behind to a team like Warren Howland. Much like Chardon, the Tigers love to run the football. Expect a heavy dose of De’Veon Smith, who accepted a scholarship offer to Michigan. Brendan Cope is the deep threat for Howland. Smith is an explosive runner with game-changing, break away speed.
Division 3 Region 9 – Saturday, November 3rd at 7:00 PM
#1 Chagrin Falls (9-1) vs. #8 Woodridge (7-3) at C.S. Harris Stadium (Chagrin Falls, OH)
To the surprise of no one, Chagrin Falls is back in the playoffs. The regular season was not kind to the Tigers though, as they suffered major injuries. Several of those players were lost for significant time or for the rest of the season. In their last five games, the Chagrin Falls defense has allowed 16 points or less. Tommy Iammarino is a good quarterback. When his receivers are open, Iammarino rarely misses them. The Tigers host a Woodridge team that backed into the playoffs when they lost to Southeast in week 10. This is second playoff appearance in school history for the Bulldogs. Woodridge knows how to score. The Bulldogs have scored 37 points or more six straight weeks in a row.
Pick: Chagrin Falls
#2 Niles McKinley (8-2) vs. #7 Hubbard (7-3) at Bo Rein Stadium (Niles, OH)
McKinley has not played in week 11 since 2006. The Dragons played multiple playoff teams during the regular season including Youngstown Liberty (won 12-6), Poland Seminary (won 33-28), Hubbard (lost 43-13), and Warren Howland (won 17-10). Clearly, the Bulldogs are a tested team heading into their showdown against Hubbard, which handily defeated the Dragons in week 7. Hubbard lost to Poland and Howland during the regular season. Normally, it’s tough for teams to beat opponents twice in a year. However, the first game was a mismatch and it’ll be difficult for McKinley to put that game out of their minds.
#3 Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin (8-2) vs. #6 St. Vincent-St. Mary (8-2) at Lion Stadium (Munson, OH)
The Lions have been playing good football all year. The offensive has weapons and they are not afraid to put it up in the air and score in a hurry or grind it out on the ground. Byron Morgan is a Hall-of-Fame coach. The Lions are coming off a must win game against archrival Lake Catholic, where NDCL dominated the Cougars in all aspects of the game. SVSM enters this game with a 24-12 all time record in the playoffs. The Irish have won four state titles and are making their 17th postseason appearance. In their 16-14 victory over Youngstown Ursuline, the SVSM defense limited Ursuline to 152 yards of total offense.
#4 John Hay (8-2) vs. #5 Ravenna (6-4) at Collinwood Athletic Complex (Cleveland, OH)
Ravenna lost a heartbreaker to Kent Roosevelt, which cost them a home game. Senior quarterback Kyle Spellman broke his hand in week one and missed significant time. Coach Jim Lunardi said his signal caller plays a style of quarterback similar to that of Roosevelt’s Tra’Von Chapman. John Hay is making their first ever post season appearance. The Hornets played a weak non-conference and weak Senate League schedule. (They did not play Glennville.)
Division 4 Region 13– Friday, November 2nd at 7:30 PM
#1 Brookfield (10-0) vs. #8 Edgewood (7-3) at George Nicholas Field (Maury, OH)
This is a battle pitting two schools with the nickname warriors. Brookfield destroyed everyone in their path during the regular season. Their closest game was a 26-13 win at Struthers. Ryan Mosara paced Brookfield last week when he ran for 181 yards and two TDs on 19 carries. Brookfield pounded Edgewood in week 7 by a 49-13 score. Edgewood clinched their first ever playoff berth in school history when Cleveland Central Catholic lost last Saturday.
#2 Norwayne (10-0) vs. #7 Northwestern (8-2) at Cloverleaf High School Stadium (Lodi, OH)
The defending Division IV State Champs returned quite a few players from last year’s squad. Having enjoyed one championship, they are looking for another. Norwayne won the outright Wayne County Athletic League Championship by crushing Northwestern 64-0. It’s extremely rare for teams to play back-to-back games, but that’s what both of these schools will do. Frankly, Northwestern faces an almost impossible task.
#3 Streetsboro (7-3) vs. #6 Youngstown Liberty (8-2) at Glinatsis Stadium (Streetsboro, OH)
Streetsboro returns to the playoffs for the first time since 1992. After clinching a playoff spot in week 9, Streetsboro looked past Crestwood and was upset in the regular season finale. Players and coaches claimed they learned their lesson and will not look past their opponent this week. Dorian Williams has run for more than 200 yards six times this year. While the Rockets are making their second ever postseason appearance, Liberty is returning to the Promised Land for the 6th time in school history. Despite losing to Champion 28-20 in week 10, the Leopards are a team capable of pulling off an upset. They’ve scored 301 points this season. First year head coach Brian Jones managed to change his team’s mentality from the get-go. Liberty was a program that won a single game in 2010 and 2011.
#4 Akron Manchester (7-3) vs. #5 Hawken (9-1) at James R. France Stadium (Akron, OH)
For the 20th time in the history Manchester fooball, the Panthers advanced to the postseason. Coach Jim France knows a thing or two about the playoffs. In his many years at the helm of Akron Manchester, the program has produced 12 playoff wins (19 losses). The Hawks are making their 9th appearance and have an overall playoff record of 10-8. They are lead on the ground by a stable of running backs that include Khari Anderson, Seth King, and Ryan Stilson. Ian Bell does a nice job piloting the Hawken offense.
Division 5 Region 17 – Saturday, November 3rd at 7:00 PM
#1 Kirtland (10-0) vs. #8 Fort Frye (8-2) at Rodgers Field (Kirtland, OH)
The defending Division V State Champion Kirtland Hornets steamrolled all but one team during the regular season. Damon Washington was the 2011 Division V Offensive Player of the Year. With the numbers he put up, expect him to become a repeat winner this year. The Hornets love to run the ball and play smash mouth, fundamentally sound defense. It’s extremely rare for Kirtland to beat themselves. Heck, it’s rare for the Sentinel’s second ranked team to get beat by anyone. Fort Frye is on a roll too. The Cadets have won six straight and are making the playoffs for the second time in school history. A three-hour drive from Beverly, Ohio will certainly not help Fort Frye either.
#2 Sugarcreek Garaway (10-0) vs. #7 Youngstown Ursuline (6-4) at Garaway Stadium (Sugarcreek, OH)
To the chagrin of all other teams in Division V, Ursuline qualified for the playoffs. They are a tough team. Over the last four years, either Kirtland or Ursuline won the Division V title. Ursuline, a four time state champ (2001, 2008, 2009, and 2010), saw their streak end last year, when they did not qualify for the playoffs. By no means are the Irish having a down year. They play a brutal schedule that few teams would contemplate playing. The Pirates are looking at this game as their state championship game. Tyler Walters, the Garaway quarterback, has thrown 35 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. The Pirates will certainly need a high touchdown to interception ratio on Friday night if they hope to win.
#3 Cuyahoga Heights (9-1) vs. #6 Bellaire (8-2) at Ralph P. Adams Stadium (Cuyahoga Hts., Oh)
Coach Al Martin always seems to have Cuyahoga Heights in the playoffs. The Redskins are making their 16th postseason appearance. Their only loss was during the regular season was at Kirtland (40-7). Year in, year out, Heights is a fundamentally sound team. Jordan Martin is a solid quarterback, who has thrown for over 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns. His main targets are Tyler Gallo (519 yards and 8 touchdowns) and Jack Alpert (394 yards and 5 touchdowns). Linebacker Jason Kleppel is a beast in the middle and leads the team with 135 tackles. The Big Reds know how to score. In four games this year, Bellaire has scored 40 or more points. They need to put points on the scoreboard because their defense gives up about four touchdowns per game.
Pick: Cuyahoga Hts.
#4 Crestview (10-0) vs. #5 St. Thomas Aquinas (9-1) at Rebel Stadium (Columbiana, OH)
These two teams faced off last year in the regional semifinals with Crestview wining 41-20. Crestview comes into this game on an offensive roll. The Rebels have scored 50 points in eight straight games. Crestview is led by running back Nick Blower, quarterback Collin Gilbert, and linebacker Kaleb Baker. Aquinas enters the playoffs having given up more than two touchdowns in a game only twice this year. The Knights give up less than 110 total yards per game. Eric Rude leads St. Thomas with 139 total tackles.
Division 6 Region 21– Friday, November 2nd at 7:30 PM
#1 Mogadore (10-0) vs. #8 Steubenville Catholic Central (6-4) at Wildcat Stadium (Mogadore, OH)
The Wildcats just finished with the 22nd undefeated team in school history. Those country boys know how to play football. This is the 22nd straight year Mogadore has qualified for the playoffs and the 26th overall year they’ve made the post season. Steubenville is in the playoffs for the 10th time in school history. SCC ended the year on a two game losing streak. The Crusaders play nearly half of their schedule against teams from West Virginia.
#2 Malvern (9-1) vs. #7 Fairport Harbor (7-3) at Hornet Stadium (Malvern, OH)
Malvern ended Ledgemont’s playoff run last year in the Regional Quarterfinals 23-7. Once again, the Hornets are looking to end the season of a local team. In eight games this year, Malvern’s defense has limited their opponents to 14 points or less. The Skippers need to contain running backs Cobin Plessinger and Brady Weber. Trey Tucci is a good quarterback who loves to throw to Max Kapron.
Fairport is playing fairly well entering the playoffs. Regular season losses have occurred to teams in higher divisions. The Skippers are in unfamiliar territory. This is the first year they’ve made the playoffs since 1991. Fairport finished the season ranked 4th in the Sentinel Rankings. Kyle Burchett leads the Skippers offensively. The running back loves to use his speed, especially when he hits the corners and turns up field. Keep an eye out for Nic Paolo, the Fairport quarterback, who’s not afraid to put the ball in the air.
#3 Warren JFK (9-1) vs. #6 Youngstown Christian (7-2) at Mollenkopf Stadium (Warren, OH)
Statistically speaking, these teams have scored about the same number of points. Youngtown Christian is making their second ever playoff appearance. The Eagles only two losses came to undefeated playoff teams. Garaway and Brookfield downed YC by a combined score of 78-32. Warren JFK had only one setback this year and it was a 35-0 loss to Brookfield. The Eagles (yep, same nicknames) have scored 30 or more points in all but one of their games.
Pick: Warren JFK
#4 Shadyside (10-0) vs. #5 Berlin Center Western Reserve (8-2) at Fleming Field (Shadyside, OH)
This is another matchup from last year’s playoffs, when Western Reserve defeated Shadyside 49-7 in the Division VI Regional Championship game. Western Reserve played a tougher regular season schedule. The Blue Devils enter week 11 on an eight game winning streak. Over their last three games, the Blue Devils allowed a total of 13 points. Shadyside has a good defense too. The Tigers defense posted four shutouts this season. Only four schools (Toronto, Shenandoah, Beallsville, and Bridgeport) reached double digits against Shadyside.
Pick: Western Reserve
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POSTED 11/01/2012 18:51