FNL: Playoffs Begin In Ohio For OSU Verbals

The Ohio High School Athletics Association playoffs begin this weekend, and several Ohio State verbal commits will take the field. Two of whom, Massillon Washington wide receiver Devin Smith and Toledo Whitmer defensive end Kenny Hayes, will play each other Saturday in the Glass City. Read on to find out who, when and where future Buckeyes will play.

A pair of Ohio State verbal commits will battle this weekend in Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I regional quarterfinal action. Defensive end Ken Hayes of Toledo Whitmer will face wide receiver Devin Smith and Massillon Washington in Region 2 play.

No. 3 Whitmer (9-1) is the two-time Toledo City League action and will play host to the sixth-seeded Tigers (7-3). For Massillon, it will be the first time the Tigers have opened the postseason outside of northeast Ohio since 2001. The Panthers are looking to avoid a repeat of last season, when they lost in the first round to a northeast Ohio school. Then it was a 6-4 Canton McKinley squad that knocked off then top-seeded Whitmer 34-13.

Whitmer's strength lies in its defensive line, where Hayes and junior Chris Wormley – another OSU target – have dominated opponents. That could be a big problem for Massillon, who has struggled to run the ball at times and may have to rely even more on Smith and the passing attack. Smith has led the way with 1,030 passing yards on 55 receptions with eight touchdowns this season.

The teams will face off at Whitmer Saturday night.

Smith and the Tigers lost their rivalry game to OSU commit Steve Miller and Canton McKinley last weekend, and the top-seeded Bulldogs will open their playoff run Saturday night with a Division I, Region 2 quarterfinal vs. No. 8 Medina.

Medina (8-2) is making only its second playoff appearance. Conversely, McKinley (8-2) is making its 19th trip to the postseason. The Bees will attack the Bulldogs on the ground. Running back Jason Suggs finished the regular season with 1,507 yards and 15 touchdowns. That attack will face probably its stiffest test to date against defensive end Miller and the McKinley line, which also features another top prospect in end Se'Von Pittman.

In other Division I action, quarterback commit Braxton Miller will lead Huber Heights Wayne in a Region 4 quarterfinal Saturday night at No. 1 Middletown. The Warriors (7-3) snuck into the playoffs after starting the season 0-2 with losses to playoff teams Cincinnati Moeller and Canton McKinley, while Middletown comes into the game with an unblemished 10-0 record.

Miller missed time this season because of a high ankle sprain, but he still finished the regular season with 1,370 passing yards and nine touchdowns to go with 419 yards rushing. His counterpart, Middletown sophomore QB Jalin Marshall, finished with 1,405 rushing yards and 659 passing yards with a combined 29 touchdowns.

Expect a lot of offense in this game. Both teams averaged a combine 71 points per game in the regular season.

Another Greater Western Ohio Conference squad with an OSU verbal will play on Saturday night in a Region 4 quarterfinal between No. 5 Centerville (8-2) and No. 4 Cincinnati Moeller (7-3).

To say Moeller has been inconsistent this season would be an understatement. The Crusaders defeated Wayne in comeback fashion to start the season and have an impressive win at Cincinnati St. Xavier on their resume, but Moeller has lost three of its last five games after starting the season 5-0. To the Crusaders' credit, however, two of those losses came to state title contenders Cincinnati LaSalle and Lakewood St. Edward.

Tailback Tucker Skove leads Moeller. He led the Great Catholic League with 1,184 rushing yards and had 16 rushing touchdown son the season. On defense, Moeller was led by lineman Jesse Hayes. He finished the regular season with 9.5 sacks.

Much like Moeller, Centerville started the season red hot. The Elks were 6-0 and cruising before back-to-back losses to Clayton Northmont and Wayne. Defense has been the issue for Centerville in its losses. In the Elks' eight wins, opponents have scored a combined 47 points. In Centerville's two losses, Northmont and Wayne scored a combined 58.

Quarterback Jon Overstreet leads Centerville's triple-option offense with 969 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has fumbled the ball nine times, however. Running back Tristin Boykin has added 709 yards on the season.

Bennett recorded 2.5 sacks during the regular season.

Moving from southwest Ohio to northeast Ohio, junior verbal commit Kyle Kalis and unbeaten Lakewood St. Edward host Mentor in a Region 1 quarterfinal Saturday night.

St. Edward earned a No. 3 seed after finishing the regular season with a 10-0 record. The Eagles capped the season with a 33-10 thumping of rival Cleveland St. Ignatius and will look to keep that momentum going against sixth-seeded Mentor (7-3).

Kalis missed the St. Ignatius game with an illness, and the Eagles certainly could use the offensive lineman against Mentor. The Cardinals almost knocked off St. Edward in the season opener for both schools when the Eagles had to hold on for a 35-28 win at Cleveland Browns Stadium. In that game, St. Edward led by 21 and nearly suffered an epic collapse. It took a Mentor fumble at the St. Edward 2-yard line to preserve the win.

The Cardinals will also come into the game with some serious momentum. Mentor has won six straight and played most of the second half with its playoff hopes on the line. The Eagles should be boosted by tailback Terrell Bates, who returned against St. Ignatius after missing four games with a knee injury. He rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns last week.

The only Division II playoff game featuring an OSU verbal is the Region 6 quarterfinal pitting offensive lineman Chris Carter and No. 6 Cleveland John F. Kennedy (7-3) at No. 3 Olmsted Falls (7-3) Friday night. The Bulldogs are the co-champions of the Southwestern Conference, sharing the crown with Avon Lake, and enter the postseason winners of six straight.

The Eagles are in the postseason for the first time in school history. JFK is also only the fourth team in Senate League history to qualify for the playoffs. Cleveland Glenville is obviously one, and the other two – Cleveland South and Cleveland East – both closed last summer.

In Division III, running back Warren Ball of Columbus DeSales will be looking for some payback when the eighth-seeded Stallions (5-5) travel to No. 1 Columbus Bishop Watterson (9-1) for a Region 10 quarterfinal Saturday night.

Ball, dealing with a foot injury, was held to 34 yards on 10 carries Oct. 15 when DeSales lost to Watterson at Crew Stadium. The Eagles (8-1) dominated en route to a 31-7 blowout win, scoring in each quarter. DeSales' lone touchdown came on an 8-yard touchdown reception by Nick Gentile in the fourth quarter.

The victory was the first for Watterson in the rivalry since 2006. The two teams have met in the playoffs five times in the last 10 years, with DeSales winning the last two showdowns.

Ball finished the regular season with 559 yards and 11 touchdowns. He could find tough sledding again against a Watterson team that averaged less than 10 points allowed per game.

Offensively, Watterson is led by quarterback Patrick Rhomberg, who has thrown 12 touchdown passes compared to just five interceptions.

Another OSU verbal, safety/quarterback Ron Tanner, starts the playoffs on the road when No. 6 Columbus Eastmoor (6-3) faces No. 3 Tiffin Columbian (9-1) in a Region 10 quarterfinal Saturday night.

Tanner helped the Warriors make their fifth playoff appearance since 2004. He threw for 1,028 yards during the regular season. He'll have a tough challenge against the Tornadoes. Columbian has won nine straight games – two against playoff teams – after beginning the season with a loss to Toledo Whitmer.

Leading Columbian's attack will be running back Derrick Goliday, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards.

Two OSU verbals will continue their playoff runs Saturday night in Illinois. Offensive lineman Brian Bobek and Palatine Fremd (6-4) will travel to No. 2 Wilmette Loyola Academy (9-1) Saturday night in Class 8A play, while Evan Spencer and Vernon Hills (9-1) will play at No. 12 Tinley Park (7-3) in Class 5A.

Both Fremd and Vernon Hills earned first round victories last weekend. Tenth-seeded Fremd defeated No. 7 Evanston 24-13, while Vernon Hills beat No. 13 Chicago Harlan 51-0. Spencer returned the opening kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown and added a 10 yard receiving score in the Cougars' victory.

The regular season is not done for a pair of the OSU verbals playing in Florida. Safety Jeremy Cash will be in action this weekend as Plantation (3-5, 1-2 District 6A-10) hosts South Plantation (4-4, 2-1). In District 3A-12 play, tight end Jeff Heuerman and Naples Barron Collier (6-2, 4-1) host Naples Lely (2-7, 1-4). Both games are Friday night.

The following players have concluded their season: Tommy Brown, OT, Akron Firestone; Bri'onte Dunn (junior), RB, Canton (Ohio) GlenOak; Chase Farris, DT, Elyria, Ohio; DerJuan Gambrell, CB, Toledo Rogers; Joel Hale, DT, Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove; Josh Perry (junior), OLB/RB, Lewis Center (Ohio) Olentangy; Antonio Underwood, OG, Shaker Heights, Ohio; Nick Vannett, TE/DE, Westerville (Ohio) Central

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