FNL Preview: Playoffs Begin In Ohio

The second season begins this weekend as the Ohio High School Athletic Association football playoffs kick off. Seven 2012 Ohio State verbal commits will take the field, starting what they hope will be an eventual trek to a state championship.

Here is a look at games featuring OSU commits:

Warren Ball, RB, Columbus DeSales – The Stallions are the top seed in the Division III, Region 10 bracket and will start their run Friday night with a home game against Caledonia River Valley.

Ball will lead the offense for DeSales (6-3). He finished the regular season with 24 touchdowns and 848 yards. The Stallions head into the postseason faring well against a solid schedule. Of the nine teams DeSales faced, six made the playoffs.

River Valley is making its first playoff appearance since 2002. The Vikings finished the regular season 7-2 and are led by running back/linebacker Bo Keener, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards during the regular season. Nate Carey led the RV defense with three interceptions.

DeSales has made the postseason every year since 1994 and moved from Division IV to Division III for the 2011 season.

Jacoby Boren, OG/DL, and Roger Lewis, WR/CB, Pickerington (Ohio) Central – An Ohio Capital Conference showdown awaits Boren and Lewis when the second-seeded Tigers host No. 7 Dublin Coffman Saturday night in Division I, Region 3 play.

Pickerington Central won seven straight games after starting the season 0-2. The Tigers outscored their opponents 292-94 and have gotten a big boost from Lewis, who has been his team's most dangerous weapon on special teams. Lewis returned two kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns during the regular season in addition to his 14 catches for 275 yards and four touchdowns at wide receiver. Boren and the rest of the Tigers' offensive line helped Central rush for 1,617 yards as a team.

Coffman (8-2) lost two of its last three games to go from probably hosting a playoff game to having to go on the road. The Shamrocks also have a dangerous return man in Marcus Davis, who returned three regular-season punts for scores. Quarterback James Walsh is Coffman's top offensive threat. He completed 143 of 243 passes for 1,721 yards with 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the regular season. Walsh also rushed for 321 yards and seven other scores.

Bri'onte Dunn, RB, Canton (Ohio) GlenOak – Staying in Division I, Dunn will lead the No. 2 Golden Eagles Saturday night against seventh-seeded Wadsworth in Region 2 action.

The game between two teams with 9-1 records will feature a battle of top running backs. Dunn leads GlenOak, of course, and his counterpart is Wadsworth tailback Jack Snowball. Dunn piled up 1,577 yards and 18 touchdowns during the regular season, but Snowball also was his team's leading rusher in addition to being the Grizzlies' best kick returner. Both are workhorses for their rush-heavy offenses.

The matchup is also a rematch of a 2009 first-round playoff game, one which GlenOak won 40-21.

Frank Epitropoulos, WR, Upper Arlington, Ohio – Back in Division I, Region 3, fourth-seeded Upper Arlington hosts Troy Saturday night.

The Golden Bears (8-2) are back in the postseason for the first time since 2008. Troy (8-2) is back for a second straight season, a streak that snapped a five-year drought.

"It's real special for us. No (player) here has ever been to the playoffs," Epitropoulos told This Week newspapers of Columbus. "We had a (playoff) drought for a little bit, but we finally did it."

Epitropoulos caught 16 passes for 357 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season. Running back Gus Ackley had 524 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and quarterback David Smith completed 72 of 135 passes for 1,003 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Cincinnati verbal commit Marcus Foster leads the Trojans. The running back/safety helped Troy clinch a playoff berth in the regular-season finale by rushing for two touchdowns in a 53-6 rout of Sidney. Troy quarterback Cory May threw for more than 1,000 yards during the season to become the first QB to do so at his school since 1959-60.

Najee Murray, DB, Steubenville, Ohio – The Big Red being back in the postseason is no surprise, but for Steubenville's first-round opponent in the Division III, Region 11 bracket it's rarified air. Steubenville will host Wintersville Indiana Creek Friday night at Harding Stadium.

The Redskins are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1996, thanks in large part to a six-game winning streak the team posted after starting the season 2-2. No. 8 Indian Creek (8-2) features a rush-heavy offense. The Redskins rushed for 2,003 yards in the regular season, led by Mark Ludewig and Logan Woods. Ludewig ran for 645 yards and nine touchdowns, while Woods scored seven times and piled up 502 yards.

The rushers will face a stiff test against Murray and the Steubenville defense. The top-seeded Big Red (10-0) allowed just 844 yards on the ground in the regular season.

Much like the Redskins, Steubenville does its damage on the ground. The Big Red was led by Jo Jo Pierro, who rushed for 890 yards and 15 TDs. Steubenville rushed for 2,228 yards as a team. Murray also plays offense, hauling in 280 yards and four touchdowns as a wide receiver.

Blake Thomas, TE, Cleveland St. Ignatius – Finally, in Division I, Region 1 play, No. 2 St. Ignatius will host seventh-seeded Youngstown Boardman Saturday night.

The visiting Spartans (7-3) will be looking to turn their fortunes around against the Wildcats. St. Ignatius (8-2) has defeated Boardman in each of the schools' last six meetings. Boardman's last victory in the series was in 2002. Working in the Spartans' favor is that Boardman is one of the hottest teams going into the postseason, having won seven of its last eight games after starting the season 0-2. The Spartans were tri-champions in the competitive Federal League.

The Wildcats are in the postseason for the 23rd time in 24 seasons. Tailback Tim McVey leads St. Ignatius' attack. He had 1,319 all-purpose yards in the regular season with 14 touchdowns.

Two other future Buckeyes will be in non-playoff action this weekend for Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. Quarterback Cardale Jones and wide receiver Mike Thomas will take the field Friday night at Hargrave Military Academy. The Blue Devils are 6-1.

The following OSU verbal commits have completed their seasons: De'Van Bogard, S, Cleveland Glenville, Patrick Elflein, OG, Pickerington (Ohio) North, Joshua Perry, OLB, Lewis Center (Ohio) Olentangy, Tyvis Powell, S, Bedford, Ohio, Luke Roberts, MLB, Lancaster, Ohio.

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