For the first time since 1989, Ohio Stadium will host the OHSAA state title games for all seven divisions of Ohio high school football. It marks the end of a run in which the championship locations were split each year between Canton’s Fawcett Stadium and Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, both of which are located in Stark County in Northeast Ohio.
The release of the playoff brackets Nov. 2 signals the end of the season for many Ohio teams but also reveals the various paths that the remaining 224 squads of the 723 that sponsor football will have to travel in order to be one of the 14 teams lucky enough to play at the home of the Buckeyes.
The following is a breakdown of each division and what fans can expect to see out of the 32-team brackets. There are two regions in Division I and four each in Division II-VII, and the first-round games will be held at campus sites before moving to neutral sites in round two.
Ohio’s largest schools happen to feature some of the top teams in the country, and there’s no shortage of talent in the 16 first-round pairings. Hudson (10-0) earned the No. 1 seed in Region 1 and will host 16th-seeded Massillon Perry (6-4), a team making its first playoff appearance since 2006.
Lakewood St. Edward (8-2), home of Ohio State commit and four-star wide receiver Alex Stump, earned the No. 2 seed, while 2013 state runner-up Mentor (9-1) is seeded fourth. The Cardinals will take on No. 13 Lorain (7-3), which features another Ohio State commit in three-star tight end Rashod Berry. An interesting second-round matchup could be looming in Region 1 after Cleveland St. Ignatius’ notoriously tough schedule left the Wildcats (6-4) with the No. 8 seed.
Region 2 is chock full of talented teams, and undefeated Centerville (10-0) highlights the slate by claiming the No. 1 seed. OSU commit Justin Hilliard’s Cincinnati St. Xavier team also figures to contend, as the four-star linebacker has helped his team to an 8-2 record and the No. 2 seed. The Bombers will begin against No. 15 Grove City Central Crossing (7-3), which is making its first-ever playoff appearance.
One of the more intriguing matchups of the first round pits two Columbus-area teams against each other in a regular-season rematch. Hilliard Davidson (6-4), a state semifinalist one year ago but seeded 13th this year, will hit the road to take on resurgent No. 4 Dublin Coffman (10-0). The Shamrocks, led by junior quarterback Gunnar Hoak, beat Davidson by a 24-9 score Sept. 19. Two-time defending state champion Cincinnati Moeller (7-3) is seeded sixth in Region 2 and will face No. 11 Miamisburg (8-2).
Division II is guaranteed to have a new champion, as 2013 winner Loveland followed its 15-0 campaign with a 6-4 record this fall and failed to make the postseason.
Region 3 is highlighted by top-seeded Bedford (10-0), who will take on No. 8 Garfield Heights (9-1). An intriguing second-round matchup could pit Bedford against 2013 runner-up Cleveland Glenville (6-4), which is seeded fifth and will face No. 4 Willoughby South (7-3) in the first round.
Three 10-0 teams line the eight-team bracket of Region 4, with No. 1 Grafton Midview, No. 2 Macedonia Nordonia (home of OSU commit and three-star cornerback Denzel Ward) and No. 3 Perrysburg all finishing the regular season with spotless records. Massillon Washington, home of OSU class of 2017 commit and four-star QB Danny Clark, finished with a 7-3 record to earn the No. 6 seed.
By contrast to the successes of teams in Region 4, Region 5 has just one team without multiple losses. That status belongs to top seed Lewis Center Olentangy (10-0), which returns to the postseason after a one-year hiatus. Sixth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne (7-3) has two-star long snapper and OSU commit Liam McCullough on its roster.
Region 6 rounds out Division II, and the eight team bracket has a bona fide contender in the top slot as Cincinnati LaSalle (9-1) earned the No. 1 seed. The Lancers have just four previous playoff berths in their history but made waves by knocking off Cincinnati powers Moeller, Colerain and Elder this season.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (8-2) will have a chance to defend its Division III title after earning the No. 2 seed in Region 7. The top spot belongs to unbeaten Hubbard (10-0), which features a backfield of senior four-star running back L.J. Scott (Michigan State commit) and junior four-star running back George Hill (Ohio State commit).
Toledo Central Catholic (8-2) hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2003, and that streak will continue after the Irish claimed the No. 1 seed in Region 8 this fall. They’ll take on Rocky River (6-4), a team they eliminated from the playoffs when Rocky River last made the postseason in 2009.
Four-star quarterback Joey Burrow, an Ohio State commit, has put up incredible numbers this season against less than stellar competition. He directed The Plains Athens (10-0) to the No. 4 seed in Division 9, and the senior will have a chance to answer his critics with an impressive postseason showing that will start with a matchup against No. 5 Granville (8-2). Unbeaten Dresden Tri-Valley holds the No. 1 seed and allowed just 34 points all season.
Unfortunately for Region 10 No. 1 seed Wapakoneta (10-0), matching local son Neil Armstrong’s achievement of walking on the moon seems impossible, but finding a way to win the school’s first-ever state championship would be a solid runner-up. The Redskins are the only unbeaten team in the region, but last year’s second-place squad, Trotwood-Madison, is 9-1 and seeded third.
Region 11 is stocked with accomplished individuals and programs. No. 1 seed Cleveland Benedictine (9-1) boasts OSU commit and four-star linebacker Jerome Baker in addition to junior four-star wide receiver Justin Layne. The Bengals will start off by facing No. 8 Perry (6-4). Eight-time state champion (and 2013 runner-up) Youngstown Cardinal Mooney is the No. 5 seed after compiling a 5-4 record.
Wooster Triway (10-0) earned the top seed in Region 12 and will be making its seventh playoff appearance while battling traditionally strong Bellevue (second seed, 8-2) and Kenton (fourth, 8-2). The presence of No. 7 LaGrange Keystone (8-2) extends the career of four-star senior tight end C.J. Conrad, who is committed to Kentucky, while the Wildcats are making their first-ever playoff appearance, as is No. 5 Port Clinton (7-3).
Columbus Beechcroft (9-1) came out on top in the seeding process for Region 13. No. 7 Amanda Clearcreek (6-4) is led by a familiar name to Buckeye fans, as head coach Scott Hinton is the nephew of Ohio State tight ends coach Tim Hinton.
Two-time defending state champion Clarksville Clinton-Massie (10-0) came away with the No. 2 seed in Region 14. The program has made the playoffs every year since 2001. Fellow unbeaten Kettering Alter is the No. 1 seed, while No. 5 Cleves Taylor (9-1) is playoff bound for the first time.
Two of the top seeds in Division V have spotless records, as Canton Central Catholic (Region 15) and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (Region 18) each concluded the regular season at 10-0. CHCA is led by junior Prince Sammons, a four-star prospect and the No. 30 overall prospect for the class of 2016.
Region 18 also includes two playoff newcomers in No. 2 Cincinnati Shroder (9-1) and No. 4 Jamestown Greeneview (9-1).
Region 16 teams will have to fend off No. 4 seed Coldwater (9-1), which has played in the previous five Division V state title games and won the most recent two. The Cavaliers could face No. 1 seed Huron (9-1) in the second round.
Columbus Bishop Hartley, the 2013 runner-up to Coldwater, earned the top seed in Region 17 after compiling an 8-2 record. A second-round meeting could be in the cards vs. No. 4 St. Clairsville (10-0), which boasts 2016 OSU target Brendan Ferns.
Incredibly, the top five seeds in Region 19 are all undefeated. No. 1 Loudonville, No. 2 Sugarcreek Garaway, No. 3 Kirtland, No. 4 Mogadore and No. 5 McDonald all went 10-0 in the regular season and will experience their first loss of the year in the postseason if at all. Kirtland won state titles in 2011 and 2013 and finished second in 2012.
Each of the other three regions is topped by an undefeated squad. No. 1 seeds were also earned by Defiance Tinora (Region 20), Fredericktown (Region 21) and Lewisburg Tri-County North (Region 22). In Region 20, No. 7 Van Buren (8-2) is a playoff rookie, while eighth-seeded Haviland Wayne Trace (8-2) finished second to the Hornets last year.
The most successful team to ever appear in the Ohio playoffs plays in Division VII, as no other high school has a better winning percentage than Maria Stein Marion Local. The Flyers (10-0) are the three-time defending state champions and have won playoff games at an .855 clip. They’ll get their title defense started as the top squad of Region 26, which also includes playoff newcomer Fort Recovery (6-4) in the No. 5 seed.
Norwalk St. Paul (9-1, Region 23), Arlington (9-1. Region 24) and Shadyside (9-0, Region 25) are the other No. 1 seeds. Playoff newcomers include Region 23’s No. 3 seed, Plymouth (8-2), and Region 25’s No. 6 seed, Canal Winchester Harvest Prep (8-2). Region 25 includes 2013 runner-up Glouster Trimble (10-0), while Delphos St. John, which has a 52-10 all-time playoff record, squeaked into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in Region 24 after finishing with a 4-6 mark.