Road To Ohio Stadium: OHSAA Reaches Final 8

Ohio's high schools are halfway done on the road to Ohio Stadium. The field of 32 in each of the seven regions has been cut down to eight, with quarterfinal and semifinal rounds all that's standing between the top schools in the Buckeye State and the state finals in the Horseshoe.

The road to Ohio Stadium turned dramatic in many places as the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs continued over the Nov. 14-15 weekend.

While the opening round of action often includes many blowouts and lopsided games, the second round matches up some of the teams ranked among the best in the state, and this year was no different as each region went from 16 to eight teams.

BSB takes a look some of the notable games and surprising finishes during the second round of state playoff action, with the regional finals in all divisions except Division I up next on the road to the Horseshoe for the Dec. 4-6 state championship games. All-session tickets are available by clicking here and using the offer code GRID1.

LINK: PDF of all upcoming game times/matchups from OHSAA

Division I
Two northeastern Ohio teams waged an epic battle in the Region 1 quarterfinals as top-seeded and undefeated Hudson overcame eighth-seeded Cleveland St. Ignatius by a 28-23 score. The Explorers scored two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes to come away with the victory over the Wildcats.

Ignatius led 17-14 entering the fourth quarter, but Hudson took the lead on a 1-yard run from Matt Restifo and then went up 28-17 on a Mitch Guadagni 45-yard run with 3:32 left to play.

The Wildcats answered quickly to pull within one score and their defense forced a punt from the Explorers, but quarterback Dennis Grosel threw an interception to John Callahan to end their comeback hopes.

Next up for Hudson is a battle with fourth-seeded Mentor in a rematch of a highly touted regular-season game that both teams entered undefeated in week 9. Mentor dispatched twelfth-seeded Canton GlenOak, 38-14.

In Region 2 action, Cincinnati teams Colerain and St. Xavier played out a fantastic game as the second-seeded Bombers of St. X held off the 10th-seeded Cardinals by a 29-21 final.

The Bombers, led by OSU linebacker commit Justin Hilliard, went into halftime with a 29-7 lead that seemed safe, but Colerain had other plans. After an inspiring speech at halftime from coach Tom Bolden, the Cards cut into the deficit with two third-quarter touchdown runs from quarterback DeShaunte Jones. Their defense didn’t allow another score from the Bombers, but Colerain’s offense just couldn’t make it over the hump.

Running back Ben Glines was the star for St. Xavier as he rushed 34 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the Bombers’ seventh straight win. Quarterback Sean Clifford added another 97 yards on 10 carries and completed 6 of 13 passes for 70 yards and a score before leaving the game with an apparent leg injury.

Next up for St. X is a rematch with Greater Catholic League South rival and two-time defending state champ Cincinnati Moeller, which dispatched unbeaten No. 3-seed Pickerington Central, 21-13.

Moeller, the sixth seed, was the last team to beat the Bombers in a 13-7 final Sept. 26. Also in Region 2, 16th-seeded West Chester Lakota West continued its assault on higher ranked teams with a 52-27 win over Liberty Center Lakota East, the No. 2 seed.

A week after upsetting top-seeded Centerville, the Firebirds put up a season-high 52 points against their rivals. They rolled up 495 total yards, and quarterback Blake Darland went 18 of 24 for 273 yards and four touchdowns. Lakota West was 20th in Region 2 one week before playoff action began but jumped into the 16-team field with a week 10 win against Lakota East.

Next up for the rejuvenated Firebirds, who were 5-5 after regular-season play, is a matchup with fifth-seeded Huber Heights Wayne, which upset unbeaten Dublin Coffman, 44-35.

Just two of the top five teams in the state Division I Associated Press poll remain in No. 1 Hudson and No. 4 Mentor. Centerville was ranked second, Coffman third and Pickerington Central fifth.

Division II
Region 4 held the best game of the day as second-seeded Macedonia Nordonia and OSU DB commit Denzel Ward overcame third-seeded Perrysburg by a 56-52 margin. The Knights trailed the whole game until a 70-yard kickoff return by Alex Alders with 2:07 left gave them their first lead and the win.

Nordonia quarterback David Murray threw six touchdown passes. The strikes measured 5, 23, 19, 23, 29 and 1 yard, and he scored on a 38-yard run.

The Yellow Jackets’ quarterback, Gus Dimmerling, also had a stellar day with three touchdown passes and three TD rushes. Perrysburg entered the playoffs ranked No. 1 in the region in the Associated Press poll, while Nordonia was No. 5.

The teams combined for 1,172 yards. The Knights move on to face top-seeded Grafton Midview. Defense and special teams won Mayfield the game over Madison in a Region 3 semifinal. The second-seeded Wildcats scored on a punt return and kicked two field goals as their defense smothered third-seeded Madison to hold on for a 19-10 victory.

The Wildcats held Madison to 96 yards in the second half and 221 total yards for the game. Mayfield will play top-seeded Bedford next.

In Region 5, Dublin Scioto dispatched nearby rival Worthington Kilbourne by a 23-0 final despite not having the services of Ohio State linebacker commit Nick Conner, who is out with injury. Kilbourne beat Scioto in the first round of last year’s playoffs 38-3, but the script could not have been more different this time for the seventh-seeded Irish.

Defensively is where the Irish won the game, giving Kilbourne’s top back, Isaiah Young, no room to run. Young had over 1,400 yards entering the game but finished with just 3 yards on 18 carries for the sixth-seeded Wolves.

Next up for Scioto is a bout with top-seeded Lewis Center Olentangy.

Division III
There is not much parity in Regions 7 and 8 as the top two teams in each region have made it on to the regional finals.

In Region 7, No. 1 Hubbard – the top team in the division’s AP poll – beat Aurora, 23-19, and No. 2 Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary defeated Poland Seminary, 20-10, to continue its quest for a third straight state title.

Region 8 saw top-seeded Toledo Central Catholic beat No. 4 Bowling Green, 21-13, and No. 2 Clyde winning over Norwalk, 35-24. The Region 8 final will be a rematch of last year as Clyde defeated the Irish by a 42-41 score.

In Region 10, top-seed Wapakoneta took out No. 5 Tipp City Tippecanoe, 28-7, and third-seeded Trotwood-Madison beat seventh-seeded Bellbrook in 41-6 laugher.

Region 9 is where the real fun was. Fourth-seeded The Plains Athens, which entered ranked second in the AP poll, dominated top-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley 41-20 as Ohio State commit Joey Burrow engineered the high-powered Bulldog offense to the victory. Burrow finished 13 for 19 for 180 yards and ran for 68 yards on 13 carries in the victory over Tri-Valley, which entered ranked fourth in the AP poll. Both teams entered the game unbeaten.

The other matchup saw seventh-seeded Columbus DeSales beat third-seeded Jackson, 24-14. At the start of the fourth quarter, with DeSales clinging to a three-point lead, the Stallions stopped Jackson on a fourth-and-5 play to turn the momentum completely in their favor. They scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive and never looked back.

Division IV
Region 11 held the best game of the Division IV playoffs as the seventh seed, Bay Village, took down sixth-seeded Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, 27-24, in the Cleveland Browns’ High School Game of the Week.

Bay Village found itself down 24-7 before mounting a comeback with 20 unanswered points. The Rockets scored on both of their drives in the third quarter and their first of the fourth quarter to finish their run. Nick Best was the key for the Rockets as he ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns to ignite the offense.

Next up for Bay Village is a matchup with top-seeded Cleveland Benedictine and OSU commit Jerome Baker in the regional final. Benedictine beat the No. 5-seed, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, by a score of 56-16.

Fourth-seeded Kenton upset top-seeded Wooster Triway, 13-6, in Region 12. Triway quarterback Parker Carmichael threw the ball an astonishing 78 times, completing 53 of them for 383 yards and a touchdown, but Kenton’s defense intercepted him three times and wouldn’t give up another score. Kenton moves on to face third-seeded Wauseon.

Region 14 will pit the top two seeds against each other in the final as No. 1 Kettering Alter beat Wyoming, 42-28, and Clarksville Clinton-Massie beat Cincinnati McNicholas, 28-14. Alter is ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, while Clinton-Massie, the defending state champ, is second. Both are undefeated.

Division V
Almost every game in the division was a blowout, except for the Region 18 semifinal between sixth-seeded West Jefferson and seventh-seeded Hamilton Badin, and it made up for all of them as West Jefferson escaped with a 21-20 victory.

The first half didn’t see much action, but both teams amped it up in the fourth quarter. Badin took a 13-12 lead with 5:58 left in the game after 2-yard run from Cody Boxrucker. West Jefferson answered with a field goal to go up 15-13, but Badin took the lead right back as its first play on the ensuing drive was a 72-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Beadle.

The crazy train continued to stay on course as West Jefferson took the ensuing kickoff back 88 yards for a score to regain the lead. They failed to convert a two-point try, but their defense turned Badin over on downs with 1:09 left to seal the victory.

West Jefferson moves on to face the No. 1 seed, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. CHCA beat Jamestown Greeneview, 28-14, to reach the final.

Fourth-seeded Coldwater took out Huron, the top team in Region 16, 40-14 to set up a match with second-seeded Findlay Liberty-Benton. Coldwater was led by quarterback Brody Hoying, first cousin of former OSU signal caller Bobby Hoying, who had 337 total yards and five touchdowns as the Cavaliers attempt to repeat as state champs.

Region 17 saw a pair of poundings take place as No. 1 Bishop Hartley whipped No. 4 St. Clairsville, 42-7, and No. 2 Wheelersburg beat No. 3 Ironton, 38-7.

Meanwhile, the top team in the AP poll trucked along in Region 15 as Canton Central Catholic shut out fourth-seeded Columbiana Crestview, 45-0.

Division VI
Division VI saw a pair of No. 4 seeds taking down number ones as Centerburg defeated Fredericktown, 27-21, in Region 21 and West Liberty-Salem beat Lewisburg Tri-County, 21-14, in Region 22.

Centerburg finished the game with 17 unanswered points to get its win. It trailed 21-10 midway through the second quarter and held Fredericktown scoreless in the second half. The Trojans were piloted by quarterback John Rings, who led them in not only passing but rushing yards as well. Next week they take on second-seeded Lucasville Valley, winners against third-seeded Grandview Heights, 27-21.

West Liberty-Salem took a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter and held on late for the win after an interception by Kam Evans. The Tigers forced four turnovers by Tri-County. They move on to face third-seeded Minster, which beat Versailles, 45-19.

In Region 19, all four teams entered at 11-0, but it was blowout city as No. 1 Loudonville beat No. 4 Mogadore, 42-14, to set up a battle with No. 3 Kirtland, 41-0 winners against No. 2 Sugarcreek Garaway. Kirtland is the defending state champ and is rated No. 1 in the AP poll while Loudonville is slotted No. 2 in the vote.

Division VII
The seedings for Division VII were extremely accurate as Regions 23, 25 and 26 feature one vs. two matchups and Region 24 has No. 1 vs. No. 3. All the one seeds, including top-ranked defending champion Marion Local, rolled to victories while a couple of the twos had some trouble.

Region 25 saw the second-ranked team in the state, Glouster Trimble, fight for its life to earn a 14-10 win against Caldwell. The Tomcats scored with nine seconds left to leave Caldwell in shock. Trimble converted two fourth-down plays on its final drive before a 4-yard touchdown pass to Austin Downs sealed it for the Tomcats. They move on to face No. 1-seeded Shadyside.

The one upset was in Region 24 as third-seeded Columbus Grove beat second-seeded Tiffin Calvert, 17-7. Columbus Grove dominated the game as Calvert’s only touchdown was a meaningless one that was scored with 18 seconds left. No. 1-seed Arlington is next in line for the Bulldogs.

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