OHSAA Playoffs Down To Semifinals

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

The Ohio High School Athletic Association football playoffs continued to produce some intriguing results as each division narrowed its bracket down to four teams.

The third round of the playoffs crowd region champions in every classification except Division I, which features two 16-team regions instead of four eight-team regions.

BuckeyeSports.com takes a look some of the notable games and surprising finishes during the third round of state playoff action. Only 28 total teams remain on the road to the Horseshoe for the Dec. 4-6 state championship games at Ohio State.

Division I
No. 2 seed Lakewood St. Edward booked a ticket to the state semifinals for the second consecutive year and did so in a dominant fashion, taking down third-seeded Westerville Central in a 41-0 thrashing. The win advances the Eagles to the Region 1 final.

Notre Dame commit Shaun Crawford caught two big touchdowns, both of which went for more than 50 yards, and Kentucky commit David Dowell scored on a fumble return. St. Edward poured on 21 points in the second quarter to take a 27-0 lead into the locker room. Westerville Central, which finishes the season at 11-2, never recovered.

St. Edward will take on undefeated and top-seeded Hudson in the Region 1 final. The Explorers made quick work of 2013 Division I runner-up Mentor in a 41-20 triumph. Not only did Hudson’s win deny Mentor a fourth-straight semifinal, but it also allowed the Explorers to advance to within one win of the state title game for the first time in program history.

Hudson took a 17-6 lead at halftime and pulled away in the third quarter when it scored the first 14 points of the second half to build up a 31-6 advantage. The Cardinals fought back with a couple of scores but couldn’t erase the entire deficit.

In Region 2, the career of Ohio State commit Justin Hilliard came to an end as No. 2 Cincinnati St. Xavier was shut out in a 21-0 loss to two-time defending state champion and sixth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller.

A nine-minute drive from St. Xavier kept Moeller from running many plays in the first quarter, but the Crusaders got the scoring in the next period when Matt Crable found highly touted junior tight end Jake Hausmann for a touchdown. Two second-half touchdowns ensured that Moeller still has a chance to make it three in a row.

The Crusaders will face No. 5 Huber Heights Wayne in the state semifinals. The Warriors easily took care of No. 16 West Chester Lakota West in a 38-3 romp. It will mark Wayne’s first time in the state semifinals since Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller helped the Warriors to a runner-up finish in 2010.

Division II
Bedford saw its unbeaten season come to an end in disappointing fashion as the No. 1 Bearcats lost to No. 2 Mayfield, 34-32, in the Region 3 final.

Bedford, which produced OSU sophomore safety Tyvis Powell, took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to touchdown runs from Chawntez Moss and London Cloud. However, Mayfield fought its way back into the game and turned the contest into a back-and-forth affair. A 69-yard run by Andy Isabella in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winning score.

The Wildcats will take on Macedonia Nordonia in the state semifinals after the No. 2 Knights took down top-seeded Grafton Midview in a 52-14 blowout to claim the Region 4 crown. Ohio State commit Denzel Ward made six catches for Nordonia, but it was quarterback David Murray’s six touchdowns that helped lead the Knights to their first state semifinal since 2006.

In Region 5, Ohio State commit Nick Conner’s high school career came to an end as No. 7 Dublin Scioto dropped a 41-29 decision to Lewis Center Olentangy. It is the first region title for Lewis Center Olentangy, which had won only three playoff games in program history prior to this season.

In southwest Ohio, Cincinnati LaSalle’s dominant run this season continued with a Region 6 crown. The No. 1 Lancers made quick work of No. 2 Cincinnati Mt. Healthy in a 38-6 triumph. The score was 24-0 at halftime, and Mt. Healthy never reached a point where the outcome was in jeopardy in the second half.

LaSalle running back Jeremy Larkin reached the 2,000-yard mark this season by rushing for 265 yards in the win.

Division III
Two-time defending state champion and second-seeded Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary escaped in an incredibly dramatic fashion, scoring two touchdowns in the final three minutes to beat No. 1 Hubbard, 26-23, and win the Region 7 title.

The final score came when St. V-M fumbled deep in its own territory in the last minute with seconds ticking down, only to have a player scoop it up and run 81 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

It was the third consecutive year that St. V-M knocked Hubbard out of the playoffs. Now the Irish will try to make it three state titles in a row.

In Region 8, No. 2 Clyde was no match for top-seeded Toledo Central Catholic, which cruised to a 35-3 victory. The win put Toledo Central Catholic in the state semifinals for the fourth time ever.

Ohio State commit Joey Burrow continued his magical season at quarterback for No. 1 The Plains Athens, which routed Columbus St. Francis DeSales by a 52-20 score to advance to win the first region title in school history.

Burrow accounted for seven total touchdowns, including a highlight-worthy play in which he threw a touchdown to himself. After having a pass batted at the line of scrimmage, Burrow charged forward only to see the ball dropping toward him. He caught it and bulled his way into the end zone for the unexpected score.

Region 10 was won by Trotwood-Madison, which won just the fifth four-overtime game in OHSAA playoff history. The third-seeded Rams moved on with a 34-28 win against Wapakoneta.

Division IV
Top-seeded Cleveland Benedictine showed why it earned that slot in a 35-7 win against No. 7 Bay Village Bay to take home the Region 11 title. Ohio State commit Jerome Baker scored two rushing touchdowns for the Bengals, including a 77-yard romp in the first quarter that helped set the tone for what became a dominant day.

This is Benedictine’s first state semifinal berth since a 2004 appearance capped off three straight years of making the final four.

Benedictine will take on No. 3 Steubenville, the Region 13 champion. Steubenville took down No. 1 Columbus Beechcroft, 29-21. The two teams ended up brawling after the game as an incident in the handshake line kicked off an altercation.

Region 12 was claimed by No. 4 Kenton, which dispatched No. 3 Wauseon by a 38-14 margin. Kenton is making its second straight trip to the state semis.

The Region 14 winner, No. 1 Kettering Alter, will await Kenton in the state semifinals. Alter thoroughly dominated two-time defending state champion and No. 2 seed Clarksville Clinton-Massie, winning 35-7.

Division V
No. 1 Canton Central Catholic clinched its first berth in the state semifinals since 2000 by claiming the Region 15 title with a 20-6 win against No. 3 Youngstown Ursuline.

Two-time defending state champion Coldwater, which was seeded fourth, continued its run of success with a 28-7 win against No. 2 Findlay Liberty-Benton. Brody Hoying scored on three touchdown runs and also threw a touchdown pass for the Cavaliers.

No. 1 Columbus Bishop Hartley claimed its third consecutive region title but had to work to do it. The Hawks hung on in overtime to defeat No. 2 Wheelersburg by a 45-38 score.

In Region 18, No. 1 Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy kept its unbeaten season alive with a 31-23 win against No. 6 West Jefferson. Cameron Murray caught three second-half touchdown passes to bolster the Eagles, which hadn’t made the state semifinals since 2005.

Division VI
The only upset in Division VI happened in Region 19 as third-seeded Kirtland defeated top-seeded Loudonville 31-14. It was only an upset in terms of seeding though, as Kirtland was undefeated and is the defending state champ. The Hornets are now two wins away from becoming back-to-back champions.

They got out to a slow start but scored 17 second quarter points while holding Loudonville scoreless in the first half.

During that second quarter, Kirtland quarterback Sam Skiljan was all over the field both on offense and defense. He had a touchdown pass as well as an interception during those decisive 12 minutes. Kirtland moves on to play Lucasville Valley, champions from Region 21 after defeating Centerburg.

Centerburg scored early in that matchup and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but the Indians intercepted a pass at their own two-yard line to prevent an even bigger deficit. They never looked back from there, winning 33-20.

Top-seeded and undefeated Defiance Tinora grinded out a 17-0 win over third-seeded Bucyrus Wynford in Region 20. Both defenses allowed around eight points a game all season, but the Rams proved they had the superior squad. Their defense will face a tough test in the semifinal next week against Minster.

Minister, the No. 3 seed from Region 22, dominated West Liberty-Salem 35-0 to round out the regional finals. The Wildcats rolled up 523 yards of offense in the win.

Division VII
Region 23 held a rematch of last year’s final as top-seeded Norwalk St. Paul got revenge on Western Reserve, 18-14.

The Flyers lost to Reserve last year in the regional final and fell behind early 14-6 this year. A late touchdown in the first half put them within striking distance at the half and their defense held the Blue Devils scoreless in the second half to taste victory.

Last season’s state runner-up Glouster Trimble will await the Flyers in the semifinals. The Tomcats took Region 25 after depositing top-seeded Shadyside, 31-21. That matchup was also a rematch of last year’s regional final, and Trimble won last year as well.

The other side of the semifinal will see Region 24 champ Columbus Grove take on Maria Stein Marion Local, winners of Region 26. Columbus Grove made it by taking out Arlington, the top seed in the region, 19-7. Grove went up 9-0 in the first quarter after a touchdown and safety and that was all it needed. Grove’s defense played strong all game, giving up its only points with just 1:05 to go.

Top-seed and No. 1 ranked Marion Local dominated second-seeded Sidney Lehman Catholic 49-7 in its final. The win was the Flyers’ 35th straight and they have won the last three small-school state championships.

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