Bearcat Insider

A look at today's OHSAA state finals games in Ohio Stadium including a marquee prime-time matchup

The Ohio high school football championship games continue today with three games, including a marquee night matchup between a defending state champ and an upstart featuring Mr. Football.

Ohio Stadium is shuttered to Buckeye football until the spring game, but there is still a weekend festival of pigskin to go for the Old Gray Lady of the Olentangy.

Last year, the Ohio High School Athletic Association returned its seven state championship games to the capital city for the first time in more than two decades. Many miss the friendly faces and high school atmosphere of the previous site of Stark County, but having the chance to play in the Buckeye State’s monument to gridiron spectacle undoubtedly adds to the experience provided to the 14 teams who have made it this far. Last year, almost 60,000 fans went through the Horseshoe's gates to watch the best in the state.

This year’s finals will be held through Saturday, with three games apiece on Friday and Saturday. The matchups are set after teams staged semifinal matchups Nov. 27-28, trimming the 715 Ohio high schools that play football down to just a handful of squads.

There are some traditional powers and some upstarts among the teams that will get to play for a crown. BSB takes a look at how the teams – three of which hail from Mercer County, population 40,748, along the Indiana state line – that completed the journey to the Horseshoe fared in their semifinal matchups each day.

Division V: Coldwater (14-0) vs. Canton Central Catholic (11-3)

Friday, December 4, 10 a.m.

How They Got Here

There will be a 2014 rematch in Division V, with Canton Central Catholic taking a second stab at ending Coldwater’s three-year reign atop the state.

Coldwater won last year’s matchup convincingly 62-21, and the Cavaliers will be making their sixth straight title game appearance after 36-6 semifinal win against Wheelersburg. Quarterback Jack Hemmelgarn has 33 touchdown passes on the season, including three in the semifinal win to Aaron Harlamert.

The unbeaten Cavaliers – who have 64 all-time playoff wins, third in Ohio history – have outscored playoff opponents 153-33.

Canton Central Catholic (11-3) had rolled through its playoff run as well until the semifinal required a walkoff field goal. Dan Mills 47-yard kick on the final play gave the Crusaders a 17-14 win and ended a historic season by Milan Edison.

Edison led 14-7 in the fourth quarter but fumbled a punt snap inside the 10, allowing John Colangelo to score the tying touchdown before Mills’ field goal. Ken Henderson also caught a touchdown pass from Dan Platek.

The Crusaders have allowed 41 points in four playoff games, while running back Justin Ditty has 23 touchdowns on the season.

Coldwater
AP rank: 1
OHSAA seed: No. 3, Region 18
11th state final appearance, 5 titles (last in 2014)
21st year in playoffs (64-15)

Coldwater is the three-time defending state champion, all in Division V.

The Cavaliers are making their seventh straight appearance in the state championship game and played in the state championship game eight of the last 10 years. Coldwater has won 19 straight playoff games.

Coldwater owns the longest active streak of qualifying for the playoffs at 19 straight years.

Last year, the highly successful Midwest Athletic Conference became the first league to have three of its members win football state championships in the same season (Coldwater in Div. V, Minster in Div. VI and Maria Stein Marion Local in Div. VII). This year, Coldwater returns in Div. V, Marion Local is now is Div. VI and newcomer Fort Recovery is in the Div. VII championship game. 

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Coldwater 42, Bethel-Tate 0
Coldwater 44, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy 14
Coldwater 31, Brookville 13
Coldwater 36, Wheelersburg 6

Canton Central Catholic
AP rank: Unranked
OHSAA seed: No. 3, Region 15
Fourth state final appearance (last in 2000)
13th year in playoffs (24-10)

Canton Central Catholic is located 1.9 miles away from fellow state finalist Massillon Perry (Div. II).

Second-year head coach Jeff Lindesmith will be coaching in his ninth state title game in football or baseball as an assistant or head coach at Central. He is 8-1 in playoff games as Central’s head football coach.

CCC attempting to match Canton McKinley as Stark County programs with three state playoff championships.

Senior DB-WR-RB John Colangelo on the same day last June finished as state runner up in the 100 and helped Crusaders win state baseball title. He is team’s top receiver and was district defensive player of the year.

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Canton Central Catholic 52, Gates Mills Hawken 14
Canton Central Catholic 38, Magnolia Sandy Valley 7
Canton Central Catholic 33, Columbiana Crestview 7
Canton Central Catholic 17, Milan Edison 14

Head coach Jeff Lindesmith“We have kids that take great pride in what they do out there on the field, and they try to let it fly every snap. Both teams have kids that play hard, and both programs are established programs that it will make for a fun time.”

Division VII: Mogadore (13-1) vs. Fort Recovery (13-1)

Friday, December 4, 3 p.m.

How They Got Here

With Marion Local now up a level, there will be a new champion in Division VII, but it could be a familiar name in Mogadore.

The Wildcats have made 29 playoff appearances, fourth in the state, including 17 in a row. Mogadore has also won three straight titles, the last in 2002, and the Wildcats are back in the finals thanks to a 35-21 win against unbeaten Danville.

Senior quarterback Zeddie Williams threw for a touchdown and ran for another while Austin Williams ran for two scores in the win, and the defense held in check a Danville team that was averaging 52.9 points per game.

Fort Recovery received 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Will Homan in its 35-14 semifinal win against McComb. Caleb Martin also threw for a pair of scores and Brandon Schoen had a kick return touchdown as the Indians scored 32 unanswered points in the victory.

Mogadore Wildcats
AP rank: 2
OHSAA seed: No. 2, Region 23
Eigth state final appearance, 3 titles (last in 2002)
29th year in playoffs (55-25)

Beat No. 1 Danville in the state semifinals.

Mogadore has the most playoff appearances of any team in the state finals (29) and is making its first state finals appearance in 13 years.

Mogadore has competed in the playoffs (and won a game) in four different divisions: 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Starting quarterback Zeddie Pollock’s father, Tom Pollock, is a Mogadore assistant and was an All-Ohio player on Mogadore’s first state championship team in 1979. Tom Pollock was a WR, DB and kicker.

Head coach Matt Adorni played for Mogadore as an offensive guard from 1989-1991.

This is Mogadore’s first appearance at Ohio Stadium since the back-to-back state runner-up teams of 1987 and 1988 lost in the Division V title game. Mogadore has won 18 regional and 40 league championships in its history.

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Mogadore 63, North Jackson Jackson-Milton 20
Mogadore 28, Norwalk St. Paul 0
Mogadore 35, Warren JFK 7
Mogadore 35, Danville 21

Fort Recovery
AP rank: 8
OHSAA seed: No. 3, Region 26
First state final appearance
Second year in playoffs (4-1)

Fort Recovery, which played its first full varsity season in 1994, made its first-ever playoff appearance last year.

It isthe seventh school from the Midwest Athletic Conference to play for a state championship.

Winning seasons before 2014: 1 (1994, 6-4)

Coach Brent Niekamp is 1999 graduate of Fort Recovery. He played football for Indians and later went on to Tri-State University for football.

Fort Recovery has won state titles in boys basketball (1971 Class A), girls basketball (1990 & 91), volleyball (1990) and cross country (1996).

Due to Midwest Athletic Conference’s formula schedule, Fort Recovery did not play Coldwater this season but lost to Marion Local 28-0.

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Fort Recovery 62, Miami Valley Christian Academy 34
Fort Recovery 20, Sidney Lehman Catholic 3
Fort Recovery 33, Minster 21
Fort Recovery 35, McComb 14

Niekamp“I’m about delirious right now. I’m going to Columbus, and that’s all that matters It’s just huge. I don’t know what to say or how to describe that. We’ve watched those (MAC) teams over the years, and that’s been a model for us and how we want to build our program. Now, we’ve taken major strides forward, and we’re proud to represent the MAC in the state championship.”

Division II: Cincinnati La Salle (12-2) vs. Massillon Perry (12-2)

Friday, December 4, 7:30 p.m.

How They Got Here

La Salle hopes to defend last year’s championship and survived a stiff test in the semifinals in a 49-28 victory against Perrysburg.

The top-ranked Yellow Jackets, 13-0 and regional champs for the first time in school history, got off to a 21-7 lead before Jeremy Larkin and the Lancers took over. La Salle scored four consecutive touchdowns – helped by multiple interceptions of Perrysburg QB Trevor Hafner – to take the lead and then pulled away in the fourth.

The spritely Larkin, a Cincinnati commit whose father is a cousin of MLB Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, ran for three touchdowns, as did senior quarterback Nick Watson. Larkin has more than 2,500 combined yards and 35 TD on the year.

La Salle also boasts Ohio State commitment Drue Chrisman on the roster at punter.

The Lancers will face Perry, who was winless two years ago but has made a quick turnaround under head coach Keith Wakefield. The Panthers (12-2) beat a tough Hudson program 10-7 in the other state semifinal to reach the first state title game in program history.

Perry’s Keishaun Sims became just the ninth player in state history to break the 3,000-yard mark on the ground in one season, running 35 times for 111 yards and the Panthers’ only TD in the semifinal win. Sims has 43 rushing touchdowns on the season and was named Ohio's Mr. Football on Wednesday.

Cincinnati La Salle Lancers
AP rank: 4
OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 6
Second state final appearance, one title (last in 2014)
Sixth year in playoffs (9-4)

Running back Jeremy Larkin, a University of Cincinnato commit, has set the Cincinnati Greater Catholic League career rushing record with more than 5,000 yards.

Senior lineman Luke Doerger, a Toledo commit, will make his 50th consecutive career start in the state final.

La Salle has won nine consecutive playoff games.

Jim Hilvert is in his first season as the Lancers coach. He was previously the Thomas More College coach.

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
La Salle 52, Vandalia Butler 14
La Salle 49, Lima Senior 13
La Salle 42, Kings Mills Kings 7
La Salle 49, Perrysburg 28

Larkin"We try to come into every game with the same mentality that it's a championship game and just treat it the same every week. It's just that this week everybody knows that it's a little more important. The last week – everybody is going to go lay it all out on the line. Especially the seniors with it being our last game."

Massillon Perry
AP rank: 10
OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 6
First state final appearance
Seventh year in playoffs (10-6)

Since giving up 41 points in the first game of the season, Perry has not allowed more than 17 points in any game this season.

Senior RB Keishaun Sims set a Stark County record for most rushing yards in the regular season with 2,194 yards.

Dropped down to Division II this season for the first time in school history. Had been Division 1/ Class AAA previously.

Head coach Keith Wakefield is in the third year of his second stint at the school. They are 18-17 in that span, going from 0-10 to 6-5 to 12-2. In his 1st go-around, from 1982-2003, saw Perry go 157-42, win 11 Federal League championships, make four playoff appearances and win a regional title. 

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Perry 35, Mansfield Senior 0
Perry 40, Dresden Tri-Valley 14
Perry 28, Worthington Kilbourne 7
Perry 10, Hudson 7

Wakefield on Sims: "I knew he could be special, but I don’t think I thought he could be this special. I don’t think anybody did. He’s the most humble kid I’ve been around that’s been so good. That part of it is what’s so unusual today. He’s such an unassuming player and he’s the same every day.”
 

Tickets
All-session ticket packages for the state championship games in Ohio Stadium are available from the Greater Columbus Sports Commission (www.ColumbusSports.org) and www.TicketMaster.com. A $105 all-session ticket package includes a ticket to all seven games in a chair-back seat and access to the Huntington Club in the stadium between games. An $84 all-session ticket is available without a chair back or access between games. Single game tickets are available at the participating schools, at www.TicketMaster.com, and are also available at the gate at Ohio Stadium.


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