SCOUT

A look at Saturday's OHSAA games in Ohio Stadium including the Division I battle

The Ohio high school football finals conclude today in Ohio Stadium, and it's been an exciting weekend of football so far. Check out previews of the three games today that can be seen on SportsTime Ohio.

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 conclude today with three games. The matchups are set after teams staged semifinal contests 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 IV: Marion Local (13-1) vs. Kirtland (13-1)

Saturday, December 5, 10 a.m.

How They Got Here

Marion Local and Kirtland have been among the most successful programs in the state the past few years – each has played in a state title game every year since 2011 – but only one will leave with the trophy in what is perhaps the most intriguing smaller school matchup.

Marion Local – which moved up after running rampant through Division VII last season, winning the title game 41-0 over Norwalk St. Paul – has won four consecutive crowns and will try to make it five after a 34-10 victory over Defiance Tinora.

One of two quarterbacks used this season, Duane Leugers threw for three touchdowns in the win for the Flyers, with two of the scores going to Derek Albers. Running back Aaron Nietfield and back/receiver Hunter Wilker also are key parts of the offense.

The Flyers have won 24 consecutive playoff games, a state record.

Kirtland, meanwhile, has state championship trophies from 2011 and '13, and Tiger LaVerde’s Hornets advanced with a taut 13-9 victory against Grandview Heights. The Hornets had to hold on after their 13-0 lead nearly evaporated, with Peter Gabor intercepting a pass at the goal line in the final minute.

Joey Bates and Owen Lewis ran for touchdowns, and Kirtland held a Bobcats’ rushing offense that had compiled more than 4,000 yards on the year to 40 net yards.

Maria Stein Marion Local Flyers
AP rank: 1
OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 22
8 state titles (last in 2014)
18th year in playoffs (61-9)

Four-time defending state champion, including the 2011 and 2012 titles in Div. VI and the 2013 and 2014 titles in Div. VII.

Has won a state-record 24-consecutive playoff games, topping the previous mark of 23 held by Cleveland St. Ignatius in the 1990s.

Only loss was to Division V champion Coldwater 17-14 in the regular-season.

Attempting to give the MAC three title teams for the second year in a row.

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Marion Local 48, Casstown Miami East 23
Marion Local 34, West Liberty-Salem 0
Marion Local 9, Mechanicsburg 7
Marion Local 34, Defiance Tinora 10

Head coach Tim Goodwin"I think football is a delayed gratification sport for a lot of kids. We have kids every year who don't play a whole lot until their senior year. In other places they would probably quit and do something else. But at Marion Local and places like Kirtland, they stick it out. They play JV as juniors and their senior years they're ready to go, they know the system and they have great years."

Kirtland Hornets
AP rank: 4
OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 19
Two state titles (last in 2013)
11th year in playoffs (25-8)

Kirtland has lost only three games since 2011.

Kirtland had its 56-game regular-season winning streak snapped in Week 2 (Sept. 4) this year in a 30-21 loss to Orwell Grand Valley. Prior to that, the Hornets’ last regular-season loss was Sept. 24, 2009, to Cuyahoga Heights (20-10).

Over the past five seasons (playoffs included), Kirtland’s record is 71-3. Two of those losses came in state championship games (10-9 to Coldwater in 2012, 46-42 to Minster in 2014).

Coach Tiger LaVerde is in his 10th year with the Hornets. His career record is 118-14 (.894).

Kirtland returned only three starters on offense (TE Evan Madden, OG Michael Bragalone and Dylan Choe) and two full-time starters on defense (LB Evan Madden, LB Joey Bates) this year. Including punter, kicker, long-snapper and holders, out of 26 starters in 2014, only five returned this year -- four if you count that Madden was a two-way starter.

Madden is first cousin of former Ohio Mr. Football Mitch Trubisky (now playing at North Carolina).

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Kirtland 49, Berlin Center Western Reserve 0
Kirtland 27, Brookfield 17
Kirtland 34, Cuyahoga Heights 13
Kirtland 13, Columbus Grandview Heights 9

LaVerde“We’ve been very fortunate to play in this game a couple times. They’re not going to be overwhelmed by this. The other night (in a state semifinal win over Grandview Heights), it was just another game. It was a close game and we had to battle.”

Division I: Lakewood St. Edward (13-1) vs. Huber Heights Wayne (14-0)

Saturday, December 5, 3 p.m.

How They Got Here

Ohio’s big school championship game will be a rematch of the 2014 and ‘10 title games, each of which was won by St. Edward.

The Eagles will be going for a repeat title thanks to a dominant 45-7 victory against Stow-Munroe Falls in the semifinal round. The state’s top-ranked team and the No. 21-rated squad in Scout.com’s national poll, St. Edward forced a running clock from the opening whistle of the second half by taking a 38-0 lead to halftime.

First-year coach Tom Lombardo’s squad saw quarterback Jimmy Keefe take to the air, going 14 of 16 for 208 yards and two scores in the first half, while Indiana commit Cole Gest ran for a pair of touchdowns and is the school’s all-time leading rusher.

In the southern semifinal, Wayne stayed unbeaten at 14-0 with a 28-21 victory against Cincinnati Colerain, Scout’s No. 31 team in the country. Wayne took Colerain's rating at No. 31 in Scout's national rankings after the win.

The Warriors are led by one of the top players in the state in quarterback Messiah deWeaver, a Michigan State commitment who threw a touchdown pass in the win to get to 88 for his career. Fred Pitts ran for two scores, and Wayne also forced two turnovers in the win and took advantage of a botched punt snap by the Cardinals.

Lakewood St. Edward Eagles
AP rank: 1
OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 1
Two state titles (last in 2014)
21st year in playoffs (35-18)

Only loss this season is to St. Joseph Regional (N.J.), 22-20.

In last year’s 31-21 win over Wayne in the title game, Cole Gest and senior QB Brett Kean accounted for three of the Eagles’ four TDs. The Eagles dominated possession and outgained the Warriors in yards, 393-239.

The game was the highest-attended title game in 2014 at 10,917.

Last year’s head coach, Rick Finotti (two state championships, 62-15 record in six seasons), is now the Director of Football Operations at the University of Michigan.

Senior RB Cole Gest is the school’s all-time leading rusher and has scored a touchdown in 20 consecutive games.

Head coach Tom Lombardo won a state title in 2001 at Mentor Lake Catholic. He is just the second coach to take two different teams to title games in OHSAA history.

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
St. Edward 20, Cleveland Heights 12
St. Edward 34, Mentor 10
St. Edward 33, Euclid 0
St. Edward 45, Stow-Munroe Falls 7

Lombardo“A lot of times at St. Edward, you don’t get a chance until your senior year. When you’re a senior and you’ve been waiting, you put a lot into the opportunity and you go and give it everything you can to prepare to be successful.”

Huber Heights Wayne Warriors
AP rank: 2
OHSAA seed: No. 3, Region 2
Zero state titles
18th year in playoffs (22-17)

Wayne has played in one other D-I championship other than its two losses to St. Edward, falling in the 1999 title game to Cleveland St. Ignatius at Canton, 24-10.

Wayne (four) and Centerville (one) are the only Dayton metro teams to play for big-school state football championships. Centerville lost 24-21 to St. Ignatius in the 1991 D-I title game at Canton.

Wayne has been a go-to recruiting program in the Dayton area for Ohio State. Joining Braxton Miller on the current Buckeyes is 2015 grad and defensive lineman Robert Landers. Other notable Wayne alums who played at OSU are linebacker Marcus Freeman (2004 grad) and defensive back Will Allen (2000).

Wayne is on an unprecedented football/boys basketball run. Wayne won its first D-I boys state basketball title by beating Westerville South 65-57 at Value City Arena last March. That was the Warriors first boys state hoop title and first Dayton-area big school boys state championship since Dayton Dunbar beat Canton McKinley 70-65 for the 1987 Class AAA title.

DeWeaver has completed 158 of 258 passes (61 percent) for 2,754 yards and 30 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He was Trotwood-Madison’s starting QB in the 2012-13 state title games but transferred to Wayne in the middle of his junior year.

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Wayne 56, Reynoldsburg 14
Wayne 52, Springboro 21
Wayne 20, Hilliard Davidson 6
Wayne 28, Cincinnati Colerain 21

Head coach Jay Minton“Until we win that big one, I just don’t know that we’ll fully get the respect that this area deserves. We’re gonna have to pull one out of there and bring one home. Until you do, I think people will say, yeah, they’ll compete and give you a good run for your money but they’re never going to win that one. We gotta change that.”

 

Division IV: Steubenville (13-0) vs. Columbus Bishop Hartley (11-3)

Saturday, December 5, 8 p.m.

How They Got Here

Unbeaten Steubenville will try to get over the hump in Division IV. A semifinalist each of the past two seasons in Division V, the Big Red have made the playoffs every year since 2001 but haven’t won a state title since ‘06.

They’ll get their chance thanks to a 28-0 blanking of Youngstown Ursuline in the semifinals. Johnnie Blue ran for three touchdowns in the victory to get to 31 on the year, while the Big Red also boasts 2017 Kentucky commit Charles Reeves at wideout. 

Bishop Hartley wasn’t ranked one of the top 10 teams in the state at the end of the regular season, but the Hawks have been a semifinalist for four years in a row and won a state title in 2010, so it’s a program that knows success. That experience also was put to use in the semifinals, a comeback 26-14 win against top-seeded Middletown Bishop Fenwick.

Hartley’s Quri Hickman scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal to put the Hawks ahead, and Fenwick fumbled on the ensuing possession before Hickman scored again in the final minute to clinch the win. Hickman ran for 195 yards in the win on 36 carries.

Steubenville Big Red
AP rank: 2
OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 13
Three state titles (last in 2006)
28th year in playoffs (57-24)

The last time Steubenville allowed more than 8 points in a game was Oct. 2 vs. Ursuline (still won 48-12 and beat Ursuline again in state semifinal last week). Have only given up 14 total points in the 2015 playoffs and have two shutouts.

Average margin of victory in 2015 playoffs is 35.5 points, the most of any team in state finals.

Senior RB Johnny Blue has 31 rushing TDs on the season and senior QB Dimitri Collaros has 24 passing TDs on the season.

For the season, Steubenville’s defense has five shutouts and is allowing only 6.64 points per game.

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Steubenville 40, Wintersville Indian Creek 0
Steubenville 46, Salem 7
Steubenville 42, Johnstown-Monroe 7
Steubenville 28, Youngstown Ursuline 0

Head coach Reno Saccoccia"It feels good. It's been a long, tough year but these kids have come every day ready to play. We haven't cheered all year and we're not going to start now. We still have another six or seven days of hard work ahead of us. I'm just glad we're playing. The thing I am most proud of is how our seniors have fought through adversity for the last three years. They kept our name great. All they care about is Big Red, not about how many carries they have or how many passes they catch. They care about Big Red first, their city second and most of all their families. They just kept plugging away no matter how much adversity we faced."

Columbus Bishop Hartley Hawks
AP rank: Unranked
OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 12
Two state titles (last in 2010)
14th year in playoffs (32-11)

The Hawks have gained 4,978 yards rushing, averaging 7.5 yards per carry on the season.

A second-team All-Ohio choice, Hickman has gained 2,158 yards on 317 carries with 30 touchdowns. 

Hartley snapped Fenwick's 17-game winning streak in the semifinal.

Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Bishop Hartley 58, Port Clinton 25
Bishop Hartley 42, Ottawa-Glandorf 14
Bishop Hartley 28, Bellevue 20
Bishop Hartley 26, Middletown Bishop Fenwick 14

Head coach Brad Burchfield“Consistency gives you the best chance to be successful. We like to perfect the kinds of skills kids can be drilled on like blocking and that everybody can be part of. We do what we can teach. We may be known for bruising football, but people would be silly to pigeonhole us. Quri is our hammer, but we have more.” 
 

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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