A few days after hosting one of the classic Ohio State-Michigan games of all time, Ohio Stadium will play host to 14 high school football teams looking to make history of their own during the first weekend of December.
For the third year in a row, the Horseshoe will host the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s state championship games from Dec. 1-3. One game will be held on Thursday night with three games apiece on Friday and Saturday before the state finals return to Stark County for 2017 and ’18.
The matchups are set after teams staged semifinal matchups Nov. 25-26, trimming the 716 Ohio high schools that play football down to just a handful of squads.
The field mostly includes traditional powers, with 12 of the teams having previously won crowns and eight making a return trip to the state’s monument to amateur football after appearing in Columbus a year ago. The state’s No. 2 (Cleveland St. Ignatius), No. 3 (Coldwater) and No. 4 (Maria Stein Marion Local) all-time leaders in playoff wins will be in Columbus for the weekend.
BSB takes a look at how the state championships in each division starting with the lone Thursday game.
DIVISION II: MASSILLON PERRY (13-1) VS. CINCINNATI LA SALLE (12-2)
Thursday, December 1, 7:30 p.m.
This will be a rematch of last year’s state championship game after La Salle dispatched Whitehouse Anthony Wayne by a 35-0 count in the semifinals and Perry used its staunch defense to down Hudson 14-3.
La Salle (12-2) is the two-time defending state champion and has defeated its last three foes by an average of 32.3 points. The Lancers – who are gunning to become the first D-II team to three-peat – had little trouble against Anthony Wayne, with Tre'Sean Smith running for three touchdowns and three-star tailback recruit Jarell White adding 149 yards on the ground.
Perry (12-2) was also the No. 10 seed a year ago when advancing to take on the Lancers. Defense is the Panthers’ calling card, as Perry has kept three of its four playoff foes to single digits in points. Quarterback Max Baker and running back Nick Myers combined for 252 rushing yards – many after the team switched to a double-wing look – in the school’s 14-3 semifinal win vs. Hudson.
La Salle won last year’s matchup by a 42-0 final, and the Panthers have not won a state title in the school’s history.
Massillon Perry Panthers
AP rank: 10
OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 7
Second final appearance, 0 titles
Eighth year in playoffs (14-7)
Notes: Perry is just the 4th Stark County team to make consecutive state championship games. The others: St. Thomas Aquinas (1984-85), Canton McKinley (1997-98) and Canton Central Catholic (2014-present).
Both games Perry lost during the regular season – to Canton Central Catholic in Week 2 and Massillon Jackson in Week 4 – it was driving for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter before fumbling inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.
Head coach Keith Wakefield is in the fourth year of his second stint as the head coach at Perry. In those four years, they have gone from 0-10 to consecutive state title games.
Playoff Road (first round to semis)
Perry 21, Uniontown Lake 7
Perry 66, Columbus Franklin Heights 28
Perry 17, New Albany 6
Perry 14, Hudson 3
Head coach Keith Wakefield to the Massillon Independent: ““Offensively, we struggled at times. We’re limited, we know that. But, boy, did our defense step up. … You don’t see any defense better than. We played that way in a number of games this year.”
Cincinnati La Salle Lancers
AP rank: 5
OHSAA seed: No. 3, Region 8
Third state final appearance, two titles (2014, ’15)
Seventh year in playoffs (13-4)
Notes: La Salle won the GCL South title outright for the first time in program history this season. La Salle has played football season since 1962. The GCL South was rated the nation’s second best conference by MaxPreps earlier this season.
La Salle has a number of notable recruits. Defensive lineman Ethan Campbell is committed to Yale while TreSean Smith is a Louisville commit. White is receiving interest from such schools as Illinois, Michigan State and Cincinnati.
La Salle has won 14 straight playoff games and has scored at least 30 points in 11 of them.
Playoff Road (first round to semis)
La Salle 23, Trenton Edgewood 21
La Salle 34, Cincinnati Turpin 3
La Salle 45, Miamisburg 14
La Salle 35, Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 0
Head coach Jim Hilvert to the Cincinnati Enquirer: “I was very proud of our guys. We’re peaking at the right time. … Tre’Sean and Jarell did a great job. We’ve been preaching being very physical.”
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 as well as http://go.osu.edu/OHSAAFBTix. 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.
All seven games are being shown on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel as well as BCSN on Buckeye Cable.