Student Sports

The OHSAA high school football finals continue with three games including a Division I matchup between St. Ignatius and St. Xavier

Three games are on the docket today as traditional powers such as St. Ignatius, St. Xavier and Marion Local suit up with a chance to make history on the line.

After the first night of action at Ohio Stadium yielded a three-peat for Division II power Cincinnati La Salle, the state high school football finals continue today with three games. Here are capsule previews of each. 

DIVISION VI: CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS (14-0) VS. MARION LOCAL MARIA STEIN (13-1)

Friday, December 2, 10 a.m.

You couldn’t have a bigger gap in terms of postseason appearances between two teams in the state title game.

Marion Local lost last year’s state crown in a classic matchup vs. fellow small-school power Kirtland, but the Flyers won’t get a chance at revenge as Cuyahoga Falls knocked off the Hornets in the regional final.

The Flyers had won 24 consecutive playoff games, a state record, before last year’s championship game loss and own the state’s best-ever playoff record by percentage at 66-10 (.868).

Marion Local clinched its sixth straight state championship game appearance with a 36-7 victory against Hamler Patrick Henry. The Flyers (13-1) took an 8-0 lead in the first minute and never looked back, outgaining the Patriots 503-198 and getting 215 rushing yards from Nate Moeller.

On the other hand, unbeaten Cuyahoga Heights is looking for its first-ever state title and has made only a pair of semifinal appearances, but the squad is looking for its third consecutive win vs. a state power.

The Redskins emphatically reached the final with a 30-14 win over Newark Catholic, an eight-time state champ with the most playoff wins in state history. Quarterback Brett Lowther had a touchdown pass and a TD run to give him 31 combined scores this year, while Lucas D’Orazio had a touchdown run and a pick-six.

Cleveland Cuyahoga Heights Redskins

AP rank: 2

OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 21

First state final appearance, 0 titles

19th year in playoffs (20-18)

Notes: There’s a family affair at Cuyahoga Heights, where coach Al Martin has sons Jordan and Taylor on the roster. Starting quarterback Brett Lowther’s father, Mark Lowther, is an assistant coach. Junior running back/safety Lucas D’Orazio’s family name is synonymous with Cuyahoga Heights. His older brother, Zach, went on to play at Akron and had a summer roster stint last year with the New England Patriots.

When Cuyahoga Heights beat Kirtland in Week 9 of the regular season, it marked the first win by any Chagrin Valley Conference team against Kirtland since 2009. The last team? Cuyahoga Heights. Both Lucas D’Orazio and Brett Lowther watched from the sidelines, as Zach led the Redskins’ win. This year, they not only beat Kirtland but shut out the Hornets twice.

Cuyahoga Heights allowed the fewest average amount of points per playoff game of any finals team (5.25 with two shutouts).

Cuyahoga Heights is the only undefeated football team left in the state of Ohio (high school, college or pro).

Playoff Road (first round to semis)

Cuyahoga Heights 24, Jeromesville Hillsdale 7

Cuyahoga Heights 34, Louisville Aquinas 0

Cuyahoga Heights 17, Kirtland 0

Cuyahoga Heights 30, Newark Catholic 14

Quarterback Brett Lowther to Cleveland.com: “It’s going to take an almost perfect game. Our coaches keep telling us that we haven’t played the best game from all 11 guys on both sides of the football, so it’s going to take every guy doing their best job to win a state title.”

Maria Stein Marion Local Flyers

AP rank: 1

OHSAA seed: No. 1, Region 24

11th state final appearance, eight titles (most recently 2014)

19th year in playoffs (66-10)

Notes: The Flyers lost only to defending Division V state champion Coldwater 17-14 in Week 3 in one of the most anticipated games in the state that week. The Flyers rebounded to the loss to the rival Cavaliers in dominating fashion. After beating Minster 44-6 and Versailles 28-7 the next two games, the Flyers posted five straight shutouts to end the season, allowing just 44 points in the 10-game regular season. 

Marion Local is the only Associated Press 2016 poll champ that has advanced to the state championships. 

In the playoffs, the Flyers have outscored opponents 118-29. The team posted seven shutouts in regular season, most of any finals team, and outscored its last five foes by a 200-0 combined margin. 

Playoff Road (first round to semis)

Marion Local 34, West Liberty-Salem 7

Marion Local 22, St. Henry 0

Marion Local 26, Mechanicsburg 15

Marion Local 36, Hamler Patrick Henry 7 

Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin to the Toledo Blade after the semifinal win: “Nate Moeller played the best game he’s played all year, and I’m hoping he can do it one more time. We try the best we can to put together a complete team. Last week, we thought we had the advantage at the skill positions with our receivers and DBs. This week, I thought we had the advantage up front.”

 

DIVISION IV: STEUBENVILLE (13-1) VS. COLUMBUS BISHOP HARTLEY (12-2)

Friday, December 2, 3 p.m.

In one of three rematches from a year ago on the docket, Bishop Hartley will attempt to defend last year’s crown when it takes on the Big Red.

A central Ohio power, Bishop Hartley has three state titles and has been a state semifinalist each of the past five seasons. The Hawks downed Kettering Alter in their semifinal behind a career-high 238 yards and two rushing touchdowns from Marquette Dixon.

Hartley let Alter earn just four first downs in the win.

Steubenville (13-1) is in its 30th year in the OHSAA playoffs and has won three state championships, though the Big Red hasn’t hoisted the crown since 2006 despite reaching the state semifinals each of the last three years.

The Big Red has won each of its postseason games by at least 14 points, and Jalen McGhee ran for three touchdowns in a 51-27 semifinal victory against Perry. 

Steubenville Big Red

AP rank: 5

OHSAA seed: No. 2, Region 15

Eighth state final appearance, 3 titles (last in 2006)

19th year in playoffs (20-18)

Notes: Steubenville is plus-12 in turnover margin in the playoffs. 

The school has been in back-to-back state championship games three times and have played the same opponent three times – Akron Buchtel, Kettering Alter and now Bishop Hartley. 

Steubenville has four plays of 85 yards or more for touchdowns in the playoffs. 

21 years after his father Jose Davis led Bellaire to a Division IV state championship game, junior quarterback Javon Davis has helped lead Big Red to a Division IV state title game. In 1995, Bellaire lost 50-44 in double OT to Versailles. 

Playoff Road (first round to semis)

Steubenville 34, Wintersville Indian Creek 14

Steubenville 26, Johnstown-Monroe 8

Steubenville 29, Shelby 15

Steubenville 51, Perry 27

Head coach Reno Saccoccia to the Steubenville Herald Star: “To win a game like this, you have to take advantage of your opportunities. It’s not a matter of how many yards you give up defensively, it’s how you play on third and fourth downs and in the red zone. Offensively, it’s now about how many yards you gain. Again, it’s how you perform on third down and how you take care of your red zone opportunities. You have to be great on third and fourth downs and you have to be great in the red zone." 

Columbus Bishop Hartley Hawks

AP rank: 8

OHSAA seed: No. 5, Region 14

Sixth state final appearance, 3 titles (last in 2015)

15th year in playoffs (36-11)

Notes: Hartley’s only two losses of the season came at the hands of two Division III regional champions—Toledo Central Catholic and Columbus DeSales—who had a combined 26-2 record this year. The Hawks lost those two games by only a combined 10 points. 

Running back Marquette Dixon has rushed for 2,484 yards and 36 touchdowns this season. He also plays linebacker. 

Hartley has reached the state semifinals in each of the last five seasons. 

Playoff Road (first round to semis)

Hartley 35, Plain City Jonathan Alder 21

Hartley 44, Port Clinton 7

Hartley 38, Ottawa-Glandorf 35

Hartley 14, Kettering Alter 7 

Dixon to the Columbus Dispatch after the semifinal win: “I knew I was going to have to run the ball a lot tonight, but not 42 times. I knew my offensive line had my back. They're amazing, but so are the other backs and receivers. There were plays we dragged their defense several yards before they brought me down.”

DIVISION I: CLEVELAND ST. IGNATIUS (13-1) VS. CINCINNATI ST. XAVIER (9-5)

Friday, December 2, 8 p.m.

Ohio’s big school championship game will be a matchup of traditional Catholic school powers from opposite corners of the state, but the two squads have taken different routes to reach the Horseshoe

One of the most decorated programs in the state, St. Ignatius punched its ticket with a 24-14 victory against Powell Olentangy Liberty. It was the school’s 70th all-time playoff win, second-most in the state.

The Wildcats are 13-1 this year but haven’t been to a state title game since 2011 and didn’t make the playoffs a season ago. Patrick Ryan ran for a touchdown and threw for another against Olentangy Liberty, and the Wildcats held Liberty and OSU commit Brendon White to 53 yards on the ground.

St. Xavier, meanwhile, was just 5-5 in the regular season before ripping off consecutive playoff wins vs. Fairfield, Cincinnati Colerain, Cincinnati Sycamore and Pickerington Central. The Bombers, two-time state champs, are attempting to become the first five-loss team ever to win an OHSAA crown.

Penn State commit Sean Clifford leads the St. X attack, and Clifford had 166 yards passing, 111 rushing and three combined touchdowns in the 29-27 win vs. Pickerington Central in the semifinal.

The teams played Oct. 22 with St. Ignatius winning 31-14, though Wildcats starting running back Jimmy Andrews suffered a season-ending injury in the game.

Cleveland St. Ignatius Wildcats

AP rank: 4

OHSAA seed: No. 4, Region 1

13th state final appearance, 11 titles (last in 2011)

27th year in playoffs (70-15)

Notes: St. Ignatius has scored 30 or more points in 12 of its 14 games, rushing for an average of 229 yards per contest. St. Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle believes his offensive line is the biggest in Wildcat history, with the average Wildcat lineman standing at 6’3”, 297 pounds. 

The St. Ignatius defense, which runs out of a 3-3-5 scheme, has recorded five shutouts this season and surrenders just 10.1 points per contest. 

St. Ignatius holds a 2-0 edge against Cincinnati St. Xavier in state championship matchups, with the Wildcats earning the 2001 Division I state championship by a final score of 37-6 and also defeating the Bombers in the 1992 final 24-14. St. Xavier holds a 12-11 edge in the all-time series between the two teams. 

Playoff Road (first round to semis)

St. Ignatius 35, Massillon Jackson 0

St. Ignatius 31, Solon 17

St. Ignatius 38, Lakewood St. Edward 31 (OT)

St. Ignatius 24, Powell Olentangy Liberty 14 

Senior linebacker John Velotta to Cleveland.com: “This is a special one. Being where we were last year to working out at this time of year to being where we are now, this is an unbelievable experience.” 

Cincinnati St. Xavier

AP rank: N/A

OHSAA seed: No. 5, Region 4

Sixth state final appearance, 2 titles (last in 2007)

23rd year in playoffs (40-20)

Notes: St. Xavier is attempting to become the first five-loss team to win a state championship. The Bombers are the second team with five losses to reach a state championship game (Columbus DeSales in Div. III in 2001, lost to Steubenville). Only three teams with four losses have won football state championships

St. Xavier trailed entering the fourth quarter in its last three playoff games.

Ohio State Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer coached Bombers head coach Steve Specht while at St. Xavier. Meyer was an assistant coach for the Bombers in 1986, Specht’s senior year. Specht was a running back and defensive back.

Senior QB Sean Clifford is committed to Penn State. Clifford is an Under Armour All-American. Senior offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst (Clemson commit) is also an Under Armour All-American but he is out for the season with a torn ACL he suffered in July. 

Playoff Road (first round to semis)

St. Xavier 35, Fairfield 14

St. Xavier 29, Cincinnati Colerain 23 (OT)

St. Xavier 35, Cincinnati Sycamore 28 (OT)

St. Xavier 29, Pickerington Center 27

Head coach Steve Specht to the Cincinnati Enquirer: “I don’t question how hard this group plays. They play as hard as any Bomber football team we’ve ever had. If we can clean it up and just play smart … who knows?” 

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 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. 

TV

All seven games are being shown on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel as well as BCSN on Buckeye Cable.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories