High School Playoff Preview
Hey, it's not Buckeye-related, but it's fun anyway. We know a lot of you Buckeye fans are fans of Ohio High School ball as well, so we're going to take a quick glance at the playoffs -- which kick off tonight -- by division:
Division I: Upper Arlington fell short of the playoffs this year, so we are assured of a new champ in this region. There are several teams who can do it too. To start, you have to look at the Cincinnati schools as Colerain, St. Xavier and Elder are #1, #2, and #3 in the state in the AP poll. All three of these teams are in the same playoff region. But they are not the only competitors.
In Region 1, you'll find possibly the top team in the Cleveland area in 10-0 Lakewood St. Edward as well as Maurice Clarett (left, Warren Tribune-Chronicle photo) and Warren Harding, who held the top spot in the AP poll for a few weeks during the year. Also in this region is a talented Cleveland Glenville team, led by standouts Troy Smith at QB and do-everything Dareus Hiley. Also in this region is the one team everyone always has their eye on, Cleveland St. Ignatius. Iggy, led by LB Jon Kerr, is 6-4 this year, but three of those losses were very close games. Keep an eye on them. Also in this region are last year's state runner-up Solon, 9-1 Strongsville with junior spark plug Brandon Murphy at RB, Mayfield, and Youngstown Boardman. This region is going to be exciting.
Region 2 features Massillon Washington and Justin Zwick. Last year, Massillon had a disappointing first-round exit, and they hope not to do it again. They are the favorite to come out of this region. Also here is Canton McKinley and Tyler Everett... could we see a McKinley/Massillon re-match in round 2? Mansfield Senior and North Canton Hoover are two other tough teams to watch here.
On to Region 3... we've seen a Buckeye player in the first two regions, and there's one in this region as well as Jay Richardson and Dublin Scioto are in the playoffs this year at 9-1. They are a good sleeper to get out of this region. But unbeaten Hilliard Davidson, with star RB Erick Phillips, and Worthington Kilbourne will be tough to beat, as will Logan and Reynoldsburg.
Back to the Cincy area and region 4 and those three dynamite teams in Colerain, St. X and Elder. Only one can get out of here alive... who will it be? Or will it be someone else? Cincinnati Anderson, Cincinnati Princeton, Lebanon, Hamilton, and Clayton Northmont are the other candidates. E.J. Underwood's Hamilton team will have a tough first-round matchup with state #1 Colerain. Colerain has not trailed at all in any game this year, so it will be a tall task for Hamilton.
Overall, it appears like Cincinnati's year this year... so if I had to pick, I'd say a Cincy team will win it (tough to pick... most folks feel like Colerain is the best, but Elder and St. X have an impressive resume of wins), but there are several very good teams who can do it this year. Never count out Ignatius...
Division II: Some folks feel like Division II is down this year. There are some quality teams and quality players to watch though. Let's start in Region 5, which features OSU OL commitment Doug Datish's Warren Howland team. Howland is a 6 seed and opens at Green. Some feel like they could make a run. The #1 seed in here is Willoughby South, but they face a talented Akron Buchtel team in round one, featuring DE Antonio Reynolds (Miami FL bound), DB Carlos Alexander (Michigan State bound), and WR David Vickers. The most interesting story here is the #7 seed Walsh Jesuit. Walsh Jesuit got in the playoffs this year on just a 3-6 record.
In Region 6, you find the #1 team in the AP poll, the Avon Lake Shoremen with star LB Mike D'Andrea. They face rival Olmsted Falls - last year's D-II state champ - in round one. Also in there are talented teams in Amherst Steele, Toledo St. Francis, and a good sleeper pick in Defiance. In Region 7, Marysville is the #1 seed and is the favorite. In Region 8, DT Quinn Pitcock's Piqua squad is the #1 seed and the favorite, but also watch out for the #4 seed Vandalia Butler.
Division III: We're starting to get towards the smaller divisions, but some good teams and familiar names can be found here. In Region 9, Akron Hoban is the #1 seed and star Anthony Smith's Hubbard team is the #2 seed, but one team a lot of people are picking to win the region is the #3 seed Poland Seminary. In Region 10, you will find Mike Kudla and the 10-0 Medina Highland Hornets as they try to make a big playoff run. However, looming large is the AP #1 and #1 seed Sunbury Big Walnut. But one other team who could get out of there is the 3 seed St. Mary's Memorial. In Region 11, you may find the 8 seed that has a best chance to make a run as 5-5 Columbus DeSales is in here at the #8 spot. Scoonie Penn's brother Dewayne has had a nice season. This region looks wide open. In Region 12, you will find OSU commitment Nick Mangold and his Kettering Alter squad as a #3 seed. But #1 seed Bellbrook will be tough to beat, as will unbeaten Washington Court House.
Division IV: Maybe the most interesting story in Region 13 is the team that is not there -- last year's state champ Youngstown Ursuline. Ursuline would have been many people's pick to take it all, but an ineligible player caused them to forfeit games, and they will not have a chance to defend their title. However, another team that could take it all is in Region 13 in Canton Central Catholic. This team won the Division III state title last year. They are the team to beat here. Perhaps the best player in this region is super hoops star LeBron James, who is a standout WR for Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. Moving on to region 14, the clear favorite is 10-0 Kenton, led by fine junior QB prospect Ben Mauk. Region 15 is a monster, featuring state AP #1 Ironton, state AP #2 Newark Licking Valley, State AP #4 Portsmouth and last year's D-III player of the year, JoJo Parker, and AP #7 New Lexington. But watch for Ironton or Portsmouth to get out of here. In Region 16, the favorite is 2 seed Germantown Valley View, but 4 seed Coldwater is always tough and was the state runner-up last year. This division will be fun to watch as several teams could win.
Division V: The clear-cut favorite is Bedford Chanel, who is the #1 seed in Region 17. Chanel is led by UVa commitment Anthony Franklin and his 2,000+ rushing yards this year. Chanel has been impressive, particularly in their lopsided win over D-II #1 Avon Lake. In Region 18, you'll find an interesting team in Delphos St. John's, who is moving up to Division V after winning three out of the last four state titles in Division VI (they fell short last year) and racking up a 50+ game win streak at that level. This region also features five teams who are unbeaten. In Region 19, the favorite is Amanda-Clearcreek, who has won the last two D-V titles. In Region 20, you will find blue-chip RB DeShaun Wynn and Cin. Reading, but they are the #7 seed. Cincinnati N. College Hill may be tough to beat there. Overall, there are some good teams that could make for a fun final four, but this may be Chanel's year.
Division VI: It's fun to go down to the small scho