Oliver's Idle Eagles Await Playoff News

Coming off of a 17-7 victory over Moeller, Ohio State's first recruit of the class of 2007 will get to see his Buckeyes play for the first time this week as his 8-1 St. Edward Eagles are without an opponent in week 10 of the high school football season. After a short week of practice this week Nate Oliver and his Eagle teammates will begin to prepare for their first-round opponent on Monday.

Although the St. Edward Eagles were 7-1 and had been a top-ranked team, nationwide, by The USA Today all season long, they were fighting for their playoff lives in week nine against the Archbishop Moeller Crusaders at Lakewood Stadium. And in the end, their 17-7 victory over the Cincinnati Catholic school all but assured the Cleveland-area parochial power of earning that much-expected playoff invitation.

"Without that victory we probably wouldn't make the playoffs so it was a do-or-die situation for us and it was really exciting to get that win," said Nate Oliver, a St. Edward captain who verbally committed to Ohio State on national signing day last February. "I think we'll probably play Brecksville or Warren Harding in the playoffs now so it should be a lot of fun."

St. Edward, ranked 7th now in computer points in Division I, Region I, could possibly finish the regular season as the sixth, seventh or eighth seed in their region, depending on the outcome of this weekend's games. The Eagles, who have an open date on their schedule in week 10, haven't mathematically clinched any of those spots so they'll be anxiously awaiting to find out where they end up and who their first-round opponent will be. They're just happy to make it in.

"We were really feeling the pressure to win because it was do-or-die for us against Moeller. If we didn't win our season was over," Oliver said. "This football team has too much talent for us not to make the playoffs and it would have been an enormous failure for us. So the win was really big for us."

With only one loss on the season, that being a week-three loss to St. Xavier by a 10-7 margin, it's hard to believe that St. Edward was in such dire straits, with regards to making it in the playoffs, that they were perceived to be in.

"It's really amazing because we play one of the most competitive schedules across the country," said Oliver whose Eagles, in addition to playing the defending state champions from Ohio in week three, played the defending state championship from Arkansas (Springdale) and the defending 2A state championship team from Florida (Chaminade-Madonna) in weeks four and five this year. "But a few of the teams we played didn't really do so well on the season and that's what made it so bad for us. But it's just crazy how this one game (against Moeller) could mean so much."

And with the Eagles playoff lives unofficially in the balance still, there were rumors circulating early on in the week that St. Edward and Division III Walsh Jesuit (6-2), both idle this weekend, might try to play each other but those whispers never came to be.

"That was just a rumor," Oliver said. "So I'll be down at Ohio State on Saturday for the Minnesota game. It's my first game this year. Me, Justin Staples and Brendan Williams are going down there."

Both Staples and Williams are two highly-regarded juniors on the Eagles roster. Staples is a 6-3, 210-pound outside linebacker while Williams is a speedy defensive back.

"We're just having three days of practice this week. We had practice today (Tuesday), (Wednesday) and Thursday," said Oliver who explained how his team had planned on using their open week. "We're just going to go over stuff we need to go over this week. We're just trying to stay ready for the playoffs and come in fresh next week."

At this point in the season, Oliver said his team will play anybody.

"Honestly, it doesn't matter who we play from this point on, it matters how we play so I don't even care," Oliver said. "That's what Coach (John) Gibbons says: ‘It doesn't matter who we play, it's how we play.' So whoever is fine with me."

And the season-long goal remains the same once they're officially in.

"Our goal is to win the state championship this year and we made the playoffs" said Oliver whose team still has to obviously get the official word from the OHSAA on Sunday. "So that's what we're going to do."

Individually, Oliver has played well for the Eagles this season. His best overall game of the year came against Springdale, in the Kirk Herbstreit Challenge, when he returned two punts for 101 yards, one good for 46 yards and a touchdown, and he intercepted a pass that he returned 26 yards for another score en route to being named the game's MVP.

"My season is going pretty well this year," Oliver said. "I think I've improved my coverage skills, I've had a couple of interceptions and a lot of pass breakups. And everyone was questioning my speed and I think I've showed everyone that I'm actually faster than what my 40 (time in May) showed. My speed is really not a factor."

But at 6-0 and 210 pounds, no one's ever questioned Oliver's ability to lay a lick on an opponent when the opportunity comes about.

"That's my favorite part of the game, the hitting," he said. "There ain't nothing better than that."

Oliver, who was recruited to Ohio State as a safety, has kept close tabs on his Buckeyes all season long.

"The Buckeyes are doing great. I'd love to see them play for the national championship in January. It's exciting," Oliver said. "I can't wait to go down there this weekend and watch them play."

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