OHSAA playoffs have familiar feel despite changes
NOV 22, 2013 2:22p ET
Schools with enrollments of 494 boys or more played in Division I under the old format as the OHSAA attempted to split up the more than 700 of its members that play football in some sort of even fashion. The largest school, Mason, had 1,154 boys under the previous
enrollment figures but increased to 1,266 boys with the release of new figures this year.
Division I this year consists of the top 72 enrollment schools, with a low threshold of 608 boys, and then the other six divisions have 108 schools each.
In many ways things haven’t changed all that much. The really good programs are still playing now that the third round of games is set to begin this weekend with games in Divisions II, III, IV and VI tonight and Divisions I, V and VII on Saturday night. But the realignment at the top has had a trickle-down effect throughout the divisions, creating new matchups and intriguing games between traditional powers and programs making a breakthrough.
“The changes have meant that there are still a number of highly-ranked teams that are still alive and haven’t met yet,” said OHSAA director of information services Tim Stried. “The changes have been positive because when you have another division you have another 32 playoff spots. I think the better teams will go longer before they meet.”
There are 56 schools still playing in the football tournament, 42 public and 14 non-public for those of you counting. That number will be down to 28 after this weekend’s games. The state finals will be played in Stark County on Dec. 5-7.
All six of last year’s champions are still playing – Cincinnati Moeller (Division I), Toledo Central Catholic (II), Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (III), Clarksville Clinton-Massie (IV), Coldwater (V) and Maria Stein Marion Local (VI). Three of last season’s other state finalists – Trotwood-Madison (II), Kirtland (V) and Newark Catholic (VI) are also still alive. Following realignment and new enrollment figures, Toledo Central Catholic, SVSM and Trotwood-Madison are now all in Division III, Kirtland is in Division VI with Newark Catholic and Marion Local is now in Division VII with Midwest Athletic Conference rival Delphos St. John’s.
Division II (403-607 boys) will have a new champion and a first-time champion. This is the division that faced the most upheaval among its previous ranks as a mix of schools that used to be on the low end of the Division I enrollment pole are now together with larger schools of the former Division II. Cleveland Glenville and Loveland are two of the eight teams remaining; last year they were both in Division I. Loveland, with a current enrollment of 553, would still be there under the old divisional breakdowns, while Glenville would have dropped to Division II regardless of realignment after its enrollment fell from 506 to 459.
The Tarblooders battled for years against the likes of Cleveland St. Ignatius, Lakewood St. Edward and Mentor and held their own. Now, they have to be considered among the favorites to win the state title along with Loveland, New Albany and top-ranked Zanesville.
The realignment at the top was not met positively by all. Some coaches still saw a wide disparity in enrollment. But enrollment figures don’t automatically equate to postseason success.
Under the new two-region alignment in Division I, 11 teams from the former Region 4 qualified for this year’s playoffs while seven teams from each of the other three regions qualified. Of the eight teams remaining in Division I, all four left in Region 1 are from the region that formerly held that name, while three former Region 4 teams and one former Region 3 team will play this weekend.
Cleveland, Youngstown, Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati area teams are represented in Division I’s final eight. The top six teams in the final Associated Press state poll are still playing.
“The people that were against it will say it didn’t shake out the way they wanted it to, you still have Cincinnati teams playing Cincinnati teams,” said Cincinnati Colerain coach Tom Bolden. “Now it’s not going to work out this way this year but I love the fact that there is the possibility of two Cincinnati teams playing in the final four. To me, that’s really cool. There’s been a lot of years where, I think, the two best teams or definitely in the top four have played and beat each other up in Region 4 and sometimes you don’t play their best games after that. I love the opportunity with the (new) division that we could do that.”
Bolden’s Cardinals finished the regular season undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. They find themselves in the same position as a year ago, facing No. 5 Moeller in the third round. They will play Saturday night at Mason, with the winner advancing to the state semifinals against either No. 4 Hilliard Davidson or No. 13 Huber Heights Wayne. Moeller beat Colerain 24-21 for the Region 4 title last year en route to winning its first state title since 1985.
There will be a rematch in Region 1 as well on Saturday. Mentor beat St. Edward and St. Ignatius in games that produced 232 points last year to reach the semifinals against Toledo Whitmer. Sixth-ranked Mentor and No. 10 St. Ignatius play Saturday night at Parma Byers Field with the winner moving on to face either No. 3 St. Edward or No. 2 Austintown-Fitch.
“It’s really shaking out as a normal year,” said Moeller coach John Rodenberg. “It’s one of those deals where when you get into the playoffs you have 16 teams who have winning records so you’re going to have to get ready for somebody who is pretty good.”
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