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No shortage of local qualifiers for high school football pla


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No shortage of local qualifiers for high school football playoffs

by Mike Peticca of Cleveland.com

Sunday October 26, 2008, 7:35 PM


High school football playoff pairings were announced Sunday, and the numbers confirm there is an abundance of talented teams in Northeast Ohio this season.


Of the 192 teams that qualified for postseason play based on computer rankings in the six divisions, 36 (19 percent) are from The Plain Dealer's seven-county coverage area. Big-school football is especially prominent. Among the 32 Division I teams, 12 (38 percent) of them are area teams. And, 10 (32 percent) of the Division II teams are local.


"In this part of the state, football is huge," said Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr., just before he settled down with his staff to watch film of Brecksville, the Tarblooders' opponent in a Division I, Region 1 first-round game on Saturday.


Glenville (10-0) garnered the fourth seed and is ranked first in the state and in The Plain Dealer Top 25 poll. The Tarblooders or Brecksville (7-3) will face a stern test in a regional semifinal on Nov. 8, meeting the winner of Saturday's game between second-ranked and top-seeded St. Ignatius (9-1) and No. 8 seed St. Edward (6-4).


St. Ignatius is in the playoffs for the 21st time and is seeking the program's 10th title. The Wildcats have won nine straight games since their season-opening, 20-17 loss to Glenville on a last-play field goal. The Wildcats' game against St. Edward is a rematch of two nights ago, when St. Ignatius defeated the Eagles, 34-12.


Mentor (8-2), which has lost Division I state championship games the last two years, is a Region 1 third seed and will play sixth-seeded Willoughby South (8-2) on Saturday.


The road to the playoffs, which culminate in state title games on Nov. 28-29, takes various paths.


Twinsburg (8-2) jumped to a fourth seed by winning its final five games. Saturday, the Tigers will play a Division I, Region 2 quarterfinal against fifth-seeded Amherst, which lost its final two games after an 8-0 start.


Mark Solis, the second-year coach at Twinsburg, coached Elyria to a Division I first-round win over Toledo St. John's Jesuit in 2005 before losing to Canton McKinley. Twinsburg's last playoff appearance was as a Division II team in 2003, and Amherst's last postseason berth was in 2004. Thus, neither the Tigers' nor Comets' players have postseason experience.


"We don't look at it like that," Solis said. "I told the kids when we were 2-3 that we needed to win our next five. Our goal was to go undefeated in the [Northeast Ohio Conference Lake Division], and we did, and to get into the playoffs, and not just get into them."


Among the storylines about who missed qualifying for the playoffs is Solon. The Comets (6-4) needed a win over third-ranked Strongsville (9-1) last Friday, and help in other games, to gain what would have been their 10th straight playoff berth. Solon lost to Strongsville, 24-0.


"We lost to three 9-1 teams," said sixth-year Solon coach Jim McQuaide, "to Strongsville, and to Brunswick, 20-17, and to Mayfield, 6-0. And, we lost, 26-24, to Mentor, which was 8-2. I don't know if anybody lost to a better collection of teams."


Maple Heights (6-4) finished ninth, one notch short of playoff qualification, in the Division II, Region 5 standings. The Mustangs were denied valuable secondary computer points when a team they defeated, East Liverpool, had to forfeit two wins.


Among the traditional playoff teams not in the postseason are Division II Olmsted Falls (5-5, 10th in the Region 5 rankings) and St. Vincent-St. Mary (7-3, ninth in Division IV, Region 13).


Most first-round games are played at the home field of the higher seed. Neutral fields host games the following three weeks, before the state championship games are played at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium and at Canton's Fawcett Stadium. Throughout the tournament, games in divisions II, IV and VI will be played on Fridays, and games in divisions I, III and V on Saturdays.


While Northeast Ohio is sending a lot of representatives to the playoffs, state championships have been difficult to achieve in recent seasons. A local team has not won since 2004 when Benedictine claimed the Division III title.

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