You might say that the template for success in high school football is a season-long plan that enables a team to be “peaking,” as coaches often state, and playing its best on offense, defense and special teams in late October and November.
Division VII Fort Loramie, 8-2, finished the regular season with six straight wins including last Friday’s thrilling victory over Lima Central Catholic, 35-34. The contest was won in the game’s final half minute when the Redskins tallied the last eight points.
Spencer Wells, who has led the program for five years, is the fourth head coach since Fort Loramie launched varsity football in 2005. His Redskins reached the state semi-final in 2018.
D-VI Marion Local, 10-0, coached by 24-year head man Tim Goodwin, is 10-0 and has recorded seven shutouts, including four straight. The Flyers seek state title number thirteen in Goodwin’s tenure. A few polls have included Marion among Ohio’s top twenty teams in all divisions.
So, have the Flyers’ and Redskins’ templates for success been followed pretty well to this point? Yep. But there’s a lot more work to be done for these two and all other programs with lofty aspirations moving forward. Every program’s template for success must be sustained if it wants a shot at playing for a state championship on the first weekend of December in Canton.
Interestingly, the road deep into the playoffs could include regional semi-final tilts for both the Redskins and Flyers against arch-rivals. It’s not out of the question that Marion Local-Versailles and Fort Loramie-Minster playoff match-ups develop for November 12 at neutral sites.
Yes, we can now start to peek into the future because the conclusion of the ten-game regular season has produced a template of another kind. It’s the one that matches in the first round this Friday the #1 seed vs #16 and the #8 seed vs #9, for example.
Such pairings are the result of the JoeEitel.com regional computer rankings that cover a total of 28 regions statewide, including four such regions in each of Ohio’s seven football divisions. The top 16 schools in each region qualify.
The intriguing part of this template, or the OHSAA-sponsored state football tournament, is the curiosity it creates among highly interested fans who over the last couple weeks began to project their own post-season brackets.
The Sweet 16 in D-VII Region 28
Now, this expansive template is in place, and fans can delight in forecasting winners and various scenarios that have their favorite clubs moving on.
The OHSAA’s 28 regional brackets for a grand total of 448 schools were completely filled in by late Saturday. Division VII in southwest Ohio was not set until then.
This is because D-V Clark Montessori edged D-VII St. Bernard-Elmwood Place, 14-12, on Saturday evening to slide the loser back to #9 in the southwest region of D-VII, which is Region 28. That result, plus Friday’s D-VII Southeastern victory over Springfield Catholic Central, 14-6, locked in the South Charleston school at #7 and SCC at #8.
So, here’s the playoff template for D-VII, Region 28, with all first round games kicking off on Friday night, October 28, at 7 PM at the high school of the higher seed:
Upper Bracket: #1 Ansonia vs #16 Riverview East, #8 Catholic Central vs #9 St. Bernard, #4 Riverside vs #13 Lehman Catholic, #5 New Bremen vs #12 Cedarville.
Lower Bracket: #2 Fort Loramie vs #15 St. Henry, #7 Southeastern vs #10 Cincinnati College Prep, #3Mechanicsburg vs #14 Lockland, #6 Minster vs #11 Fort Recovery.
Again, keep in mind, each of the first two rounds is played at the home of the higher seeded program.
Most of us like to break down the 16-school template into two eight-team brackets, as we’ve shown, in order to give thought to which two clubs might most likely do battle in three weeks during a regional final on November 19.
Tournament templates, which are standings-based or computer-based with seeds, are created so that the most ideal situation can develop in the semi-final round with #1 playing #4 and #2 playing #3. Of course, strength of schedule and the level of league competition can play a major role in determining which of the top seeds really do pack the most punch.
Redskins vs. Minster or New Bremen next month?
In the southwest region of D-VII, the #2 Fort Loramie Redskins and #3 Mechanicsburg, both 8-2, are in opposite brackets and poised to collide in a regional semifinal, if the Indians can knock off #6 Minster, 6-4, in a quarterfinal. If not, Minster and Fort Loramie go toe-to-toe, again, given two early victories by the Redskins. And Minster has a tricky first round date with #11 Fort Recovery, 3-7, from the Midwest Athletic Conference.
The first couple rounds throughout the state take place on Fridays only. D-VII shifts from Friday to Saturday games on Nov. 12. Neutral sites serve as venues statewide starting that weekend.
So, you see, Fort Loramie and Minster could renew their Route 66 rivalry at Wapakoneta, maybe, on the second Saturday of November. The Redskins, who beat the Wildcats in the season opener, 39-27, just might tangle with them a second time in 2022.
Yes, we are getting ahead of ourselves. But that’s what we members of the media do. When Ohio launches its football playoffs, we get a kick out of crystal ball gazing, and, at the same time, looking back at previous head-to-head meetings.
Interestingly, in two prior years, the Redskins-Wildcats August confrontation was replayed a few months later in the post-season. Minster thumped Fort Loramie in the four contests in 2015 and 2017.
Of course, a Fort Loramie-New Bremen region final on Nov. 19 is another potential, long-awaited match-up. The #5 Cardinals, 7-3, could have to defeat #12 Cedarville, 4-5, at home; #4 Riverside, 7-3, on the road; and #1 Ansonia, 9-1, at a neutral site, to advance. New Bremen downed Fort Loramie, 16-8, during the Cardinals state championship run in 2020.
Meanwhile, Fort Loramie preps for another band of Redskins this Friday. St. Henry, 2-8, and ranked #15, hails from the formidable MAC. It routed Covington in its season opener and then lost eight straight before nipping Fort Recovery in the season finale. Fort Loramie last met St. Henry in 2019, winning by a count of 42-7.
D-VII Lehman Catholic, #13 and 4-6, is coached by first-year mentor Chris Kash. Lehman avoided the MAC and gained a first rounder at #4 Riverside, its Three Rivers Conference rival. Troy Christian needed an upset over Lehman in Week 9 to perhaps get a #16 seed, but dropped a 21-20 heartbreaker to the Cavaliers.
Sidney Travels; Piqua, Troy Host
The Sidney Yellow Jackets closed its schedule at 4-6, finishing as a #13 seed in the southwest region of D-II. The black and gold journey to Kings High School, which is located north of Mason on the east side of Interstate 71 not far from the Kings Island Amusement Park.
Kings won’t be fun and games. The school just completed one of its two most successful campaigns ever on the gridiron. The #4 seed Kings, 9-1, averaged nearly eight touchdowns per game and suffered its only loss to powerhouse Winton Woods, 28-23, on Sept. 30.
In the same region, #6 Piqua, 8-2, hosts #11 Stebbins, 4-5, for the second straight week. Stebbins led at Piqua last Friday in the fourth quarter before the home team benefited from key turnovers. The #7 Troy Trojans, 7-3, are home to #10 Cincinnati Anderson, 5-5, which lost last week to Kings, 41-26.
Meanwhile, in D-III, #3 Tippecanoe, 9-1, hosts #14 Hillsboro, 4-6. The Red Devils are coached by Matt Burgbacher, who formerly guided programs at Troy and Fort Loramie. Burgbacher’s squad could host #6 Chaminade-Julienne, 6-4, in a second round tilt.
Marion Local/Versailles Rematch?
In the southwest region of D-VI, which is Region 24, #1 Marion Local and #4 Versailles seem to have clear paths to a regional semi-final showdown at perhaps Piqua or Sidney two weeks from Saturday.
The unbeaten Flyers, who have allowed only four touchdowns and two yards per run through ten games, amassed a whopping 28.5 computer points, ten more than Allen East, which is 9-1.
This Friday, Marion Local has a second meeting this season with #16 Anna, 4-6, a winner of its final two, and then could host #9 Triad, 4-6, or #8 West Liberty-Salem, 5-5. The Versailles Tigers, 7-3, entertain #13 National Trail, 6-4, and then likely #5 Williamsburg, 8-2, before a rematch with Marion.
If #2 Allen East and #3 Tri-Village win twice, these two 9-1 clubs would clash at a neutral site on November 12 in the region’s other semi-final.
Coldwater, 9-1, and a #4 seed in the D-V northwest region, was pushed hard in its last three outings. The Cavaliers topped New Bremen by a touchdown and Versailles by a point before being throttled by Marion, 35-0.
The Cavaliers host #13 Richwood North Union, 7-3, on Friday. A superb #5 Huron club, 8-2, is looming as a second weekend foe. Huron thumped Lima Central Catholic by four scores in early September.
But, those regular season outcomes and the margins in those games don’t count for much now. Every tournament participant has a clean slate. A new season commences statewide this Friday.
Beginning November 11 and 12, teams still alive in Divisions I, II, III and V play on Friday and advancing schools in Divisions IV, VI and VII hit the gridiron on Saturday.
State semi-finals are the weekend of November 25 and state championships span December 1 through 3.