For an incredible 42nd time in the 50-year history of the Ohio High School Athletic Association football tournament, the Mahoning Valley will be represented in the state semifinals.
This year’s state playoff race isn’t just about a Valley team or even two. Three teams – each with a very plausible chance of making it to the state title matches – will face off this weekend.
It is no less than incredible that after starting strength and conditioning training in the scorching heat of July, the fans still support the teams that continue on this long road today.
Ursuline, Springfield and Warren John F. Kennedy all won regional titles over the weekend. As a result, these three schools are among the last four remaining teams in their respective divisions.
Last week, Ursuline defeated West Branch 64-35 to win the Division IV, Region 13 title. Springfield defeated Mogadore 43-27 to win the Division VI, Region 21 championship. And Warren John F. Kennedy rallied for defeat Dalton 20-13 in overtime to win the Division VII, Region 25 crown.
Everyone is to be congratulated on this incredible journey.
West Branch and South Range were eliminated last weekend, but they also deserve a lot of praise for long and exemplary seasons.
This weekend, the local teams are playing again. If successful, they will move on to the state title matches on December 3-4 in Canton.
The Ursulines Irish (10-3) will face Port Clinton (13-1) on Friday at Euclid Community Stadium. This is the very first meeting between the two schools.
Springfield (13-1) returns to the state semifinals for a third straight year – the first public school in the Mahoning Valley to accomplish this feat. The Tigers face Carey (13-1) on Saturday at Euclid Community Stadium.
Warren’s JFK Eagles (10-2) return to the state semifinals for a second straight year to face Newark Catholic (13-1) in the semifinals. The two teams will meet on Saturday at Duke Stadium in Marlington.
As our sports reporter Steve Ruman wrote earlier this week, this is the sixth time that a trio of schools in the region have qualified for the state semifinals in the same year. Prior to this year, this last happened in 2005.
Since the playoffs were formed in 1972, a total of 21 area schools have combined to make 69 trips to the state’s semi-finals. Until 2020, Mahoning Valley schools hold an impressive 42-24 record in state semi-finals.
To get to this point in the season, players from each of these organizations really exemplify the meaning of the word ‘team’. Indeed, team sports depend on the strength of skills and hard work of each player. This hard work, evidenced by the blood and sweat of each player, coupled with the time and knowledge of each coach has propelled them to this level of success.
But success as an excellent, well-prepared football team is only part of the equation.
The rest comes with dedication, commitment and heart. The Eagles, Irish and Tigers have certainly proven each of these qualities.
It also comes with the love and support of family and friends who realize the importance of the sacrifices that every player has made throughout the season and, really, for many years up to this point.
We wish each of these teams the best. Of course, we especially hope for the success of the seniors who will soon be saying their farewells to high school. We can only hope their memories will include a senior college football state championship.
But if that’s not meant to be the case, the excitement and memories of this season and this long championship race should make them proud.
Win or lose, congratulations to the JFK Eagles, Springfield Tigers and Ursulines Irish.