Playoff field begins to shrink stretch | News, Sports, Jobs


Photo by Correspondent / Michael G. Taylor. Ursuline receiver Will Burney carries the ball through two Tallmadge defenders in the Fighting Irish’s playoff win on Friday night. Ursuline will face Canfield in the Division III regional semi-final this week.

Home-court advantage proved to be everything for area schools that staged games in the first round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association football tournament.

The region’s teams went a perfect 15-0 at home in the first weekend of the playoffs.

Last Friday, the results were mixed.

Six of the 12 Mahoning Valley schools that hosted regional quarterfinal games fell to lower-ranked opponents. Meanwhile, only one of the six local teams – Youngstown Cardinal Mooney – was able to record a road victory.

As a result, the number of teams from the region that will play this weekend in the regional semi-finals has been reduced to seven.

The playoffs began with the inclusion of 28 area schools.

In Mahoning County, Mooney, Ursuline, Canfield, West Branch and South Range all advanced with wins. Six Mahoning County schools were eliminated, including Lowellville and Valley Christian, which both suffered their first loss of the year.

Warren John F. Kennedy (10-1) is the lone survivor from Trumbull County, while Southern (11-1) is the lone representative from Columbiana County. These two Division VII schools will meet at Cardinal Stadium in Canfield on Saturday for the right to represent the region in the Region 25 title game.

Starting this week, all matches for the rest of the tournament will be played at neutral venues.

Saturday will mark the first-ever meeting between the Eagles and the Indians. Kennedy enters the match having won five straight since losing 28-14 to Mogadore. Southern, who scored 107 points in two playoff wins, has won four in a row since falling to Valley Christian 15-6.

Mahoning County is guaranteed to send at least two schools to the regional final. That’s because there will be a pair of third-round games in all regions involving four of the county’s five remaining schools.

In Division III, Region 9 Canfield (10-1) and Ursuline (10-2) will meet for only the third time and first time in 38 years when the Cardinals and Irish face off on Friday at Bo Rein Stadium in Niles.

Canfield and Ursuline last met in 1984, with Ursuline winning 27-7. A year earlier, the Irish beat the Cardinals 48-14.

South Range (12-0) is one of 21 schools in the state that remain undefeated. The Raiders’ 12 wins are matched by 17 other schools. Glenville, as well as Milton-Union are 11-0 while Mogadore is 10-0.

Cardinal Mooney (with Lucas) has the worst record (6-6) of the 112 teams remaining in the playoffs.

On Friday, the Raiders will look to stay perfect while the Cardinals look to go past .500 for the first time this year when the pair meet at Girard’s Arrowhead Stadium.

South Range finished atop Division V, Region 17. Mooney is one of four 13-seeded teams playing this weekend. This is the lowest seed in the tournament.

Division IV, Region 13 will also feature a 1-on-13 matchup when West Branch (11-1) and Akron Buchtel (7-4) face off Saturday on the blue turf of Portage Community Bank Stadium in Ravenna.

West Branch have now won 11 straight games after falling to Canfield to open the season. The Warriors are averaging 46.4 points per game and have scored 106 points in two playoff games.

Buchtel has won seven straight after starting 0-4. The Griffins picked up upset wins over Woodridge (4 seeds) and Canal Fulton Northwest (5 seeds) to reach the third round.

South Range High School will host the other Division IV, Region 13 semifinal on Saturday between Jefferson (9-3) and Canton South (9-3). The Falcons beat North-8 foes Poland and Girard in the first two weeks of the playoffs.

The area will also host a game involving two Geauga County schools. Chagrin Falls Kenston (9-3) and Chardon (10-1) will face off in a Division III, Region 9 semifinal at Boardman.

Chardon is the reigning two-time Division III state champion. The Hilltoppers were the first seed in Region 9. Kenston is a 13 seed. The winner will face either Canfield or Ursuline in the Regional Final.

Statewide, 25 of the 28 No. 1 seeds and 24 No. 2 seeds advanced to the third round. Meanwhile, only eight schools ranked ninth or lower have reached the regional semi-finals.

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