The World Cup has its Group of Death, as they like to call it. This past year, The USA was grouped with soccer powers Germany, Portugal, and Ghana in what many soccer fans believed was the best group of teams in the World Cup. Funny thing happened when all eyes were on the USA during pool play. They actually advanced out of the group and into the elimination phase. It shows that anything can happen, and in all honesty, why “you play the game”.
With the Ohio high school football playoffs starting next week, it is only natural to look at potential match-ups, future opponents if your team wins, and styles of play that teams may have to go up against that they hadn’t seen all year. When looking at the 26 regions across the state, some seem more competitive than others. Some can be looked at and easily predicted what team will emerge, while others may be a little more difficult. There is one region in the state, matter of fact, in the Cleveland area, where all eight teams in the region can make an argument that they could be be the favorite. The “Group of Death” for the Ohio high school football playoffs goes to:
Division II, Region 4
The “new” Division II was formed last year when the state expanded to seven divisions for football. MOST Division II powers were smaller Division I schools that were often mismatched against the larger Division I schools come the state playoffs. What it has generated has been highly competitive football, with great match-ups between teams, even in the first round. Region 4 is the ultimate meat grinder, with three undefeated teams, and every team in the region with state playoff experience. It is one that is almost impossible to predict the winners, even in the first round. What else makes it so competitive? A look at each team will tell you (with all respect to Division I Region 2) why this is the toughest region to advance out of.
#1 Midview…. The Middies of Grafton Midview come into the playoffs undefeated and the top seed. They own three wins over Division I state qualifiers in Lorain, Elyria, and Berea-Midpark. They also have wins against playoff qualifiers Avon, Bay, and Rocky River. The Middies can light up the scoreboard, as the fewest points they have scored all season has been 30, and they even hit an amazing 83 points in their win over Rocky River. They are led by sophomore quarterback Dustin Crum. The Middies wide open attack will present problems for any team they play.
#2 Nordonia.… The Knights have had quite as season, as they also come into the playoffs undefeated. The own a victory over Division I state qualifier Wadsworth, along with wins over playoff qualifiers Mayfield (the #2 seed in Region 3), Highland and Tallmadge. The Knights are loaded on both sides of the ball, and since Week 1, their lowest margin of victory has been 21 points. A definite state championship contender, the Knights feel that this is their year. Quarterback David Murray has thrown for more than 2400 yards, and two-way player Denzel Ward has eight interceptions.
#3 Perrysburg…. The Yellow Jackets are the third undefeated team in the region. They have a win over Division I state qualifier Toledo Whitmer, along with a win over another playoff qualifier in Bowling Green. The calling card for Perrysburg has always been, and always will be, defense. This year’s group has three shutouts and has given up just 30 points in their last seven games. Playoff tested from last year’s game against Avon, the Yellow Jackets return in hopes of advancing even further this season. Quarterback Gus Dimmerling is a dual threat from behind center, as he has passed for more than 1900 yards, and rushed for more than 1200.
#4 Highland…. The Hornets return to the state playoffs after a Cinderella type run last season, advancing all the way to the state semi-finals. This season, there has been no let up as they get back into the playoffs with wins over Division I state qualifier Wadsworth, and wins over additional qualifiers Buckeye and Tallmadge. The Hornets only two losses have come to state qualifiers Wooster (by a single point) and Nordonia. Highland relies on a balanced attack using running backs Greg Wallace, Nick Corvo, and Tyler Zelinski. Quarterback Colton Kinsey was a huge contributor in last year’s state run.
#5 Avon…. The Eagles are back in the state playoffs again, which they seem to be every year, looking to avenge last season’s loss to Highland in the regional final. The Eagles lone loss on the year was to Midview by a mere touchdown. Avon may have the most playoff experience in the region, and it will be something they lean on. Jake Sopko leads a dangerous offensive attack, as Avon’s pro-style offense likes to throw the ball down the field. A more than dangerous team lurking as the five seed
#6 Massillon…. The school with maybe the most tradition in the state lurks as the six seed. The Tigers are perennial playoff qualifiers, and make this year’s field by way of two wins over Division I state qualifiers in Perry and Canton GlenOak. They also have a win over playoff qualifier Steubenville. Don’t let the Tigers 7-3 record fool you. All three losses have been to state qualifiers in Austintown Fitch (by a single point), Ursuline, and Akron St. Vincent-St.Mary. Ohio State recruit Danny Clark will have the Tigers ready to add yet another state championship to their already glorious history.
#7 Fremont Ross…. The team with the best nickname gets in as the seven seed. The Little Giants have a win over Division I qualifier Toledo Whitmer, along with a win over Division II Region 3 qualifier Maple Heights. Fremont Ross can score, but the question will come on defense. Offensively, they are led by the one-two punch of quarterback Jalen Slick and receiver Jeffery Barnett. Slick owns almost all of the school’s all-time passing records, and Barnett is a terror in space. They will give Nordonia a scare in the first round.
#8 Walsh Jesuit…. The Warriors make it into the playoffs as the number eight seed, but this is no number eight seed. Despite coming in with a 7-3 record, Walsh’s losses on the year have all come to playoff qualifiers, and they own wins over qualifiers Akron St.Vincent-St.Mary and Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin. Walsh presents a problem for defenses because of running back Joe Penna. Penna put up over 300 yards last week against Lake Catholic, and owns two other 200 yard games. The Warriors will have to use Penna exclusively in the first round to keep the powerful Midview offense off the field.
Who will come out of Region 4?
Trying to pick a winner out of this group is like trying to fill out a perfect March Madness bracket. An argument could be made for all eight teams. Not one of the top four teams that play at home in the first round can be considered a lock to win. The potential second round match-ups are worthy of a state semi-final or final. In the end, the one team that will come out and advance to the state semi-final is the one that has been the most consistent all season. It’s the one team that can give Division II favorite Cincinnati La Salle the best game