Seven years ago, the Shawnee Braves came closer than any team in Clark County history to winning a state football championship.
Brad Jarzab’s pass on 4th-and-5 from the Youngstown Cardinal Mooney 17-yard line was knocked away, ending a potential game-tying touchdown drive with 1:11 to play. The Braves returned to Springfield with a 21-14 loss in the Division III final. Mooney captured its eighth state championship.
“It’s a bittersweet thing being that close,” said Shawnee coach Rick Meeks after that game in Canton. “You just don’t get those opportunities very often.”
That remains true for the nine Clark County high schools with football programs. Shawnee, Springfield and Northwestern will represent the county in the 2018 playoffs, which begin Friday. That brings the total number of playoff appearances by the county schools — counting six by North and South, which merged into Springfield High School in 2008 — to 56. Clark County’s record in those games is 39-53.
While the quest for the first state championship continues, there have been many memorable games, moments and performances over the years. Here’s a look back at Clark County’s playoff history:
Three years later, in 1983, the Southeastern Trojans became the first Clark County team to reach the postseason. The Trojans finished the regular season 10-0. Senior Rod Kaffenbarger rushed for 1,178 yards and 17 touchdowns. Junior Darin Spitzer threw 10 touchdown passes.
“It’s been the best offensive year we’ve had around here,” said coach John West, who was in his ninth season.
The Trojans lost 26-21 at Middletown Fenwick in the first round when John Hurlburt threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Marty McQuinn with 1:16 remaining in the fourth quarter in a Division V playoff game.
It would be North’s only victory in two playoff appearances. It returned to the postseason in 1992.
“I’ll tell you what, nobody, nobody, thought we could win this game,” Springfield coach Robertson said after the playoff win. “Even the other WOL (Western Ohio League) schools thought we were lucky to get in.”
Quarterback Patrick Hannon scored the Irish’s only touchdown on a 1-yard run in the third quarter. The Irish failed to score on three other drives inside the 20. Central finished the season 12-2.
Quarterback Chris Clark passed for 281 yards, but the Wildcats couldn’t hold on to a 28-14 second-half lead. Findlay turned two botched punts into 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“The sun’s going to come up in the morning,” Clark said then. “Coach always told us the sun is going to come up in the morning.”
“Close games are always determined by who makes a good play or the team who doesn’t,” said Jerry Wasserman, who coached the Jets from 1980-2005, in 2009. “It’s exciting. The kids who play in those games remember it forever.”
“Originally, we were trying to get to the middle of the field to set up a field goal,” Kenton Ridge coach Joel Marratta said then. “I guess (Loren) just decided he wasn’t going to be denied getting to the end zone.”