The smallest incoming package gave the biggest impression when Jeff Graham inherited the role as Trotwood-Madison’s head football coach four years ago.
The buzz around Trotwood since his peewee and middle school years was running back Ra’veion Hargrove. Always small, he also always came up big on the field.
“We knew when we watched him in the seventh and eighth grade that he would be a great addition to our program,” Graham said this week during a statewide media conference call. “We knew he was small and could run the ball and his vision was something extraordinary at that point. When he got to high school he started understanding the game a lot better and what he could do because he was so small to avoid hits and contact.”
With major assists from his teammates, Hargrove has carried Trotwood (14-0) into its second straight Division III state championship game at Canton’s new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The Rams will play upstart Dresden Tri-Valley (13-1) in the D-III title game at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
That will be one of three Saturday games that involve area teams. Top-ranked and defending champ Marion Local (14-0) plays No. 2 Kirtland (14-0) for the D-VI championship at 10 a.m. In the 3 p.m. D-IV final it’s Clinton-Massie (13-1) vs. two-time state runner-up Steubenville (14-0).
The D-II championship is Thursday. The Divisions I, V and V-II title games are Friday. The state title games shift to Stark County after a three-year run at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Generously listed at 5-feet-7 and 165 pounds, Hargrove’s celebrated career will come to a close against Tri-Valley. With more than 7,000 career rushing yards and nearing 100 touchdowns, he’ll rank among the state’s all-time top 10 running backs for yards gained.
He enters Saturday’s title game with 2,127 yards rushing, 33 touchdowns and a nod from Tri-Valley coach Justin Buttermore.
“You have to try to make him run lateral,” Buttermore said. “When he gets downhill he’s a handful. You’ve got to plug gaps in the middle and force him move laterally and let your pursuit catch up to him. Certainly, that’s the answer. Now, that’s easier said than done.”
Trotwood will be looking to win its second state title after knocking out playoff rival Toledo Central Catholic 16-7 in a state semifinal at Piqua last week. The game was clinched on Hargrove’s sizzling 77-yard TD dash in the fourth quarter.
In 2011 the Rams went 15-0 and won a D-II state championship. Last season Akron Archbishop Hoban pounded Trotwood 30-0 to win its second straight D-III state title.
In contrast is Tri-Valley, which is making its deepest postseason run in program history. A rural school district anchored near Zanesville, Tri-Valley opened the season by falling 21-13 to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. However, the Scotties took out the Irish 24-6 in a state semi rematch.
Tri-Valley also dodged Bellefontaine 36-30 in overtime in a D-III, Region 11 semifinal. None of that will prevent Tri-Valley from being a heavy underdog.
“Tri-Valley wouldn’t be here if they didn’t play excellent football,” said Graham.
• Hargrove finished runner-up to Wadsworth senior quarterback Joey Baughman as the Ohio Mr. Football on Wednesday.
An unlikely preseason candidate, Baughman was outstanding, passing for 3,079 yards and adding 1,523 yards rushing for Division II Wadsworth, which went 10-0 in the regular season and 11-1 overall. He accounted for 56 touchdowns. He had just three interceptions in 331 passes.
A two-time state runner-up and three-time state placer, Baughman has signed with the University of Virginia to wrestle. Ohio State was among his wrestling offers.
There have been four area Ohio Mr. Football players: Bobby Hoying (St. Henry, 1990), Curtis Enis (Mississinawa Valley, ’93), Ryan Brewer (Troy, ’98) and Brandon Saine (Piqua, 2006).
• The National Federation of State High School Associations has gone digital for high school football. The governing association of which the OHSAA is a member will stream its first football state championship on Friday. Featured on the NFHS Network LIVE Page will be the Oklahoma Class 4A title game between Oklahoma City Heritage Hall and Ada.
Other state finals to be carried on the NFHS Page the following weekend are Virginia and Connecticut championships. The NFHS digital initiative was launched last week for five playoff games that involved Georgia, California and Oklahoma teams and drew nearly 1 million video views.
• Trotwood will sell state title football tickets at the school from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday. Cost is $11 in advance and all seats are general admission.
• All the state title games will be televised live on Spectrum Sports and broadcast by the OHSAA Radio Network.