SPRINGFIELD — The Northeastern High School football team has already made history.
The Jets finished the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record for the first time since 1992 and won their first outright Ohio Heritage Conference North Division championship in program history.
But the Jets are motivated to make even more history — by winning the program’s first-ever playoff game.
Northeastern, ranked ninth in this week’s Associated Press Division V state poll, hosts Waynesville (3-7) in a Region 20 first-round game on Friday night at Conover Field.
The Jets are 0-9 all-time in the playoffs, including a 17-3 loss to Anna in their first-ever home playoff game last season.
“Our guys are going to be motivated and they’re going to be excited,” said Jets coach Jake Buchholtz. “I think it’s going to turn over a new leaf for them going into the playoffs.”
The Jets first qualified for the playoffs in 1985, but have lost nine straight playoff games, including four games by one score or less.
“We want to make school history,” said senior quarterback Cade Houseman. “We’ve never won a playoff game and we want that to change. We want that culture to change.”
The loss to Anna last season motivated the players throughout the winter and spring, Buchholtz said. They worked hard to make it back to the playoffs in hopes of getting another chance this fall.
“As bad as it sucked, (the loss to Anna) meant everything,” Buchholtz said. “We brought back all but five kids who were hungry, who were upset and knew that’s where we wanted to be. As our offseason lifting began, we didn’t have to do a whole lot of motivating. They knew what was at stake and that we didn’t play our best game and I think it really propelled us where we are now.”
The Jets haven’t lost since, outscoring their opponents 441-83. Houseman led the OHC in passing yards with 1,870 yards and 21 touchdowns and ranked fifth in rushing with 900 yards and 13 TDs. Houseman’s top target, senior Dylan Haggy, led the OHC with 54 catches for 845 yards and 11 TDs
Defensively, the Jets haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a game all season and have shut out four of their opponents. Houseman leads the Jets with 103 tackles, while senior Gunnar Leonard has seven sacks and senior Hunter Albright has five sacks.
Waynesville enters the game having lost six straight games, but four of their seven losses have come by seven points or less. In Week 1, the Spartans upset defending D-IV state champion Clinton Massie 14-7. They’re led by senior quarterback Blaise Sizer, the Southwestern Buckeye League’s leading passer with 2,000 yards and 19 TD passes.
While the playoffs pose a different challenge for the Jets, they won’t change the way they prepare for their next opponent.
“Our process doesn’t change,” Houseman said. “We know if we go 1-0 each week that good things are going to happen.”
Friday’s First Round Playoff games
D-1, Region 2
15 Olentangy Orange at 2 Springfield
D-II, Region 12
9 New Richmond at 8 Tecumseh
D-IV, Regional 16
9 Roger Bacon at 8 Shawnee
12 Graham at 5 Urbana
D-V, Region 20
14 Waynesville at 3 Northeastern
10 Preble Shawnee at 7 Greeneview
15 Greenon at 2 Milton Union
D-VI, Region 24
9 Triad at 8 West Liberty-Salem
D-VII, Region 28
10 Cincinnati College Prep at 7 Southeastern
9 St. Bernard Elmwood Place at 8 Catholic Central
14 Lockland at 3 Mechanicsburg
(All games start at 7 p.m.)
NOTE: All tickets must be purchased at https://www.ohsaa.org/tickets.
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