An unusual source confirmed Northwestern qualified for the high school football playoffs for the first time.
“We got a film request about 2 in the morning (on Saturday) from (Cincinnati) Wyoming,” said Northwestern coach Shane Carter. “I figured, heck, they’ve (qualified) enough times. They probably know who they’re playing.”
Sure enough, Northwestern (7-3) is in for the first time as a No. 8 seed and is matched at top-seeded and unbeaten Wyoming (10-0) in Saturday’s Division IV, Region 16 playoff opener.
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Joining Northwestern in qualifying for the playoffs were area teams Springfield (D-I, Region 3), Shawnee (D-IV, Region 16), Greeneview (D-V, Region 20) and Mechanicsburg (D-VI, Region 24).
The Ohio High School Athletic Association was scheduled to make the official announcement of playoff qualifiers and first-round pairings on Sunday, although most teams already knew their postseason status after Friday’s regular season-ending Week 10 games.
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The playoffs will last five weeks, or half a regular season. Divisions I, II, III and VI will play on Fridays and Divisions IV, V and VII on Saturdays, all at 7 p.m. through the state semifinals. The seven state championship games will be held at Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium over three days, from Nov. 29 through Dec. 1.
Just 1.15 computer points separated a pack of six teams that Northwestern beat out for that final No. 8 seed. The Warriors swept their final two games and key Week 10 losses by most of those Region 16 contenders made the difference.
“All the things that had to fall into place, did,” said Carter, in his second season as head coach. “Everything had to fall in the right order.”
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Of the 224 teams throughout Ohio – of 717 – that qualified, Northwestern and Toledo Start are the only first-time playoff participants.
It’s a long shot, but Northwestern has a chance to join an exclusive club. Only six teams since the playoffs began in 1972 have won state championships in their first season of qualifying. The most recent was Dublin Scioto in 1995.
Fairmont (7-3) at Springfield (8-2), Friday: This is a rematch of their Week 10 showdown also at Evans Stadium in which Fairmont won 14-7 to advance. The Wildcats already had locked up a first-round home game. The eight regular-season wins match the 8-2 record the Wildcats also posted in 2010. That team went two games deep into the playoffs and finished 9-3.
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“It’s a new week,” Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said. “It’s a new season. It’s a regular game. That’s how you’ve got to play it. You’ve just got to play with a little more desperation.”
St. Henry (8-2) at Mechanicsburg (8-2), Friday: Another big-time challenge for the Ohio Heritage Conference North champs. The Indians must regroup after falling 21-14 in OT at Fairbanks last week. St. Henry is one of five Midwest Athletic Conference teams to qualify. The Redskins stunned Coldwater 28-10 in Week 9.
Shawnee (6-4) at Clinton-Massie (9-1), Saturday: The ultimate Braves challenge. Massie is the defending D-IV state runner-up and was a No. 2 seed behind Wyoming.
Shawnee started 4-1, lost three straight, then knocked Bellefontaine (7-3) out of the playoffs in Week 9 and finished off Jonathan Alder in Week 10.
Shawnee has never lost a first-round game during Rick Meeks’ 16-year tenure as coach, including a 41-34 overtime win at Wapakoneta as a No. 6 seed in 2013, its last playoff appearance. The Braves also earned first-round road wins against Alter (2012) and Goshen (2009).
“We were a lot older during those times,” Meeks said. “We’ve gotten beat up a couple of times this year because we’re young. I hope we’re past that now, obviously.”
Greeneview (9-1) at Cin. Madeira (7-3), Saturday: The No. 5 seed Rams were edged by less than 100th of a point by No. 4 Madeira in landing a first-round home game. Greeneview’s only loss was 7-0 in Week 4 to Mechanicsburg.