CINCINNATI -- Sixteen area high school football teams have won Ohio state titles in the past 15 years - more than Cleveland or Columbus.
Since 2002, when Elder broke a 15-year Division I title drought for Cincinnati, it has been a golden age for local prep football with nine different schools winning championships in three different divisions of play.
Prior to Elder's 2002 title, Princeton had won the region's last big-school state championship, in 1987. In fact, only three area teams claimed a state title in any division in that 15-year span from 1987 to 2002: Badin in Division III in 1990, CAPE in Division IV in 1992 and Lebanon in Division II in 1998.
With the 2017 high school football postseason beginning this week, here is a look at the top nine state football champions of the past 15 years.
Colerain: 2004, Division I (15-0)
The Cardinals in 2004 were certainly the best high school football team in the state of Ohio in the last 15 years and perhaps the best ever. The unbeaten Colerain squad of 2004 suffocated foes on defense, allowing only 106 yards per game and just seven points per game during the regular season.
The Cards' finely tuned triple-option offense amassed a robust 433 yards and 50 points per game.
In 15 games overall, Colerain outscored opponents 695-98. That's right -- nearly 700 points scored and fewer than 100 allowed in 15 matchups. During the five-game run in the postseason, the Cards outscored foes 191-22.
"Since eighth grade we've talked about this, all the seniors," then-senior defensive lineman Terrill Byrd said after a 50-10 romp of Canton McKinley in the Division I state final on Dec. 4, 2004, at Canton Fawcett Stadium. "Since eighth grade we were talking about we're going to win one. And coach (Kerry) Coombs told us we were going to win one, too. We just came out and played our hearts out."
Colerain began the postseason with a 38-3 beating of Elder, the team that had sent the Cardinals home in 2002 and 2003 while on its way to two straight state titles. Centerville was quickly dispatched, 35-0, Nov. 13 in the Region 4 semifinal at Miami University's Yager Stadium while being outgained 401-122. The next week, in the regional final, Colerain crushed the storied Moeller Crusaders 34-6 at Yager Stadium and outgained Moeller 374-292.
The Crusaders finished with eight carries for exactly zero yards that night. Colerain then pummeled Region 3 champion Worthington Kilbourne 34-3 in the rain at Dayton's Welcome Stadium Nov. 27 to earn the shot at state.
Colerain's 50 points in a Division I/Class AAA state final broke the record held by Moeller in a 43-5 win over Gahanna Lincoln in 1976. The Cards' 463 rushing yards shattered Princeton's 1983 record of 379. Senior quarterback Dominick Goodman broke the individual Division I state final rushing record with 259 yards on 21 carries, eclipsing Bradley Glatthaar's record of 252 yards for Elder in the 2003 state final, and he tied McKinley's Mike Doss (1998) and Moeller's Mark Brooks (1980) for the record of four rushing touchdowns in a DI state final.
St. Xavier: 2005, Division I (15-0)
St. Xavier was nearly as dominant the next season. The Bombers won the first state football title in the school's then-175-year history.
St. X beat all 15 opponents it faced by an overall score of 435-95 with six shutouts and scored two wins over defending state champion Colerain -- a 7-0 final in the season-opener at Nippert Stadium and an overtime thriller in a Region 4 semifinal, 12-9, at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bombers allowed only 162.5 yards per game during the regular season, easily winning the usually tough Greater Catholic League South. The Bombers rolled past Elder 44-10, beat La Salle 28-0 and clinched the outright title with a 31-7 win over Moeller in Week 10. St. Xavier dominated an overmatched Fairfield team 45-0 in the opening round of the playoffs, beat Colerain again and rolled past Huber Heights Wayne the next week at Nippert Stadium, 42-7, in the regional final.
The Bombers survived Hilliard Davidson, 17-10, Nov. 26 in the state semifinal at Miami University's Yager Stadium before outlasting the storied Massillon Tigers, who claimed 22 state poll championships and nine mythical national championships before the Ohio High School Athletic Association went to a playoffs format in 1972. St. X beat Massillon 24-17 in the state final at Fawcett Stadium.
St. X had been 0-3 in state final appearances, most recently losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius in 2001. The Bombers became the third area school to win its first state football title in four years, following Elder in 2002 and Colerain in 2004.
"It feels tremendous, not only for our team but for the teams previous that never got the chance, and just to represent the whole St. X community," senior quarterback Brad Scherer said after the state final.
"It's great because it's the first one in 175 years of St. X history," senior linebacker Alex Albright said.
La Salle: 2014, Division II (14-1)
La Salle won its first football state title in 2014 behind one of the best offenses to take the field in Cincinnati high school football in the past 15 years. The Lancers scored 632 points in 2014 -- more than any team in Lancer football history -- and the 42.1-per-game average was by far the highest average in team history. The Lancers amassed school records of 6,055 yards from scrimmage, 404 yards per game, 4,908 yards rushing and boasted a 327 yards-per-game average on the ground.
La Salle had the top two rushing seasons in program history as well that season, led by junior Jeremy Larkin, who ran for 2,585 yards and 42 touchdowns in 284 rushing attempts -- all school records.
Overall, Larkin amassed a school-record 3,247 yards of total offense. He gained 1,037 on the ground in five postseason games and went for more than 200 yards in seven of 15 games overall.
Sophomore Jarell White added the program's second-best single-season total of 1,545 yards on the ground. Junior Nick Veite made a single-season school-record 78 extra points and scored a single-season-record 90 kicking points. Along with a defense that allowed only 13 points per game, the 2014 Lancers outscored foes by a school-record 433 points. With a massive offensive line, there really was no way to stop the Lancers.
"Maybe put 14 guys on the field, I don't know," then-junior quarterback Nick Watson said. "Most teams put seven or eight in the box and sometimes we'd just throw right over them. But sometimes we'd still just run right at them and they still couldn't stop it. If I was a defensive coordinator, I don't know what I'd do."
The Lancers had never been known for their football program, but the 2014 squad made a statement right away with a 40-21 win over Colerain in Week 1. The Lancers earned a 34-9 win over Moeller and a 56-35 win at Elder to close the regular season, suffering only a 24-21 loss to St. Xavier on a last-second field goal in a heavy rain storm.
The Lancers entered the postseason 0-4 all time in the playoffs before routing each 2014 foe. La Salle won the state title with a 55-20 win over Nordonia on Dec. 5, 2014, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
St. Xavier: 2007, Division I (15-0)
The Bombers' class of 2008 spent one final season dominating foes in the fall of 2007 and helped win the St. Xavier program's second state title in three years that season. It was the fifth Division I state title in six seasons for Cincinnati-area schools.
"This group is going to go down in history as probably the best football team that St. Xavier High School has ever had," St. Xavier coach Steve Specht said in 2007.
Again, it was the defense that stood out for the Bombers. St. X outscored opponents 452-133 in 2007 and allowed only 212.2 yards per game during the regular season. The Bombers recorded four shutouts, including a 27-0 rout of Mentor in the state final on Dec. 1, 2007, at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.
"This doesn't just happen," then-senior and three-year starting running back Darius Ashley said. "It doesn't come easy. We worked hard for four years to get to this point. Despite what anybody said, we came out here and we just played our game every week for 15 weeks."
That senior class compiled a record of 40-2 in three varsity seasons and was part of four straight outright GCL South titles.
"We're a special class," then-senior Danny Milligan said after the state final. "We came in freshman year, all from a bunch of different schools all across Cincinnati and all being the best from their school. There were some egos and stuff, but once through those doors, those coaches disciplined us, we dropped the egos and became brothers, became family. It's been like that all the way through senior year."
Elder: 2002, Division I (14-1)
This was the team that started it all for the area over the last 15 years.
In 2002, the Elder Panthers finally carried the purple-clad community to the top of the Ohio high school football world with the school's first Division I state football championship in a 21-19 win over Warren Harding on Nov. 30, 2002, at Fawcett Stadium.
"I told the guys, 'Seize this moment. This is your opportunity. You may never ever get a chance like this again,'" Elder coach Doug Ramsey said on the field after the game.
The Panthers won their first outright GCL title since 1994 that season and then went on a storied run in the playoffs. Elder won a classic 20-14 rematch with St. X in the opening round of the playoffs at Nippert Stadium on Nov. 2 and then blew out Huber Heights Wayne in the regional semifinals, 31-3, Nov. 9 at Paul Brown Stadium. Elder outlasted Colerain, 28-21, the following week for the program's second regional title and first since 1996 before rallying past Findlay, 34-31, at Columbus Crew Stadium in the state semifinals.
The last hurdle was Warren Harding, ranked No. 11 in the country by USA Today and the top-ranked team in the final Associated Press Division I state poll in 2002. The Raiders were 14-0 and featured future Michigan receiver and New York Giants Super Bowl champ, Mario Manningham.
Elder led Harding 21-7 with 3:48 remaining in the game before holding on for a two-point win when senior linebacker Kevin Harnist stormed through the line and hit the quarterback as he released the ball, causing a two-point conversation pass to float awkwardly in the air before landing harmlessly at the goal line.
"I was getting kind of scared," senior defensive lineman and Ohio Tri-Defensive Player of the Year Tony Carvitti said. "But I had faith in my teammates that we would pull it out. Our coaches have been saying that defense wins championships and that's what happened tonight."
Elder: 2003, Division I (14-1)
Coach Doug Ramsey, senior quarterback Rob Florian, and senior running back Bradley Glatthaar took their place among Elder's most fabled football legends in 2003.
After taking a similar path to and through the playoffs a second straight year -- first a 9-1 regular season and a GCL South title and a close call against Colerain in the Region 4 final, the Panthers blew out Dublin Scioto 31-7 in the semis and then routed Lakewood St. Edward 31-7 on Nov. 29 in the state final at Fawcett Stadium for the Panthers' second straight Division I championship.
Elder became just the fourth team to capture back-to-back big-school crowns and the first since Canton McKinley in 1997 and 1998. Moeller had been the last Cincinnati team to do it in 1979 and 1980. Cleveland St. Ignatius claimed consecutive titles in 1988 and 1989 and from 1991-1995.
Ramsey joined former Moeller head coach Gerry Faust as the only coaches to take a Cincinnati school to back-to-back big-school championships.
"That's one thing we talked about this week," Ramsey said after the 2003 state final. "With a win this week, we could put ourselves in an elite company -- Moeller, St. Ignatius, Canton McKinley, Elder -- the only Division I schools to repeat as state champs. It's great to be thrown in with programs like that."
Glatthaar rushed for 252 yards on 35 carries and scored three touchdowns -- all in the second half, shattering the yardage record of 196 for a Division I state championship game set by Mike Nicholson of Toledo St. Francis DeSales in 1984. Colerain's Goodman broke that record the next year.
Florian finished his career as Elder's starting quarterback with a 28-2 record and never lost to a team from Ohio.
"Last year, we wanted to bring it back to Cincinnati, and this year, we wanted to keep it here," Florian said. "We definitely put Elder on the map. They've always been a great football tradition, and it's a great honor to play quarterback for Elder.
"Now we've got two years in a row, and it's going to stay down here, and we're going to get a little more respect from the schools in the Northeast."
Moeller: 2013, Division I (14-1)
Moeller went on somewhat of a surprise run to the program's eighth state football title in 2012 after finishing the regular season with a 7-3 record and a third-place finish in the GCL South. But in 2013, the Crusaders did not take the state by surprise.
Moeller won the GCL South outright and suffered only a 45-42 loss at Lakewood St. Edward during the regular season in 2013. The Crusaders then routed both St. Xavier and Elder to open the postseason before outlasting Colerain and Hilliard Davidson in close games and holding off Mentor, 55-52, in the state final Dec. 7, 2013, at Fawcett Stadium.
Senior quarterback Gus Ragland threw for 2,058 yards, completed 63 percent of his passes and fired 22 touchdown passes for Moeller while rushing for 1,674 yards and 30 touchdowns in only 14 games. He threw for three TDs and ran for five in the state final. The five on the ground tied a Division I state finals record.
La Salle: 2015, Division II (13-2)
La Salle joined Greater Catholic League South rivals Elder, Moeller and St. Xavier as multiple-time football state champions with the Lancers' second straight Division II state title in 2015 following another series of routs in the playoffs.
But this one was not as easy as the scores indicate. The Lancers had to adjust to a brand-new head coach in Jim Hilvert after Nate Moore left for the higher-paying Massillon Washington program in January 2015.
Hilvert, who had been head coach at Thomas More College, was brought in quickly and the transition began.
"I really have to give a lot of credit to the staff during that time for keeping it together," former longtime La Salle athletic director Dan Flynn said. "The kids knew they weren't being abandoned. The core of the staff was still there and working with the guys."
The Lancers adjusted quickly and surged to a 6-0 record before losses to St. Xavier and Elder. Once La Salle was let loose in the Division II playoffs again, the results were much like the previous year. The Lancers capped title No. 2 with a 42-0 win over Massillon Perry in the state final Dec. 5 at Ohio Stadium.
La Salle became the first Division II team to win two straight titles in Ohio since St. Mary's Memorial in 1992 and 1993 and the third overall. The 24 La Salle seniors that year, including GCL South all-time touchdown leader Jeremy Larkin, completed a two-year run that saw the Lancers go 27-3.
"Every La Salle team from now on will be compared to this team," Hilvert said. "No doubt about it."
Loveland: 2013, Division II (15-0)
Loveland was a juggernaut in 2013 with a stifling defense and a powerful rushing attack on offense, and the Tigers brought home the school's first state football title with a 41-23 win over Cleveland Glenville in the Division II state final on Dec. 6, 2013, at Fawcett Stadium.
The Tigers outscored foes 628-167 that season.
Freshman Luke Waddell led the Loveland offense with 1,593 yards on 175 carries with 18 touchdowns while sophomore quarterback Drew Plitt threw for 1,501 yards and 14 touchdowns. Junior running back Nate Slagel had 1,340 yards on just 114 carries and 18 touchdowns before an injury ended his season after eight games.
On defense, Loveland held opponents to only 171.6 yards per game during the regular season and recorded four shutouts throughout the year. The Tigers defense was built around seniors Charlie Lawler, Darren Sackett and Mike Weber.
After winning the second-ever Eastern Cincinnati Conference title during the regular season, Loveland routed its first two playoff opponents in a 54-0 win over Vandalia Butler and a 45-14 win over Northwest. The Tigers then outlasted Mount Healthy 35-28 in the Region 6 final and then edged Zanesville 38-35 in overtime in a state semifinal.
Loveland scored a Division II state final record 27 points in the second quarter of the win over Glenville and forced five turnovers in the first half to take control of the game.
Seven other teams won state titles in the past 15 years.
Anderson won the school's only state football title in 2007 in Division II and Winton Woods did the same for that program in Division II in 2009.
Moeller won Division I in 2012 and Clinton-Massie won Division IV state titles in 2012 and 2013.
Last season, La Salle won its third straight state title in Division II while St. Xavier won the program's third Division I state title.