CINCINNATI -- The Ohio high school football playoffs started with 224 teams statewide earlier this month.
Just five Cincinnati-area teams are remaining this weekend, with the regional finals scheduled for Nov. 18-19. The state semifinal pairings will be announced later this week by the OHSAA. Some divisions will be announced after the regional finals. The OHSAA said the state semifinal pairings are based on geography.
Here are nine takeaways from this weekend’s regional semifinals and a first glimpse at the regional finals starting Friday:
1. St. Xavier and Sycamore play rare matchup: St. Xavier and Sycamore will play in a Division I regional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hamilton. It will be the second straight week the Bombers play at Hamilton. St. X earned one of its greatest comebacks in program history with a 29-23 overtime win against Colerain. Senior quarterback Sean Clifford (Penn State commit) threw for 131 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior Nicholas Moeller in overtime.
Sycamore defeated Mason 20-7 at Barnitz Stadium in the other regional semifinal. Sycamore is making its first regional final appearance in program history. This is the sixth playoff appearance for Sycamore. “I’m so proud of this team,” Sycamore coach Scott Dattilo said. The Bombers and Aviators are playing for the first time since the 2002 Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown, when St. X won 10-7. This week’s winner advances to the state semifinals Nov. 25. ...Sycamore is one of only four No. 7 seeds left in Ohio.
2. La Salle ready for third consecutive regional final: La Salle had a chip on its shoulder all week, and it brought the energy in a 34-3 win over Turpin. La Salle coach Jim Hilvert told the Lancers (10-2) he was very proud of his team and wants that focus to continue against Miamisburg (10-2) in a Division II regional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mason. The Lancers, who are the reigning two-time Division II state champions, want another taste of the ultimate prize. It certainly looked the part at Lakota West Friday night. Senior Jarell White rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns while the defense played very well. “As a senior, it’s one of the most important things you can do to take one game at a time and step by step to take each opponent as they will be the next Elder, Moeller or St. X,” said La Salle senior defensive lineman Ethan Campbell. “No matter how much hype they have, just to take them one step at a time.”
Miamisburg defeated Troy 28-21 in the regional semifinal. Junior Tony Clark rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Miamisburg is the second wing-T offense the Lancers will see this postseason. Vikings coach Steve Channell established that offense while he was at Edgewood. The Vikings feature 2017 U.S. Army All-American offensive lineman Josh Myers, who is an Ohio State commit. “Now we have to turn it up another notch,” Hilvert told his players. “Every game we take a step, every game you leave your mark.”
3. Wyoming’s ‘incredible’ season continues: Wyoming (12-0) plays Alter (12-0) in a Division IV regional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Monroe. It will be the second straight week the Cowboys will play at Monroe and the first regional final for Wyoming since 2009. Wyoming defeated Valley View 29-12 in the regional semifinal on Nov. 11. Wyoming and Alter are two of just 15 teams remaining statewide that are undefeated. “Alter is a machine,” Wyoming coach Aaron Hancock said. “We are going to put everything we got into this one.” Despite the superb records, Hancock said he didn’t look ahead this season with anticipation of this matchup. Wyoming earned a favor by avoiding Indian Hill, Clinton-Massie and Alter earlier in the Region 16 bracket, and the Cowboys have an opportunity to accomplish their goal of a regional title this season. “I like the way our kids work,” Hancock said. “The kids have gotten better every single week. This season has been incredible.”
Wyoming continues to set program milestones this season. Senior quarterback Andrew Marty (Northwestern commit) continues a spectacular season and has made a case for a Mr. Football candidacy. He’s thrown for 2,491 yards. Senior wide receiver Jake Edmonds tied his teammate, Fordham commit Garyn Prater, for a school-record 16 receiving touchdowns this season. The Wyoming defense has been lights out, too, giving up just 81 points all season through 12 games. “Our defense is full of guys just hungry to get better every single week,” Hancock said. “Defensive coordinator Chad Seymour challenges those guys. I can’t remember a team as statistically dominant on defense and I’ve been here 16 years.”
4. CHCA stays undefeated: Senior running back Kesean Gamble rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns, and junior quarterback Danny Vanatsky was 12 of 15 passing for 153 yards and two touchdowns as CHCA defeated Milton-Union 45-28 Saturday night in a Division V regional semifinal at Miamisburg. CHCA (12-0) plays Coldwater (11-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Northmont. It is the third consecutive season both teams have met in the postseason. This Saturday will be the third regional final appearance for CHCA.
The Eagles are one of 15 undefeated teams remaining in the postseason. “Our motto is to finish,” CHCA coach Mark Mueller said. “We have started fast during the playoff time.”
5. More on Marty: Wyoming senior quarterback Andrew Marty broke Kyle Seyfried’s school record for most touchdown passes in a season. Marty has 42, while Seyfried had 40 in 2009. Marty also joined the OHSAA records list for most passing touchdowns in a season. Marty has accomplished the school record in fewer games (12) than Seyfried (14). He’s only played the fourth quarter in three games this season. “He’s a tremendous player,” Wyoming coach Aaron Hancock said.
6. Bonner enters state record book: Sycamore senior running back Ra’Von Bonner has 77 career touchdowns and entered the OHSAA all-time list for most career rushing touchdowns. The Illinois commit has rushed for 2,122 yards and 34 touchdowns this season. He’s had five games of 200-plus rushing yards. Bonner is also considered a possible Mr. Football candidate when the award is announced before the state finals.
7. Gall commits: Moeller senior offensive lineman Jacob Gall announced his verbal commitment to the University at Buffalo on Saturday. Gall, who is 6 feet 2 and 290 pounds, was a first-team all-Greater Catholic League South division selection this season. He was a four-year starter for the Crusaders. National Signing Day is Feb. 1.
8. Aichholz commits: Indian Hill senior quarterback Reed Aichholz has verbally committed to play at the University of Richmond (Virginia), according to Indian Hill coach Tony Arcuri. He committed as a quarterback. "It’s a great fit for Reed," Arcuri said. "First, their offense is more pro-style; they want big quarterbacks with strong arms. It’s also a great fit academically; their standards are high." Aichholz also has family in Virginia. Aichholz, who is 6 feet 5 and 235 pounds, threw for 1,943 yards and 24 touchdowns in the regular season. He also rushed for 450 yards and 14 touchdowns. Indian Hill (9-2) was a Division IV playoff qualifier this season.
9. All-district: The annual Associated Press Southwest District football all-stars will be announced at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The all-state teams will be announced from Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in order of divisions. Mr. Football will be announced Dec. 1 prior to the state finals. The Cincinnati area hasn’t had a Mr. Football winner since former Norwood’s Marc Edwards in 1992.
Extra points: Lakota West will play at Lakota East in Week 6 in 2017 instead of Week 10, which has been consistent since 2005. The Greater Miami Conference goes to an eight-game conference schedule next season due to the difficulty of finding non-league opponents in the early portion of the season. GMC commissioner Steve Shuck said countless hours were put into the decision and schools picked opponents from a hat the first year. "The rotation gets out of balance causing teams to eventually have two league games at home and five away or just the opposite," Shuck said. "Lots of hours put into that decision." The GMC will use the eight-game schedule as a four-year trial run and then evaluate it after that. ....The Ohio Division I playoff bracket was rated the second toughest in the nation entering last weekend, according to MaxPreps.