CINCINNATI – The Milford football team made the most significant jump in the latest playoff projections late Friday night.
The Eagles (8-1), who likely clinched their first postseason berth since 1986, could very well host a first-round game Nov. 3, according to longtime playoff projections analyst Steve Shuck.
If Milford does get into the top four, it would be the first home playoff game in program history.
Milford defeated Anderson 41-40 Friday to likely clinch a playoff spot in Division I, Region 4 and move into the No. 3 spot in Shuck’s latest projections.
This season marks the first winning season for Milford since 2000 when it had a 6-4 record.
Last winter, not many Milford coaches or players would’ve predicted an 8-1 record this late into October in Tom Grippa’s first year as head coach.
“We went 2-8 last year,” Milford senior defensive lineman Bryce Dugan said. “To go from the bottom to the top is huge. It’s just a great feeling.”
The Eagles also clinched a share of the Eastern Cincinnati Conference title with Friday’s win at Anderson. The only other conference title in football was in 1986.
The Eagles have an opportunity to win the ECC title outright with a win over visiting West Clermont Oct. 27.
Players and coaches soaked in the moment 30 years in the making Friday night. Grippa gathered his players near the Milford seating section and the Eagles chanted, “One, 2, 3, family!”
“I told them win or lose, we are winners,” Grippa said Friday night.
“We’ve already accomplished a lot. I tried to take the pressure off of them and let them play and have fun. I wanted them to enjoy the moment. These kind of games are few and far between, and Milford has certainly not had one. I’m really proud of our kids in how they responded in the pressure situation.”
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Shuck’s projections are considered unofficial and the Ohio High School Athletic Association will formally announce the playoff pairings Oct. 29.
The top eight teams in each of the seven regions qualify for the postseason, with the top four teams hosting first-round games.
Mason (7-2) and Sycamore (7-2) earned wins Friday night and are Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.
Elder (6-3) could move up to No. 4 with a win at La Salle (7-2) Oct. 27.
West Clermont (6-3) needs to defeat Milford in order to have a chance to qualify, Shuck said.
Lakota East (6-3) also needs to win against visiting Mason in order to have a chance.
The Division I, Region 4 projections:
1. St. Xavier (8-0, plays at Cleveland St. Ignatius later Saturday)
2. Colerain (7-2)
3. Milford (8-1)
4. Mason (7-2)
5. Sycamore (7-2)
6. Fairfield (5-4)
7. Elder (6-3)
8. Moeller (4-4, plays at Lakewood St. Edward later today)
In Division II, Region 8, Anderson (8-1) moves from being projected the No. 1 seed to now the No. 3 spot.
Edgewood (7-2) still has an opportunity but needs to win at Mount Healthy (4-5) Oct. 27.
There are no other significant changes as La Salle, Winton Woods (8-1) and Harrison (7-2) are projected to qualify.
Shuck said there are no other significant changes in the other five regions.
In Division V, Region 20, Reading (6-3) and Summit Country Day (7-2) are close for that No. 8 spot.
The OHSAA weekly computer ratings will be released Tuesday in leading up to the final report Sunday morning, Oct. 29 when 224 schools will qualify for the playoffs.
Of the 719 OHSAA member schools playing football, the largest 72 schools are in Division I, while the remaining schools are divided equally in Divisions II through VII (about 108 schools in each division).
Shuck will continue to update WCPO on the latest projections for all seven divisions in Southwest Ohio this week and on the night of Oct. 27.
Here are some other highlights from Friday night:
--Ryle senior running back Jake Chisholm rushed for 448 yards on 43 carries as the Raiders defeated host Simon Kenton 56-38. Chisholm’s rushing total is tied for sixth all-time in a single game, according to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association records.
“There is no words to describe how good Jake Chisholm is, and he’ll be successful at anything he does in life,” Ryle coach Mike Engler said.
--Anderson senior quarterback Jay Volpenhein moved into No. 32 on the OHSAA’s all-time career passing yards list. Volpenhein has 7,250 yards passing in his three-year career at quarterback, according to the ECC stats. He had 341 yards Friday night -- the sixth time this season he’s passed for 300-plus yards. He’s thrown for 3,123 yards and 30 touchdowns this season.
--Middletown snapped an 18-game losing streak with a 28-21 win over visiting Oak Hills. The Middies (1-8) were winless in 2016 and lost the first eight games of this season entering Friday night. Middletown had 434 yards of offense. Senior quarterback Blake Marshall, the younger brother of New York Jets receiver Jalin Marshall, was 9 of 12 passing for 135 yards. He rushed 18 times for 166 yards and four touchdowns.
--Milford senior defensive lineman Bryce Dugan was one of the Eagles’ standouts in the win over Anderson. He had a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown among his highlights. “He’s the ECC Defensive Player of the Year -- there is no doubt about it,” Grippa said. “He’s all-city.”
--Colerain won its 66th consecutive Greater Miami Conference game with a 52-24 win over visiting Lakota West. The Cardinals (7-2) have won seven consecutive games this season. Colerain clinched its 18th consecutive GMC title Friday night, including its fourth straight outright.
--Elder’s 62-6 win over International School of Broward (Hollywood, Florida) at The Pit was the most points by the Panthers since Sept. 10, 2004 (64-6 win at Western Hills). Elder had 411 yards of offense Friday night. Junior Luke Massminster rushed for 140 yards and three touchdowns.