CINCINNATI – Colerain football coach Tom Bolden was watching film early Sunday afternoon shortly after the Bengals at Ravens game kicked off.
A similar film study situation occurred a 20-minute drive from Colerain Township. Wyoming coach Aaron Hancock was taking in some film on his upcoming state semifinal opponent, St. Mary’s Memorial.
It’s state Final Four week in Ohio as three area teams – Colerain (Division I), Winton Woods (Division II), Wyoming (Division IV) - earned the unique distinction of practicing on Thanksgiving.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association officially announced the state semifinals schedule on Sunday. Stop us if you have heard some of these state Final Four games before.
Colerain (13-0), ranked No. 8 nationally by the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings (computer ratings) and No. 24 nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 (editorial), plays Pickerington Central (11-2) for a second straight season in the state semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday. This time, the game is at Piqua.
Pickerington Central defeated Colerain in the 2017 state semifinal in Springfield en route to winning the state title.
Colerain committed five turnovers and then-junior standout fullback/linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. played with an injury in that state semifinal.
At the end of that game, Bolden walked over to the near-side end zone and stared at the Evans Stadium scoreboard for a few moments. He wanted to etch the score into his memory for a final time.
“We will back here next year,” Bolden said at the time. “We will back. We just got to learn from it and take that next step again next year.”
The Cardinals have made good on that promise this week to return to the state Final Four.
“I think the kids are going to be locked in,” Bolden said of his team. “I couldn’t ask it for any other way that it is setting up for the team that ended it for us last year.”
Colerain has 11 consecutive games of a running clock (30-point differential in the second half) after it defeated Elder 42-0 in the regional final at Mason.
Colerain had 474 yards of offense Friday. Pace, now a senior, had 202 yards rushing on 16 carries and two touchdowns. He also had seven tackles on defense.
“It means so much to me," Pace said of the regional title. "We're going to work our way there (toward state). We still have the final four, but we are going to dominate that."
In Division II, Winton Woods (12-1) plays Massillon Washington (13-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Gahanna Lincoln. It is a rematch of last season’s state semifinal that the Warriors rallied to win.
Winton Woods trailed 21-0 in the second quarter before the Warriors outscored the Tigers by 56 points en route to winning. Winton Woods was the 2017 state runner-up.
“They are really good,” said Massillon coach Nate Moore, a former La Salle head coach.
Winton Woods is led by several players including junior running back Miyan Williams, who has 2,742 net rushing yards and 36 touchdowns this season. He’s 25th all-time on the OHSAA’s single season rushing yards list.
"We are very excited for this opportunity," Winton Woods coach Andre Parker said Sunday. "We know we have our work cut out for us going against a very talented and well-coached team in Massillon. They are so very talented and have big-play potential."
In Division IV, Wyoming (13-0) plays St. Mary’s Memorial (12-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Piqua. Wyoming will make its fifth trip to the state Final Four in the program’s storied history and the first since 2009.
The Cowboys shut out London 28-0 Saturday night in the regional final at Centerville. Junior quarterback Evan Prater rushed for two touchdowns and threw for two to help lead Wyoming. The Cowboys’ defense limited London to 129 total yards.
“The entire defensive unit did a phenomenal job across the board,” Hancock said.
Wyoming will face another Wing-T team in the state semifinals in St. Mary’s Memorial, a team that Wyoming hasn’t faced since the first round of the playoffs in 2003.
“We enjoy the one-week seasons – we really do,” Hancock said. “We take it one week at a time. Us as coaches and players – they’ve done a good job of resetting the button, resetting the season every week and really focusing in on what needs to be done to be successful each week.”
The state finals are Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The OHSAA will announce the state finals schedule after this upcoming weekend.
- Colerain, Massillon and Wyoming are two of only five teams left in the state that remain undefeated. The others include Akron Archbishop Hoban (Division II) and Kirtland (Division VI).
- Roger Bacon senior wide receiver Zach Kuhlman committed to play football at the Naval Academy Sunday, according to Roger Bacon coach Mike Blaut. Kuhlman, who is 6 feet 3 and 195 pounds, was named a Division IV second-team player by the Southwest District media this past week. He had 25 receptions for 451 yards and four touchdowns in eight games this season for the Spartans. He also had eight tackles on defense. He had four kickoff returns for 59 yards, too.
- The all-state football teams and Mr. Football winner will be announced the week of Nov. 26. Cincinnati has only had one Mr. Football, Norwood's Marc Edwards in 1992.