CINCINNATI – Let the fun begin. High school football is right around the corner.
The highly anticipated schedule for the 21st annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown presented by First Financial Bank, Mercy Health Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, and Meijer is set.
The Greater Cincinnati area will again be treated to a smorgasbord of high school football starting in mid-August.
"I think this signifies the best high school played anywhere - top to bottom - in the country," said In-Game Sports President and Showdown organizer Tom Gamble.
Six defending state champions from four states are included in this year's Showdown, which enters its third decade as the largest and longest running high school football showcase in the country.
"Anytime you are starting the third decade of an event that is pretty cool," said Gamble. "...I think what excites me the most is to be able to take the Showdown brand and extend it through the entire regular season. People love Friday nights. To be able to have one Showdown game from Aug. 17 to Oct. 26 - that's pretty cool."
A new and expanded format of the Showdown includes 44 schools playing in marquee games every Friday night all season from Aug. 17 through Oct. 26. Previously, there were 20-plus games in the first two to three weeks of the season.
A total of 244 Showdown games have been played since 1998.
Elder (17-3 all-time in the Showdown) is the only school to play in every Showdown, with La Salle (15-4), Moeller (16-3) and St. Xavier (16-3) having participated in all but one. Colerain (13-5) has played in every Showdown since 2000, for a total of 18.
This year's Showdown kicks off Aug. 17 with two games. Lawrenceburg (11-2 in 2017) plays at East Central (12-3) in a renewal of that Southeastern Indiana rivalry at 7:30 p.m. East Central won the Class 4A state title in 2017.
Covington Catholic (15-0), the reigning Class 5A state champion Kentucky, plays at Ryle (8-3) at 7:30 p.m. CovCath has not lost in the regular season since Oct. 28, 2016. CovCath features 2020 tight end Michael Mayer (Notre Dame commit), who is ranked the state's No. 1 player in the 2020 class by 247Sports.
The Ohio season starts Wednesday, Aug. 22 when Withrow plays Woodward at 7 p.m.
On Thursday, Aug. 23, Anderson (10-2) plays Mount Healthy (4-6) in a game played at Princeton. Anderson, which has consecutive postseason appearances, features senior offensive lineman Zeke Correll (Notre Dame commit), who is ranked the state's No. 4 player overall in the 2019 class by 247Sports.
Taft (8-3), which has three consecutive postseason appearances. hosts Thurgood Marshall (5-4) at Stargel Stadium also on Aug. 23.
On Friday, Aug. 24, Beechwood (12-2) – the two-time reigning Class 1A state champions in Kentucky – plays host to Lloyd (8-4) at 7:30 p.m. Beechwood has won 24 of its past 26 games.
The Ohio schedule is packed Aug. 24 including La Salle (10-3) at Colerain (11-3) - the fourth consecutive season these two West Side schools have met. Colerain, a Division I state semifinalist in 2017, returns several talented players on both sides of the ball.
Milford (8-3), which made the postseason in 2017 for the first time since 1986, plays at Princeton (4-6). The Vikings are led by several talented players including 2020 defensive end Darrion Henry, who is ranked the state's No. 2 player overall by 247Sports.
Defending Division III state champion Trotwood-Madison (15-0) plays at Division II state runner-up Winton Woods (13-2) in one of the Showdown's top games in any week.
Also, Loveland plays at Sycamore Aug. 24. The Aviators (9-3 in 2017) have consecutive playoff appearances.
The Showdown also features reigning Division I state champion Pickerington Central playing Phillips (Ill.) Academy Aug. 26 in a game at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio near Columbus. That game will be televised live on ESPN at 12:30 p.m.
Pickerington Central (14-1), located in Greater Columbus, is the reigning Division I state champion. Phillips Academy (14-0) is from Chicago and has won two of the past three Illinois Class 5A state titles.
"That game will have no shortage of probably 6 to 10 of big-time recruits playing in it," Gamble said.
(The Lakota West versus St. Xavier game at Paul Brown Stadium is not part of the Showdown).
The Showdown continues Aug. 31 with Kings at Lakota East.
On Sept. 7, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy travels to Wyoming in a game that the Cowboys will celebrate their 100th anniversary of football at the school. CHCA is 30-6 the past three seasons while Wyoming is 32-5 including perfect regular seasons in 2016 and 2017.
Another rival game, also a key Eastern Cincinnati Conference matchup, is set for Sept. 14 when Turpin plays at West Clermont, which capped its inaugural season by earning a D-I playoff berth.
Two Showdown games are set for Sept. 21, with Lakota West hosting Oak Hills in an early key Greater Miami Conference game, and Centerville traveling to Springboro in a matchup between Greater Western Ohio Conference teams that made the playoffs.
Another rivalry highlights the Showdown on Sept. 28 when Mariemont hosts Indian Hill in a pivotal Cincinnati Hills League game.
A classic Greater Catholic League South Division game between Elder and Moeller is one of two Showdown games on Oct. 5. That game will be played at Nippert Stadium.
Elder is looking for a return to postseason play after missing qualifying by a percentage of computer points last year, while Moeller is beginning the Doug Rosfeld era as the Crusaders’ alum takes over the program.
Little Miami makes its Showdown debut that same night, when the Panthers travel to Harrison for a Southwest Ohio Conference game. Harrison has consecutive D-II playoff appearances.
The last three weeks of the regular season feature games in Dayton, Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati as part of the Showdown.
On Oct. 12, another GWOC matchup takes center stage as Miamisburg visits Lebanon.
Boone County rivals Conner and Cooper square off on Oct. 19 in Union, with the two schools having split the last two meetings.
St. Xavier plays host to Louisville St. Xavier Oct. 26.
Tickets to all Showdown games can be purchased in advance of game day at the participating schools. Fans should contact their favorite school for current ticket office hours and prices.
2018 Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown Schedule
Friday, Aug. 17
Lawrenceburg at East Central, 7:30 p.m.
Covington Catholic at Ryle, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 22
Woodward vs. Withrow, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 23
Anderson vs. Mount Healthy, 7 p.m. (at Princeton)
Thurgood Marshall at Taft 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 24
Lloyd at Beechwood, 7:30 p.m.
La Salle at Colerain, 7 p.m.
Milford at Princeton, 7 p.m.
Loveland at Sycamore (at Sycamore Stadium), 7 p.m.
Trotwood-Madison at Winton Woods, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 26
Pickerington Central vs. Phillips (Ill.) at Otterbein, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Friday, Aug. 31
Kings at Lakota East, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 7
CHCA at Wyoming, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 14
Turpin at West Clermont, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 21
Oak Hills at Lakota West, 7 p.m.
Centerville at Springboro, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 28
Indian Hill at Mariemont, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 5
Little Miami at Harrison, 7 p.m.
Elder vs. Moeller (at Nippert Stadium), 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 12
Miamisburg at Lebanon (at Lebanon Junior High), 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 19
Conner at Cooper, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26
Louisville St. Xavier at Cincinnati St. Xavier, 7 p.m.