CINCINNATI — High school football makes its triumphant return this month.
The 22nd annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown presented by Mercy Health Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine and Meijer will have 11 consecutive weeks of marquee Friday night matchups spanning the entire regular season.
The official Showdown schedule was announced Thursday afternoon and includes 25 teams that qualified for their state football playoffs in 2018.
The Showdown is the largest and longest running high school football showcase in the United States. The event includes 36 schools playing 18 games every Friday night from Aug. 23 to Nov. 1.
The Showdown serves as the official kickoff to high school football in the region – starting Aug. 23 in Indiana when East Central (11-2 in 2018) plays at Lawrenceburg (5-6) at 7 p.m. Kentucky schools can also begin the same night.
Five days later, the Ohio high school season kicks off at the new Stargel Stadium when Northwest (3-7) plays Taft (8-3) in what will be the first varsity football game at the new facility (7 p.m. kickoff).
Two defending state champions will also compete in the Showdown including Beechwood in Kentucky (three-peat in Class A) and Wyoming in Ohio (Division IV).
Colerain (Ohio Division I) and Covington Catholic (Kentucky Class 5A) were runners-up in their respective states, while Winton Woods (Division II) was a state semifinalist, and East Central (Class 4A) made it to the Indiana quarterfinals.
Tickets to all Showdown games can be purchased in advance of game day at the participating schools.
Here is a look at some of the top games, according to the Showdown:
- St. Xavier at Colerain, Sept. 6 – This non-conference annual meeting has literally become the game in Greater Cincinnati, as the two D-I powers seem to meet every year in both the regular and postseasons. This is Colerain’s first home game of the season and also marks the home debut of new Cardinals coach Shawn Cutright.
- Loveland at Milford, Sept. 13 – A rare non-conference game between two members of the Eastern Cincinnati Conference, who play two weeks later at Loveland in a game that counts in the ECC standings. Eagles’ coach Tom Grippa is looking to get Milford back to the playoffs for the third straight season, while Andy Cruse takes the reins of a Loveland program that won the D-II state title in 2013.
- Highlands at Simon Kenton, Sept. 13 – Highlands, which has won the second most Kentucky state football championships (23) behind only Louisville Trinity (25), appears to be back among the elite. The Bluebirds finished 10-3 last season, with two of its losses coming to state runner-up and rival Covington Catholic. This should be a good test against a Simon Kenton program that has been one of the area’s most consistent winners. The Pioneers are 67-9 the last six years.
- Kings at Anderson, Sept. 20 – This is a matchup of contenders in the ECC, with longtime Kings assistant Alex Garvin taking over for Andy Olds – who retired after last season when Kings finished 9-2 overall, made the state playoffs and were 7-0 in the league. Anderson has made three straight appearances in the D-II state playoffs under Evan Dreyer, and both teams are looking to contend in the league again. Anderson has won 26 games the last three seasons.
- Moeller at Elder, Oct. 11 – This game decided the Greater Catholic League South division championship last season, as Moeller rallied for a 24-21 victory. But Elder came back to avenge the regular season loss with a 35-0 win in the playoffs. Elder is expected to have a prolific offense, while Moeller looks to defend its coveted league title under first-year coach Todd Naumann.
- Fairfield at Princeton, Oct. 11 – Could one of these two teams end Colerain’s reign in the Greater Miami Conference? This game, which will feature more than five highly regarded college prospects, could go a long way in determining the GMC title. Fairfield is coming off four straight trips to the D-I state playoffs, while Princeton is loaded with talent and expected to contend for a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2007 – when the Vikings wound up 8-3.
- Lakota East at Lakota West, Oct. 18 – As if the quest for supremacy in the Lakota Local School District wasn’t enough, consider the arrival of Tom Bolden as the new head coach at West. Bolden, who enjoyed a decade-plus of success at Colerain, now faces off against East coach Rick Haynes – a former Colerain assistant before taking over at East years ago. Both served as assistant coaches at Colerain, helping to orchestrate the Cardinals’ explosive triple-option attack that became a program staple.
- Winton Woods at La Salle, Oct. 25 – In a game between two of the elite D-II teams in Ohio, Winton Woods will look to continue its recent success against GCL South teams. Last season, the Warriors beat both Elder and Moeller en route to a 12-2 finish and a state semifinals appearance. The Warriors again will face one of the most difficult schedules in the state, including this meeting at La Salle, which won three straight D-II state titles from 2014 to 2016 and again should be a solid contender.
- Covington Catholic at Conner, Oct. 25 – In what should be an outstanding late-season matchup and barometer for both teams, Conner hosts Covington Catholic, who made it to the Kentucky Class 5A state championship for the second straight year before suffering its lone loss, 20-16, to South Warren in the final. Opponents know that the Colonels will have a little extra motivation to take that final step again, which CovCath did in 2017 to cap a perfect season. Conner figures to be a contender in 6A after finishing 8-4, winning its district championship and advancing to the state 6A quarterfinals before losing to Madison Central, 28-27.
- Indian Hill at Wyoming, Nov. 1 – The game usually determines the champion in the Cincinnati Hills League. Wyoming has won five of the last six league titles. Wyoming is coming off a perfect season that culminated with coach Aaron Hancock’s team winning the Division IV state title – the Cowboys’ second title and first since winning back in 1977.