Playoff field begins to narrow the stretch | News, Sports, Jobs

Correspondent Photo / Michael G. Taylor. Ursuline receiver Will Burney carries the ball through two Tallmadge defenders in the Fighting Irish playoff win Friday night. Ursuline meets Canfield in the Division III regional semifinals this week.

Home field advantage proved everything for the local schools, who hosted games during the first round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association football tournament.

On the first playoff weekend, the area teams drew a perfect 15-0 at home.

Last Friday, the results were mixed.

Six of the 12 Mahoning Valley schools that hosted regional quarterfinals fell to lower seeded opponents. Meanwhile, only one of six local teams – Youngstown Cardinal Mooney – has managed to record an away win.

As a result, the field of area teams set to play in regional semifinals this weekend has been reduced to seven.

The playoffs began with the inclusion of 28 area schools.

In Mahoning County, Mooney, Ursuline, Canfield, West Branch and South Range all advanced with wins. Six Mahoning County schools were eliminated, including Lowellville and Valley Christian, both of which suffered their first losses of the year.

Warren John F. Kennedy (10-1) is the lone survivor in Trumbull County, while Southern (11-1) is the lone representative from Columbiana County. These two Division VII schools meet Saturday at Cardinal Stadium in Canfield for the right to represent the area in the Region 25 title game.

Starting this week, all matches will be played at neutral venues for the remainder of the tournament.

On Saturday the very first meeting between the Eagles and the Indians takes place. Kennedy comes into play after winning five straight games since his 28-14 loss to Mogadore. Southern, who has 107 points in two playoff wins, has won four straight games since losing to Valley Christian 15-6.

Mahoning County is guaranteed to send at least two schools to the regional finals. That’s because there will be two all-area matchups in the third round, involving four of the county’s five remaining schools.

In Division III, Region 9’s Canfield (10-1) and Ursuline (10-2) meet for the third time ever and for the first time in 38 years when the Cardinals and Irish meet Friday at Bo Rein Stadium in Niles.

Canfield and Ursuline last met in 1984, with Ursuline prevailing 27-7. A year earlier, the Irish defeated the Cardinals 48-14.

South Range (12-0) is one of 21 schools across the state to remain undefeated. The Raiders’ 12 wins are matched by 17 other schools. Glenville and Milton Union are 11-0 while Mogadore is 10-0.

Cardinal Mooney (along with Lucas) has the worst record (6-6) of all 112 remaining playoff teams.

On Friday, the Raiders will try to stay perfect while the Cardinals will try to get past .500 for the first time this year when the two meet at Arrowhead Stadium in Girard.

South Range finished at the top of Division V, Region 17. Mooney is one of four 13-seeded teams playing this weekend. It is the lowest seed remaining in the tournament.

Division IV, Region 13 will also play a 1v13 game when West Branch (11-1) and Akron Buchtel (7-4) meet on the blue turf at Portage Community Bank Stadium in Ravenna on Saturday.

West Branch has now won 11 straight games after failing to beat Canfield in the season opener. The Warriors average 46.4 points per game and have 106 points in two playoff games.

Buchtel has won seven in a row after starting 4-0. The Griffins recorded upset victories over Woodridge (4 seeds) and Canal Fulton Northwest (5 seeds) to reach the third round.

South Range High School will host the other Division IV, Region 13 semifinals between Jefferson (9-3) and Canton South (9-3) on Saturday. The Falcons defeated Northeast 8 opponents Poland and Girard in the first two weeks of the playoffs.

The area will also host a game involving two Geauga County schools. Chagrin Falls Kenston (9-3) and Chardon (10-1) will face off in a Division III, Region 9 semifinals at Boardman.

Chardon is the two-time defending Division III champion. The Hilltoppers were the top seed in region 9. Kenston is a 13 seed. The winner plays either Canfield or Ursuline in the regional finals.

Statewide, 25 of the 28 No. 1 seeds and 24 No. 2 seeds have advanced to the third round. Meanwhile, only eight schools ranked ninth or lower advanced to the regional semifinals.

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