For the second straight year, a record number of local teams have qualified for the Ohio High School Athletic Association football tournament.
On Sunday, the OHSAA released their first round playoff pairings. Of the 448 qualifiers, 13 are from Mahoning County. These include: Austintown Fitch, Canfield, Ursuline, Chaney, West Branch, Struthers, Poland, South Range, Cardinal Mooney, Valley Christian, Jackson-Milton, Lowellville, and Springfield.
Trumbull County is represented by seven schools: Girard, Hubbard, Liberty, Brookfield, Mineral Ridge, Warren JFK and Mathews.
Columbiana County schools stepping up in Week 11 include Salem, Beaver Local, United, Southern and Lisbon.
The 25 Mahoning Valley schools surpass last year’s total of 22.
Also on the rise are Garrettsville Garfield, Pymatuning Valley and Windham.
Fifteen area schools ranked in the top eight in their respective regions. These schools will host a first round match.
West Branch (Division IV, Region 13), South Range (DV, Region 17), and Warren John F. Kennedy (D-VII, Region 25) all finished their respective regions on top.
South Range (10-0), along with Lowellville (10-0) and Valley Christian (9-0), ended the regular season with perfect records.
There are several all-area matchups in the first round games, including a rematch from the regular season. Hubbard (6-4) will visit Girard (7-3) for the second time in three weeks. In week eight, the Eagles fell to the Indians 49-14.
Liberty (4-5) held onto 16th place in Division V, Region 17 despite falling to Garfield over the weekend. The Leopards now face the daunting task of playing in the South Range. The Raiders, winners of 30 straight regular season games, have advanced to the Region 17 title game in each of the past two years.
Mathews (8-2) slipped out of the top eight in D-VII, Region 21 after a loss to Pymatuning Valley. Meanwhile, Springfield (6-4) moved up to eighth place thanks to a win over Sebring. As a result, the Mustangs will travel to New Middletown to play the Tigers. Springfield has won six straight games since the season started 0-4.
Springfield has won three consecutive regional titles.
Brookfield (9-1) lost his opening week game to Ursuline. The Warriors have since won nine straight games and will host Pymatuning Valley (4-6).
Just a week ago, Poland lost 27:13 at home to Jefferson. Now the Bulldogs must travel to Ashtabula County to take on the Falcons.
Kennedy (8-1) will look to win his third straight D-VII championship in Region 25, starting with a game against Fairport Harding (4-6). The Skippers narrowly secured 16th place to finish the regular season thanks to back-to-back wins against Ashtabula St. John.
The region is represented in the tournament in all divisions except Division I. Seven schools in the region ranked in the top 16 in both Division VI, Region 13 and Division VII, Region 25.
Unlike previous years, when games in all rounds of the playoffs were split between Friday and Saturday, this year all first and second round games will be played on Friday, kicking off at 7:00 p.m. There will be 24 games this Friday involving area teams.
The higher-seeded teams will host matches in both the first and second rounds of the tournament. Games will be played at neutral venues for the remainder of the postseason.
The six-week tournament ends on the first weekend in December with the crowning of seven state champions. All seven state title games will be played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
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