Playoff football returns to Stow this week after the announcement from the OHSAA on Sunday of the teams that qualified for the postseason.
The Bulldogs are advancing to the Division I playoffs for the first time since 1995. Stow also made the playoffs in 1988 and is 1-2 in the postseason, which started in 1972.
Stow (9-1) will host Elyria (7-3) at 7 p.m. Saturday in a regional quarterfinal. The Bulldogs defeated the visiting Pioneers 20-7 in a Week 9 matchup that allowed Stow to clinch the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title.
Stow features a strong team with four senior captains: running back-linebacker Matt Beech, wide receiver-cornerback Brian Groves, wide receiver-defensive back Jonte Pooler and center Joe Kollar. Zaire Lewis and Ransom McPhee are two other senior playmakers.
“This is a senior class that started with me as freshmen,” Stow coach Mark Nori said. “My staff and I are going into our fourth year of coaching them. I think this is a situation that the players have bought into the program that we are selling. We have revamped the off-season weight-lifting and conditioning programs and the kids have worked hard. This is a great group. We have a great locker room. There was a vote on the captains and four were chosen, but really all of the senior class deserves a lot of credit.”
The development of junior quarterback Andy Wargo and sophomore tailback Jayson Gobble has also been pivotal to Stow’s success.
Stow is one of eight Summit County schools that have advanced to the playoffs, and each are five wins shy of winning a state championship. The other seven are Hudson in Division I, Ellet and Nordonia in Division II, St. Vincent-St. Mary in Division III, Woodridge in Division IV, Manchester in Division V and Mogadore in Division VI.
Ellet, the City Series champion in each of the past two seasons, and St. V-M, the defending Division III state champion, both finished off 10-0 regular seasons last week. Suburban League champ Highland and Northeastern Buckeye Conference champ Louisville also enter the playoffs at 10-0 in Division II and Division III, respectively.
Ellet is making its second playoff appearance in a row and third overall. The Orangemen are led by senior captains Matt Geer, Hussain Hamdan, Jake Fisher and Dakota King. Geer and juniors Jacob Ivery and Cle’Von Burch are key running backs for Ellet, Fisher is the quarterback and Hamdan and King are valuable two-way players.
“This has been a very exciting season,” Ellet coach Joe Yost said. “We have a very special group of kids who play very well together.”
Ellet (10-0) hosts Perrysburg (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
St. V-M is making its fifth playoff appearance in a row and 18th overall. The Fighting Irish feature a strong senior class under coach Dan Boarman that includes Ohio State recruits, running back Parris Campbell Jr. and linebacker Dante Booker Jr., along with defensive linemen twin brothers Aaron Adkins and Tony Adkins and linebacker-running back Newman Williams.
St. V-M (10-0) hosts Chagrin Falls Kenston (7-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Regular playoff participants Wadsworth and Canton McKinley are back in the postseason in Division I. Massillon is a Division II qualifier, in its first year of not being designated a Division I school.
Nordonia will make its second playoff appearance in a row and will travel to play at Massillon in a matchup of 8-2 teams at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Friday also features the following games — Division II: Bedford (9-1) at Kent Roosevelt (9-1), Avon Lake (8-2) at Highland (10-0); Division III: Aurora (9-1) at Louisville (10-0); Division IV: Cleveland Benedictine (7-3) at Woodridge (8-2); Division VI: Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (9-1) at Mogadore (9-1).
Division I has some intriguing matchups at 7 p.m. Saturday that include Hudson (9-1) hosting Toledo Whitmer (6-4), Canton McKinley (9-1) hosting Cleveland St. Ignatius (6-4) and Wadsworth (9-1) hosting Cleveland Heights (9-1).
Manchester (8-2) hosts Youngstown Ursuline (4-5) in Division V at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Other area playoff qualifiers are Brunswick in Division I, Brecksville-Broadview Heights in Division II, Marlington and Buckeye in Division III, Triway in Division IV, Black River, Fairless, Northwestern and Chippewa in Division V and St. Thomas Aquinas in Division VI.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org.