Black Swamp Football

Central Catholic's Chris Jackson. Photo courtesy of Brian Dempsey (Glass City Photography).

A handful of teams from the Black Swamp Football coverage area remain alive going into the regional semifinal round of the very different 2020 playoffs.

Along with Toledo Central Catholic in D-II, Ottawa-Glandorf (D-V) joins Archbold, Columbus Grove and Fairview – all D-VI representatives – as the remaining quintet playing playoff football from the Black Swamp area.

A grand total of 104 Buckeye State teams are prepping for playoff action this weekend. Division I is down to eight teams total while Divisions II-VII all have 16 teams remaining – four from each region. 

Here are some observations as we head into the regional championship round for D-I and regional semifinals for the other six divisions.

THE COACHES GOT IT RIGHT: This season marked the first time all teams in the state could play in the playoffs, which meant the coaches voted on the seeding instead of the traditional use of computer points. While some coaches made some rather interesting seeding choices – like one that seeded Liberty Center 14th in Region 22 – coaches around the state need a round of applause for their efforts in seeding teams. 

Of the teams still remaining, 98 of the 104 are from seeds 1-8. Convoy Crestview is the lowest remaining seed playing from anywhere in the state. The Knights were seeded 13th in Division VII, Region 26. 

A pair of 12 seeds remain: Millersburg West Holmes (D-III, Region 10) and Mentor Lake Catholic (D-IV, Region 13). 

Defending Division IV state champion Clyde is making another unlikely playoff run. The Fliers became just the second No. 8 seed to win a state title a year ago and are just one of two No. 11 seeds still playing in the postseason this year. After a 3-2 regular season, Clyde was 17th in computer rankings heading into the playoffs, before knocking off Brookside at home and then upsetting Wauseon and Huron on the road. 

Clyde graduated 19 starters from last year’s team. 

Cincinnati Mariemont (D-V, Region 20) is the other 11 seed alive yet. 

Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant (D-V, Region 23) is the sixth double-digit seed left in the playoffs. The Hornets, which are a neighbor to state football powerhouse Ironton, are a 10 seed. 

Of the 28 top seeds, 25 still remain. Two of the top seeds were ousted from Division I regional semifinals last Saturday. Lakewood St. Edward fell, 35-31, to Medina while Dublin Coffman suffered an 18-15 defeat to Olentangy Liberty.

Liberty-Benton (D-V, Region 18) was the other top seed to fall, with the Eagles being routed 28-7 by North Union last Saturday. 

The rest of playoff field includes: 19 No. 2 seeds, 18 No. 3 seeds, 15 No. 4 seeds, 8 No. 8 seeds, 7 No. 6 seeds, 4 No. 7 seeds, 2 No. 8 seeds.

A ninth seed was the death card for teams around the state, as all 28 of the nine seeds are gone. 

Traditionally, since 1999, the top 8 teams from each region make the playoffs using computer ratings. Sixteen teams that are still playing this autumn would not have made the playoffs using the traditional system. Along with half a dozen ninth-rated computer points teams, 10 double-digit computer rated teams are still left: 11 seeds (Youngstown Ursuline, New Bremen), 12 seeds (Cincinnati Mariemont, Newark Catholic), 13 seed (Columbus Bishop Hartley), 14 seeds (Millersburg West Holmes, Mentor Lake Catholic), 15 seed (Shadyside) and 17 seeds (Clyde, Convoy Crestview). 

CENTRAL CATHOLIC REMAINS AMONG ELITE: Greg Dempsey is taking his Fighting Irish into their eighth-straight round of 16 appearance this week with Avon Lake coming to town for a regional semifinal. 

“Avon Lake is a sharp team with a lot of sharp players and a lot of great kids,” said Central linebacker Gio DeSantis. “We have to get ready and stay sharp ourselves. We have to be doing the same things: staying sharp, staying strong, going to practice, watching film, getting our stuff down and playing as a team.”

Central Catholic will also be looking for another Final 4 appearance and a shot at the program’s fourth state title. The Irish have made state semifinal appearances under Dempsey in 2005, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 while winning state championships in ‘05, ‘12 and ‘14. 

This is Central’s 19th playoff appearance overall under the 21-year headman, who has 210 career victories. 

TERRIFIC TITANS: With 15 playoff showings in 25 years at Ottawa-Glandorf, Ken Schriner has turned the Putnam County program into a force almost every autumn under his guidance. 

The 7-1 Titans are prepping for a huge D-V, Region 18 clash with 8-0 Otsego this Saturday in Tontogany. 

O-G put on a defensive clinic last Saturday in a 21-0 blanking of West Salem Northwestern. The Titans held the Huskies to 33 total yards on 29 plays. 

Now 19-14 in the playoffs under Schriner, the Titans are hoping to take another step in the postseason. O-G has won one regional championship in its history and stands two wins away from another. The Titans fell, 20-14, to Chagrin Falls in the 2009 state semifinals. 

With seven victories this season, Schriner is now 184-94 during his time with the Titans. 

Otsego has also captured one regional championship in program history. The Knights dropped a  34-16 contest to Nelsonville-York in the 1981 D-IV state championship game under legendary coach Dan Cocke. 

REGION 22 LIVING UP TO THE HYPE: When the playoff regions were announced in September, a lot of eyes focused on the local Division VI region … and for good reason. 

After four seat-squirming regional quarterfinals, the region’s top four seeds remain. The four quarterfinals were decided by a combined 21 points, and included one overtime game and a game-winning field goal as time expired. 

Top-seeded Archbold escaped Carey, 35-28, last week while No. 2 seed Colonel Crawford edged Liberty Center, 34-28, in overtime; No. 3 seed Fairview beat Northwood, 38-36, as time expired on a 39-yard Caleb Frank field goal and Columbus Grove stopped Tinora’s final drive with just over a minute left to preserve a 41-35 victory. 

All four teams remaining are undefeated heading into the regional semifinals this Saturday. Speedy Fairview will visit North Robinson to take on a big and physical Colonel Crawford squad while Archbold will host Columbus Grove. 

With a win, Fairview would be making its second regional championship appearance. The other came when the current seniors were sophomores in 2018. 

Meanwhile, Colonel Crawford is gunning for its first regional championship appearance. The Eagles were 1-4 in playoff games before this season. 

Archbold and Grove have the most playoff lineage of the Final Four in Region 22. Archbold is trying to get to its first state semifinal since 1990, which bookended the glory years of the John Downey days at Archbold. The Bluestreaks played in five state semifinals from 1980-90 (‘80, ‘82, ‘87, ‘88 and ‘90), and won two. Downey’s Streaks lost in the 1982 state championship but returned in 1988 and won the state crown in convincing fashion over Mogadore. 

Grove made state semifinal showings three years in a row from 2001-03 while winning the 2003 state championship with all-Ohio running back Blaine Maag. 

The Bulldogs are six years removed from their other state semifinal showing. 

MAC ATTACK: The Midwest Athletic Conference still remains the gold standard for small-school conferences around the state, with four teams (Coldwater, New Bremen, Versailles and Marion Local) remaining in the playoffs.

The conference has won a whopping 35 state football championships. 

Marion Local, which has captured 11 of those, is a heavy favorite to repeat as D-VII state champion next month. The Flyers have outscored their last five foes, 203-0. Marion Local started the season with a 23-14 win over Ft. Recovery, edged New Bremen, 21-13, and nipped Versailles, 21-20, in overtime. 

Coldwater knocked off Ft. Recovery, 28-26, in a regional quarterfinal last Saturday. 

Going back to 1990, a team from the MAC has not won a state football championship just six times: ‘18, ‘09, ‘02, ‘96, ‘93 and 91. 

Meanwhile, since 2005, the MAC has won multiple state titles in the years of: ‘19, ‘17, ‘15, ‘14, ‘13, ‘12, ‘07, ‘06 and ‘05. 

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