MOGADORE - Catholic Central faces a huge challenge today when it travels to Summit County for a date with powerful Mogadore.
The 6-4 Crusaders, losers of two in a row, earned the eighth seed in Division VI Region 21 thanks to their body of work during the 2012 season. The top-seeded Wildcats (10-0) ran through the regular season unbeaten and, earlier this week, captured their sixth Associated Press poll state championship.
Champions of the Portage Trail Conference County Division, Mogadore won eight of its 10 games by double-digits, including all seven league matchups. The team's average margin of victory this season was 23.6 points.
Kickoff for today's contest is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The Wildcats, who earned the 600th victory in school history earlier this season, have qualified for the playoffs 14 years in a row and 26 times overall. They have captured three state titles and sport a 46-22 postseason record.
Central is no stranger to the playoffs, either. The Crusaders, who last made it in 2007, will make their 10th appearance and earned an Ohio championship in 1993. The last meeting between the schools came in the 2005 playoffs, Central recording a 35-13 win.
"We know we have our work cut out for us with Mogadore," Steve Daley said. "But, at the same time, they have to deal with us too and that's the way we have to look at things."
For Central, the winning record was the first in four seasons. Daley indicated that was one of the goals set by his team.
"At the beginning of the season, the kids wanted to have a winning record and make the playoffs," he noted. "They worked really hard to achieve both goals and here we are.
"Now starts a new season. We've preached every week go 1-0 each week and we were able to do that six times. Now, it's a situation of you have no choice - you have to go 1-0 or you're done. We got in, we're here and now teams have to deal with us. That is the attitude and approach we are taking. We're not looking at seeds; we're just realizing we're in."
Harrison Central (7-3) at St. Clairsville (10-0)
ST. CLAIRSVILLE - When St. Clairsville and Harrison Central met in Week 5 of the regular season, it was a big game with Buckeye 8 position, bragging rights and the Coal Bucket on the line.
However, when the two meet at 7:30 today at Red Devil Stadium, the only thing that will matter will be a trip to the Ohio Division IV, Region 15 semifinals the following week. Coach Brett McLean's Red Devils will bring a 10-0 record and top seed in the region into the first-round playoff encounter, while Coach Justin Kropka's Huskies (7-3) enter as the No. 8 seed.
"It is one of those things that you hate to play another OVAC team in the first round because someone is getting knocked out," McLean said. "But the Buckeye 8 is such a quality conference and it gets teams ready for big games and there are a lot of points available for teams to make the playoffs.
"And yes, we are familiar with Harrison Central, but they are very familiar with us, as well. We meet earlier in the season now, but it used to be a huge Week 10 game for both teams. There is also just so much respect between the two coaching staffs and the kids, it is a very sportsmanship-oriented rivalry."
It will be the third consecutive home playoff game for St. Clairsville, with the Devils edging Chesapeake by a 30-27 count last year, before losing in the second round, and being upset by Lakeview, 42-21, in the 2010 regional quarterfinals.
This year brings a familiar opponent in Harrison Central, one in which St. C. has had its way with the last three times they have met. Not only have the Red Devils won all three of those games, they have outscored the Huskies by a whopping 124-13 margin, including this year's 42-6 victory.
Actually, the 42 points McLean's team tallied that night represents a season low for St. Clairsville's high-powered offense.
"We tried for an entire week earlier this season to find a chink in their armor," Kropka commented. "Now they are giving me a second shot and I still don't know if there is any there. Let's just call a spade a spade - they are a great football team. When you complete a 10-0 regular season and beat everyone on your schedule by at least three or fourth touchdowns you have earned the right to be called that.
"But upsets happen, and it is why they play the games. We know that we are heavy underdogs and anyone who doesn't realize that must have missed the first 10 games of the season. But this is what I love, if I didn't I would never have taken this job. It's always fun, but when I got here it wasn't a very good situation, now not only are we sitting here talking about the playoffs, but I can even use the word, 'again,' and that is great stuff."
Clay-Battelle (9-0) at Madonna (8-1)
WEIRTON - The Madonna Blue Dons are on a roll with an 8-1 record, seven straight wins, the Class 1A Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship and the lofty No. 5 spot in the West Virginia Class A rankings.
They clinched a playoff spot with the 48-6 victory over Toronto last week, and they are pretty much assured of home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but if they want to solidify that they truly are one of the better Class A teams in the state, they need to knock off unbeaten Clay-Battelle, which invades Jimmy Carey Stadium at 7 p.m. today.
The game was originally on the Blue Don schedule as a Saturday night contest. However, the schedule was drawn up months ago before anyone knew that the Weir High football team wasn't playing this Friday. So, to facilitate the planning for the playoffs, which begin with a Sunday morning meeting at the WVSSAC offices in Parkersburg, the game was moved to Friday.
The Cee Bees are big and physical, according to Madonna coach Doug Taylor, who said that seems to be the description of the Clay-Battelle football team year in and year out.
Taylor, who has scouted the Cee Bees twice, said one of his concerns is the two big tackles they have.
"They are a typical Clay-Battelle team and our major concern for us, particularly on the defensive side, are their two big tackles," he said.
He was referring to Hunter Six (6-0, 305) and Dustin Varner (6-5, 325). Both are juniors. Six has a freshman brother on the roster that goes 6-feet 4-inches and weighs in at 285 pounds.
Magnolia (8-1) at Oak Glen (4-5)
NEW MANCHESTER - It is a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire as the Oak Glen football team prepares to end its first season under head coach Ian Whittington.
The Golden Bears will take their 4-5 record and host Magnolia at 7 p.m. today.
"Point Pleasant was a good Class AAA team," Whittington said about the Golden Bears' 50-6 loss to the state- ranked Big Blacks. "Now we turn our attention to Magnolia, which is a really tough assignment."
The Blue Eagles boast an 8-1 record, have won all eight games in a row since the 21-20 loss to Linsly in the opener, and they are ranked second in the latest state Class A rankings.
Magnolia, which had been a very good Class AA team over the past few years. even winning the state championship in 2010, dropped to Class A this year because of decreased enrollment. Now, they could be a dominant team in the lower classification.
"They probably are the best team in Class A," Whittington said. "They have one of the best football players in the state in (Stephen) Rogalski and their running back (Drew) Keller isn't too bad either."
Brooke (3-6) at Morgantown (7-2)
MORGANTOWN - Though its season ends tonight at 7-2 Morgantown, the Brooke Bruins (3-6) get a little taste of postseason action when they take on a Mohigans squad that is state-ranked in West Virginia Class AAA and coming off a dominant 35-14 win over University.
"There's no doubt that's how we've been approaching it," said Brooke head coach Sean Blumette.
"Definitely this is our playoff game. It's a chance to show what we're capable of.
"We've won three of our last four and two in a row. This would be something to something to build on. To go into Morgantown, where Coach Bowers has continued to build on a strong program with a lot of talent, on their home field, in a nice environment, and play well is very important."
Adding to the game's importance is this is the first of two consecutive regular season games between the teams.
"It is even more important because it's where we open up next year," said Blumette. "It is slightly awkward in that regard because scheduling issues forced us to move this to the opener, but it makes it even more important to have a good showing."
Working in the Bruins favor is they have, for only the second time this season, the duo of seniors Alec Buchmelter and Raleigh Mason together in the lineup.