Playoff picture taking shape after Week 9

MOVING FORWARD — Steubenville’s Ryan Rauch attempts to break a tackle during Friday’s game against Cardinal O’Hara at Harding Stadium. (Photo by Michael D. McElwain)

Big Red is in, Indian Creek and Catholic Central are close while Weir High has moved up in the West Virginia Class AA ranks.

So things stand as the year’s fastest 10 weeks near the end of their annual run.

Steubenville, Ohio’s defending Division IV champion, has, according to Joe Eitel, clinched a home game for the Region 13 playoffs. Eitel has Big Red, winners of eight straight, third in this week’s rankings behind Perry and Hubbard.

Youngstown East is fourth with Poland fifth and Indian Creek sixth. Girard and Peninsula Woodridge round out the top eight, at least at the moment. Hubbard hosts Youngstown East Friday while Poland travels to 8-1 Canfield, a contender for a Division III, Region 9 playoff berth.

Big Red, which will be making its 18th straight appearance in the postseason, finishes its regular season Friday with a home game against University School, located in Hunting Valley near Cleveland and coached by Ben Malbasa, son of Steubenville native Steve Malbasa. The Preppers are a Division III school.

Indian Creek, now 7-2, hosts rival Edison Thursday in the annual Route 43 bowl. The Wildcats, according to Eitel, have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

In his updated playoff projections, Drew Pasteur has Big Red finishing third and hosting Woodridge, which opened with four straight losses but has reeled off five consecutive wins since. Pasteur predicts Indian Creek will finish fifth and travel to Girard for a first round game.

Fans should remember playoff games for Divisions IV, V and VII will be played on Saturdays this year while games in Divisions I, II, III and VI are scheduled for Fridays.

Eitel has coach Steve Daley and his band of Catholic Central Crusaders ranked fifth in Division VI, Region 21. Central improved to 7-2 with its Saturday victory over Madonna.

Mogadore leads the region followed by Kirtland, which was the D VI runner up in 2017, Rootstown and Creston Norwayne.

The Crusaders will drop the regular season curtain Saturday with a huge points game against unbeaten Fort Frye, which already has secured a D VI, Region 23 berth. The Cadets are 8-0. Their Week 4 game against Federal Hocking was canceled.

Pasteur sees the Crusaders finishing at 7-3 and landing in the eighth spot, meaning Daley and company would travel to Mogadore for a first- round game. Central visited Mogadore in 2012 and fell 49-24.

Toronto remains alive in Division VII, Region 25. The Red Knights are 3-6 and currently ranked 10th. Toronto finishes with a home game against arch-rival Wellsville. Pasteur predicts the Red Knights will win their finale but fall just short of a playoff berth.

Thanks to its 29-28, come-from-behind victory at East Liverpool, Weir has jumped to ninth in the Class AA ranks according to

The top eight teams get to host first round games. The Red Riders, also 7-2, will play their regular season finale Friday at Brooke.

“We have to win next week to solidify our place in those playoffs,” Weir coach Tony Filberto said following the thriller in East Liverpool. “We feel we can make some noise in those playoffs. There are a lot of good teams in AA and we are one of them.”

112th meeting

Ohio’s seventh-longest high school football rivalry will continue Friday when Bellaire visits Martins Ferry. The meeting will be the 112th all-time between the schools. The series began in 1907 and is ranked as the 82nd oldest rivalry in the nation.

This year’s meeting will have even more meaning as both teams prep for the Division V, Region 19 playoffs.

Bellaire (7-2) has punched its ticket according to Eitel and is ranked third this week. The Purple Riders are 6-3 and control their own destiny. They are seventh at the moment.

Pasteur predicts Ferry will knock off the Big Reds and finish sixth in the region. He has Bellaire finishing eighth.

Honoring Paul

Speaking of long-standing and fierce rivalries, Massillon and Canton McKinley will take to the field Saturday for their 129th-annual matchup.

Before they do, there will be a tribute to one of the icons of football. On Friday, the Paul Brown Museum will debut, complete with tailgaters and a parade.

The museum, located in a new wing of the Massillon Museum, has been in the works for years. Brown, of course, was the first and longtime head coach of the Cleveland Browns. He also coached at Massillon and Tiger Stadium is named in his honor.

Among Brown’s many innovations were sending plays to the quarterback from the sidelines, using films to help players develop, inventing the football face mask and forming the first athletic booster club.

Big night

Fort Frye had a senior night to remember Friday, rolling to a 31-12 victory over Shenandoah. Not only did the Cadet senior class win its 40th game but it also clinched its fourth-straight Pioneer Valley Conference championship.

The Cadets, of course, will be making the long trip to Steubenville Saturday to test Catholic Central.

Friday’s win provided the Fort Frye seniors with an unblemished PVC record as they went a perfect 18-for-18 in conference games during the past four years.

Two for a grand

Thanks to their Week 9 performances, Indian Creek’s Trevor Fante and Edison’s Anthony Sinicropi both secured a spot in the 1,000 yard club.

Fante ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns as the Redskins held off Columbiana Crestview 21-12. For the season, he has 1,009 yards (third best in The Herald Star/Daily Times coverage area) and 167 attempts. He also has scored 12 touchdowns.

Sinicropi completed six of his 10 passing attempts for 133 yards in Edison’s 42-0 road win at Buckeye Local. He connected with Andrew Kinney for a 51-yard score.

In his first season as Edison’s starting quarterback, Sinicropi now has thrown for 1,108 yards, according to unofficial statistics, and 12 touchdowns.

Gridiron notes

¯ Congrats to Toronto’s Nate Karaffa for establishing the school record for career passing yards in the Week 9 loss at United Local. He broke the standard previously held by Bobby Petras when he connected with Frank Fulton for a 78-yard completion. Karaffa now has 3,016 career passing yards and has a chance against Wellsville this week to break Petras’ record of 27 career touchdown passes. As Toronto coach Josh Franke said “it couldn’t have happened to a better kid.”

¯Big Red’s Jaziah Blackwell has been a force at defensive end for Steubenville the past two seasons. On Friday, he was a terror at tailback. The senior ran for 116 yards and four touchdowns as Big Red whipped Cardinal O’Hara, 54-18. Blackwell had a touchdown hat trick in the second quarter, scoring on runs of 2, 3 and 22 yards.

¯ Speaking of touchdown hat tricks, Jeffrey Dawson and Jayden Keeder both had one in Central’s 70-6 homecoming rout of Madonna. And, they each scored their three touchdowns before the half. Dawson had scoring runs of 4, 6 and 14. Keeder, on the other hand, crossed the goal from 46, 17 and 18 yards away. Dawson finished the game with 120 yards while Keeder added 103 on just six carries.

¯ Central and Big Red both obviously had monster games running the football. The Crusaders finished with 397 yards and nine touchdowns. Ten different players got carries for Central and freshman Tim Lamantia scored his first varsity touchdown on a 1-yard plunge. Big Red, on the other hand, compiled 384 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Joe Brown came off Reno Saccoccia’s bench to run for 102 while Tayveon Crawford, the leading rusher in The Herald Star/Daily Times coverage area, contributed 93.

¯ Thanks to its 43-0 road victory at East Fairmont, Oak Glen improved to 5-4 on the season. The Golden Bears finish with a home game against Beaver Local Friday. Oak Glen has not had a winning season since 2011 when it finished 10-2.

¯ Buckeye Local and Brooke remain in search of their initial victory as the season winds down. The Panthers close with a visit to Harrison Central Friday and for the eighth straight season, the V.A.L.E.S. (Veterans, Athletics, Legionnaires, Education and Sportsmanship) Trophy will be on the line. The trophy was created through the schools and all of the veterans organizations through the two school districts. Brooke has two opportunities left to collect its first W. The Bruins entertain Weir this week then travel to currently winless Princeton in the season finale.

Top stats

Running wild

¯ 166, Trevor Fante, Indian Creek, 2 touchdowns

¯ 152, Sebastian Spencer, Weir High, 2 touchdowns

¯ 146, Kaleb Waggoner, Edison, 3 touchdowns

¯ 120, Jeffrey Dawson, Catholic Central, 3 touchdowns

¯ 116, Jaziah Blackwell, Big Red, 4 touchdowns

¯ 103, Jayden Keeder, Catholic Central, 3 touchdowns

¯ 102, Joe Brown, Big Red

¯ 93, Tayveon Crawford, Big Red

¯ 91, Tucker Coultrap, Harrison Central


¯ 215, Gage Yost, Brooke, 17 of 42

¯ 154, Kobe Mitchell, Harrison Central, 13 of 29, 3 scores

¯ 149, Seth Richardson, Buckeye Local, 14 of 30

¯ 133, Anthony Sinicropi, Edison, 6 of 10, score

¯ 127, Nate Karaffa, Toronto, 6 of 12

Hands team

¯ 6, Shayne Christian, Buckeye Local, 73

¯ 5, Tyler West, Harrison Central, 101, 3 touchdowns

¯ 4, Gavin Dietrich, Madonna, 53, touchdown

¯ 4, Brian Palmer, Buckeye Local, 48

¯ 4, Caden Dalton, Harrison Central, 23