McDonald outside looking in at playoffs

Many area high school football fans are looking forward to a potential Girard at Lakeview playoff game later this week, but the attention of some is drawn to the unfortunate plight of the 8-2 McDonald Blue Devils.

With the Ohio High School Athletic Association about to release the official final regional standings and the subsequent first-round playoff pairings today, fans across the state have been perusing the excellent web site www.joeeitel.com which calculates — unofficially — the region standings throughout the state.

In many disclaimers found on the site, Mr. Eitel insists that the numbers still can change due to Saturday results and that incorrectly reported scores, forfeits and-or schedule changes can affect the standings.

However, according to the site, 13 teams in the Tribune Chronicle coverage area will make the playoffs, with McDonald on the outside looking in. The Blue Devils stand 10th in Division VI, Region 21 and of course only the top eight schools qualify.

The problem many fans have expressed on social media and elsewhere is that McDonald deserves to qualify, while teams with records below .500 — such as John F. Kennedy, which finished 4-6 — do not.

Of course, the two schools are in different regions — JFK is in Division VII, Region 25 — but it’s easy to have sympathy with those arguments. The fact of the matter is Region 21 was a very strong region this season — as was Division IV, Region 13 — and Region 25 was relatively weak.

But in the end, there is nothing anyone can do about that. Schools must play the schedule in front of them, and if the teams they defeat do not do well … them’s the breaks.

McDonald lost in overtime to Columbiana early in the season, then suffered a heart-breaking loss to Western Reserve in week nine on a kickoff return for a touchdown after McDonald had just taken the lead. That’s unfortunate, but it has happened before.

Brookfield was in a similar situation last year, missing the playoffs despite the fact all three of its losses were by less than a touchdown.

In the end, the focus will turn later this week to the teams that did qualify: JFK, Mathews, Windham and Valley Christian in Division VII; Lakeview, Girard, Cardinal Mooney and Poland in Division IV; Liberty and Western Reserve in Division VI; unbeaten Grand Valley in Division V; undefeated Canfield in Division III; and Boardman in Division II.

First-round matchups, according to the Eitel site (remember, these are not official): D4-Girard at Lakeview and Mooney at Poland; D7-JFK at Cuyahoga Heights, Mathews at Dalton, Valley Christian at East Canton and Lisbon at Windham; D6-Liberty at Kirtland and Western Reserve at Norwayne; D5-Gilmour Academy at Grand Valley; D3-Aurora at Canfield; D2-Boardman at Massillon.

Remember, all games are on Friday night this season. In the second round and beyond, games will be played at neutral sites. All seven state title games are scheduled at the former Fawcett Stadium in Canton Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

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