Local teams assigned regions

As the Mahoning Valley seemingly morphs into an area with more small schools than large, that trend is reflected — perhaps not purposely — in the football region assignments released Thursday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. (See list on Page C4)

The 2019 season will be the first time the area will not have a Division I school, with Austintown Fitch’s drop to Division II where they join Warren G. Harding and Boardman.

The Division II, Region 5 lineup remains essentially the same as previous years, with the Valley schools competing against opponents from northeast Ohio, notably Cuyahoga, Summit, Lake counties, etc.

But in Divisions III-VII, there are major changes with the southern border of the “northeast” region dropping much further south along the Ohio River.

Division III, Region 9 includes Jefferson — notably Steubenville — and Tuscarawas counties, in addition to the more typical northeast counties, while Division IV, Region 13 includes schools from Jefferson and Carroll counties.

The Division V, Region 17 southern border includes Belmont County (Bellaire and Martins Ferry) in 2019, after only going as far south as Columbiana County in previous seasons.

Divisions VI (Region 21) and VII (Region 25) previously included schools as far south as Jefferson County, but now Region 21 goes all the way down to Athens and Washington counties, and Region 25 has schools in locations as far away as Huron County, Knox County and Harrison County.

With potential first-round games involving very long bus trips, it will be more important than ever for area teams to claim homefield advantage in the first round.