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OHSAA playoffs not for all area teams

The Ohio High School Athletic Association football playoff field is set — sort of.

On Friday, the OHSAA released the regions for the upcoming playoffs, which begin Oct. 9. Schools had until last Thursday to opt into the playoffs, which this year is all-inclusive.

A total of 664 schools across seven divisions are currently registered to take part in the playoffs. However, schools now have until Sept. 24 to opt back out of the playoffs without penalty.

A total of 709 schools are registered for OHSAA-sanctioned 11-man football.

Locally, five area teams — Mathews, Southington, East Palestine, Sebring and Windham — have opted out of the playoffs.

“I had a long conversation with our coach and administrators and we just came to the conclusion that it is best for our kids and our program that we get to dictate who we play in week seven,” said Mathews athletic director Mike Palumbo. “There are so many unknowns about exactly how the playoffs will work. The seedings, the possible long travel time. No revenue to be made.

“We just didn’t want to face a situation where we put our kids in an unfavorable situation.”

Schools eliminated from the playoffs or that choose not to enter the playoffs have the option to schedule additional regular season games through Nov. 14.

Mathews, which currently owns a 3-1 record, will host Sebring on Oct. 8, the day before the start of the playoffs.

“It’s a solid match-up for both teams, we usually play Sebring in Week 3, and they beat us last year,” Palumbo said. “I think the kids are excited about getting another shot at them. And with it being on a Thursday (with no school on Friday) we feel like the game will garner some interest throughout the area.”

BREAKING THE CURSE

In both 2018 and 2019, Leetonia won its first three games before falling in week four. In 2018, the Bears would go on to lose five straight before finishing the season 4-6. Last year a three-game losing streak was halted in week seven. The Bears would finish 6-4.

“I was telling my players all week long last week that this year we had to break the week four curse,” said Leetonia coach Paul Hulea. “We needed to get over that hump and get to the next level.”

Mission accomplished.

On Friday, Leetonia recorded a 30-6 road win over Wellsville. The Bears are now 4-0 for the first time since 2008.

“The great thing about this group is that they just keep working, they have always been willing to do anything to improve as a team,” Hulea said. “With so much uncertainty surrounding this season, you couldn’t help but wonder how the kids would handle all of the adversity and the changes.”

“This group just kept working through it all. They just kept plugging along.”

Hulea said he is especially pleased with the play of his defense, which has given up just 41 points. He also noted that the altered season has actually been positive in some ways.

“In a typical season, every game is a pressure-cooker because of the playoff chase,” Hulea said. “This season is different, it’s almost more relaxing for the players and coaches. It’s definitely something we’ve never experienced.”

Leetonia looks to go to 5-0 Friday when it hosts East Palestine.

ON A ROLL

Mahoning County still boasts six undefeated teams. They include; Austintown Fitch, Canfield, Jackson-Milton, South Range, Springfield and West Branch. … West Branch is 4-0 for the first time since 2007, when it finished 9-3. … Springfield has now won 19 straight regular-season games. The Tigers’ last regular-season loss occurred two years ago today. … Hubbard, Leetonia, United, Garrettsville Garfield and Pymatuning Valley are also 4-0. The Lakers have outscored four opponents 196-7.

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