Week 6: 4 schools seeking perfection
When the high school football playoffs were extended to five weeks in 1999, Poland became the first school in Ohio history to post a 15-0 record. The Bulldogs went through the ’99 regular season undefeated, then won five playoff games en route to a Division III state title.
Three other schools in the ’99 tournament — St. Ignatius, Sandusky Perkins and Delphos St. John’s — would go on to duplicate Poland’s 15-0 finish.
If a local team is going to become the first to go 16-0 in 2021, it will have to be accomplished by either Hubbard, West Branch, South Range or Garrettsville Garfield. The four schools are among 56 schools statewide to own 5-0 records through the first half of the regular season.
16 other schools in the state are 4-0 while five schools stand at 3-0.
With the playoff field expanded to 448 teams in seven divisions, it will now take six playoff wins for a team to be crowned state champion.
At least one of the unbeaten area schools will suffer defeat before the start of the playoffs. Hubbard (Division III, Region 9) and South Range (DV, Region 17) meet at South Range in the final week of the regular season.
South Range and Garfield would not both be able to advance to a state title game. They both are in Region 17.
West Branch competes in Division IV, Region 13.
Hubbard continues its quest for perfection tonight when it hosts Jefferson (3-2). Next week, the Eagles travel to Lakeview. Jefferson and Lakeview are a combined 2-27 in Northeast 8 Conference play since the inception of the league in 2019. Hubbard’s remaining schedule also includes Girard (4-1) and Niles (3-1) before the season-finale against South Range.
The Eagles are currently ranked seventh in Region 9.
West Branch is the lone team in the Mahoning Valley to own a top spot in the latest computer rankings. The Warriors play host to Howland (2-3). The Warriors’ remaining schedule includes a home game against Carrollton (4-1) and a season-ending road game at Salem (4-1).
South Range and Garfield are ranked second and third respectively in Region 17. Ironically in 2019 Garfield finished the regular season ranked third, one spot ahead of South Range. A year ago the G-Men finished first in the region, with the Raiders in second place.
South Range and Garfield both own current 15-game regular season winning streaks.
South Range’s remaining schedule includes four teams which currently have winning records. Tonight the Raiders host Girard (4-1). The Raiders also have home games against Jefferson and Hubbard and road games against Niles (3-2) and Lakeview (0-5).
On paper, Garfield’s first half of the regular season may have been more challenging than what lies ahead. The G-Men already have victories over Warren John F. Kennedy (3-1) and LaBrae (4-1). Garfield’s next five games are against opponents which are a combined 10-14. Tonight the G-Men host Champion.
During the 15-week era of the playoffs from 1999-2019, the OHSAA crowned 133 state champions. Of those, 48 teams were a perfect 15-0. In 2006 Youngstown Cardinal Mooney won a state title with a 14-0 mark.
During last year’s COVID-shortened season, the seven state champions included a pair of teams that went 12-0 (Chardon, Coldwater) and a pair of 11-0 teams (Akron Hoban, Kirtland).