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Playoff berths on the line tonight

For six area teams, the final week of the regular season serves as a final tune-up for the playoffs.

For at least 11 other area teams, what happens in week 10 will decide their postseason fate.

Poland, Garfield, Springfield, John F. Kennedy, McDonald and Southern Local have already earned a spot in the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament, which begins a week from today.

The projections are based on information provided by fantastic50.net. The website features detailed playoff projections and analysis based on past results and future probabilities.

According to the site, Poland, Garfield and Springfield all have secured a first-round home game.

In Division II Region 5, Warren G. Harding (6-3) travels to Howland (4-5) with a likely playoff berth on the line. Though not guaranteed of a spot even with a win, the Raiders are a near-lock should they defeat the Tigers. A loss would likely end the Raiders’ season.

“We just have to take care of business against a really good Howland team and go from there,” Harding coach Steve Arnold said. “This is a heated backyard rivalry. Kids know each other. Howland would love nothing more than to prevent us from playing in Week 11.

“We have to be prepared for anything. We know we’re going to get Howland’s best effort.”

Harding has won three straight since its heartbreaking five-point loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.

“We’ve come a long way,” Arnold said. “We are nowhere near where we were last year at this point because last year we had 25 seniors. However, we’ve shown maturity, which is why we’re in this position.”

Girard (6-3) is clinging to the eighth spot in Region 13. The Indians are nearly a lock to advance with a win at Niles (6-3). The Indians would need considerable help should they fall to the Red Dragons.

“We’re going into the game with the feeling that if we win, we’re in,” Girard coach Pat Pearson said. “Our kids are excited, and they should be. They have done a wonderful job of overcoming a lot of hurdles this year. They’ve been through a lot of ups and downs and they have shown their true character.”

Girard and Niles are meeting for the 77th time in what is the oldest ongoing rivalry in Trumbull County. According to newspaper reports, the two teams first met in 1898 “in a cow pasture on Evan Morris’ farm in Girard.” Niles leads the series 41-27-8.

“Niles’ defense flies around, they have a lot of play-makers and they have a big offensive line,” Pearson said. “They present a huge challenge.”

Poland (7-2) is one of five area teams currently in the top eight spots in Division IV Region 13. The Bulldogs host Struthers (6-3), which can secure its own playoff spot with a win. Even with a loss, the Wildcats have a better than 84 percent chance of advancing to Week 11.

The scenario is the same for Hubbard and Salem. Both schools will advance with a victory, however, even if they should fall, both the Eagles and Quakers are expected to stay within the top eight in Region 13.

Hubbard (6-3) visits South Range (6-3) while Salem (7-2) plays host to West Branch (2-7).

Champion (7-2) must win at Brookfield (7-2) and hope that it receives enough second-level points. A loss would end the season for the Golden Flashes.

Two other area teams hope to join Springfield and Southern in Division VI, Region 21. Brookfield faces a win-and-in scenario in its game against Champion. Western Reserve (7-2) has a better-than 90 percent chance of finishing in the eighth spot with a home win over Mineral Ridge (5-4).

Despite losing its last three games, Cardinal Mooney (4-5) is mathematically alive. The Cardinals would need to defeat Austintown Fitch (4-5) and receive considerable help.

In Division V, Region 17, South Range has a better-than 80 percent chance of advancing regardless of its outcome with Hubbard. The Raiders are a lock with a win.

In Division VII, Region 25, Lowellville (6-3) has dropped to 10th after suffering back-to-back losses. The Rockets need to defeat Waterloo (2-7) just to have an outside shot of moving up two spots.

The OHSAA will announce the playoff pairings Sunday. First-round games will be played next weekend at the home sites of the higher-seeded teams. The remainder of the tournament will be played at neutral sites.

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