By Adam C. Warner
A variety of mainstays and newcomers will be featured in the semifinal round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs. Who will survive the battle of unbeatens, Malvern or Hopewell-Loudon? Can St. Ignatius pull off another some more postseason magic?
OHSAA State Semifinals
Hoover Vikings (12-1) vs. St. Ignatius Wildcats (12-1), Nov. 22: The Vikings are chomping at the bit to get to the Div. I state championship after making their first semifinal game appearance since 1984. Hoover's defense appears to be hittings its stride at the right time after shutting out a talented Glenoak team last week, 14-0. Expect quarterback Brett Tulodzieski and running back Erick Howard -- a 2,000-yard rusher -- to be the top threats for the Vikings. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are coming off of a dominating 37-0 blowout win over Strongsville, the team's 13th straight over their rival. St. Ignatius has allowed just seven points total in three playoff games and will be hard-pressed to continue the trend this weekend if elite safety Dan Fox (concussion) is not healthy enough to go. Watch for quarterback Andrew Holland to be a major force for the Wildcats.
Pickerington Central Tigers (13-0) vs. Elder Panthers (12-1), Nov. 22: The Panthers are breathing a sigh of relief after escaping last weekend's thrilling 27-20 overtime victory over Colerain, but now face a challenging opponent in the semifinals in Pickerington Central. Wideout Josh Jones and quarterback Mark Miller will be looking to hookup early and often for the Pantehrs. All the while, the Tigers are riding the coattails of their punishing defense to the Div. I semifinal. Last week, the Tigers stunned top-seeded Hilliard Davidson, 7-3, to advance. Pickington Central has held seven different opponents to seven points or less this season, including five shutouts, and will likely need another giant effort to take down perennial power Elder.
Aurora Greenmen (11-2) vs. Big Walnut Golden Eagles (11-2), Nov. 22: The Greenmen are riding high following last weekend's 28-7 win over Walsh Jesuit for the Region 9 title, the team's second in three years. Next order of business for Aurora is to get to the Div. III championship. The Greenmen will likely rely on a steady dose of their potent rushing attack led by Steven Yung. The unit totaled 245 years last week. Aurora faces a difficult opponent in Big Walnut, a squad that captured the Div. III title last season and upended top seed Avon last week, 24-15. Watch for quarterback Johnny Cannell to be a dual threat, in addition to running back Patrick Daugherty and wideout Eugene Cannaday. Defensive tackle Colton Griffis is a force in the trenches for Big Walnut.
Genoa Area Comets (13-0) vs. Archbishop Alter Knights (11-2), Nov. 21: Two unlikely squads clash in the Div. IV semifinals this weekend. No. 6 Alter heads into the matchup on the heels of a monster 31-21 upset win over No. 1 Coldwater for the regional championship. Quarterback Austin Boucher is the catalyst for the Knights and will likely be game-planned around by the Comets. Boucher is coming off an 89-yard rushing performance with two scores, in addition to 124 yards passing. Meanwhile, undefeated Genoa is flying high after posting three convincing playoff wins so far, including a 40-21 victory over Ottawa-Glandorf for the regional title. Running backs Marcus Vicars and Blair Skilliter and quarterback Matt Bassitt will have to continue their exceptional play to earn a spot in the finals.
Steubenville Big Red (13-0) vs. New Lexington Panthers (12-1), Nov. 21: Steubenville is coming off its sixth-straight undefeated season and has plenty of momentum after dispatching Coshocton, Cardinal Mooney and then Perry last week, 35-17. Quarterback Dwight Macon leads an explosive offensive unit that can get it done both on the ground and through the air. Meanwhile, Clint Cannon heads a formidable New Lexington attack at quarterback and is backed by sure-handed running back R.J. Starkey. Cannon has thrown for more than 1,700 yards with 16 scores.
Liberty Union Lions (12-1) vs. Youngstown Ursuline Fighting Irish (13-0), Nov. 22: These two division juggernauts are evenly matched, which should make for one exciting Division V semifinal. Watch for this game to be decided in the final quarter. Liberty Union has won behind its dominating defense in the playoffs and have allowed just 10 points in the last two games, including three vs. Ready in a 13-3 win for the Region 19 title. Kicker Sam Tennant is accurate from long distance and could play a major factor. On the other end, the top-ranked Irish squeaked out an 18-17 win over Kirtland to advance to the semifinal round. Quarterback Dawalyn Harper, wideout Dale Peterman and running back Allen Jones make up a formidable trio for Ursuline and need to step up for their team to prevail.
Hopewell-Loudon Chieftains (13-0) vs. Malvern Hornets (13-0), Nov. 21: Only one of these Division VI giants will come out unscathed in this colossal semifinal matchup. The Hornets enter having won their first 13 games of the season rather convincingly, scoring no less than 34 points while only giving up an average of 12 points per game. The Hornets -- led by quarterback Tyler Tucci and playmakers Vince Larson and Zach Johnson -- are fresh off a 38-14 win over No. 1 Hannibal River en route to their first final four appearance ever. Meanwhile, the Chieftains downed previously unbeaten St. Paul, 42-21, to reach the semifinals. They will attempt to knock off another undefeated team this weekend. Look for running back Andrew Brickner to be the go-to guy for the Chieftains. The playmaker is coming off a four-touchdown performance, which included a touchdown run, two touchdown receptions and an interception return for a score.
Lehman Catholic Cavaliers (11-1) vs. Delphos St. Johns Blue Jays (11-2), Nov. 21: With their three-back attack of Max Cartwright, Kaleb Goins and Zac Schmitz, the Cavaliers have made mincemeat out of opposing defenses all season long. Most recently, the trio combined for 272 yards as the Cavs downed Mechanicsburg, 28-13, to advance to the final four. The Blue Jays will have to put eight men in the box and stuff the Cavaliers' potent attack or else it will be a long day. Offensively, with running back Jordan Leininger, Evan Burgei and quarterback Wes Ulm at the helm, St. John's will look to score via the big play, something the squad has been accustomed to in the playoffs.
Other Ohio Semifinal Matchups:
Southview (13-0) vs. Archbishop Hoban (9-4), Nov. 21
St. Francis DeSales (13-0) vs. Anderson (11-2), Nov. 21
Licking Valley (12-1) vs. Eastmoor Academy (12-1), Nov. 22
FIndlay Liberty-Benton (13-0) vs. Marion Local Flyers (11-2), Nov. 22
To contact senior editor Adam C. Warner, send an e-mail to email@example.com.