MOUNT VERNON – With just one week left in the regular season, three KMAC teams and four OCC teams still have a shot at playoff contention, according to this week’s OHSAA computer ratings.
However, if the playoffs began today, only four of those teams would be in. Those teams will try to hold strong in Week 10, while the rest of the field will attempt to sneak into the mix.
Heading into the final night of regular season football, here’s how things stand:
Northmor (9-0) stayed at second in this week’s Division VI Region 23 ratings after throttling Centerburg (4-5) on the road last Friday, 34-0. The Golden Knights are less than one point behind first-place Paint Valley (9-0), which beat Westfall (4-5) last week by 20 points.
According to Joe Eitel’s unofficial ratings, the top five teams in the region have already clinched a playoff spot. Just one point currently separates Northmor from the five-seed, however, so the Knights will be playing for home field advantage (as well as a KMAC title) at Highland on Friday night.
Northmor will reach the playoffs again this year after doing so for the first time in school history last season. The Knights were the five-seed last year and fell to Fort Frye in the first round, 6-0. After finishing third in the KMAC last year, Northmor will have a chance to win the conference this season at Highland on Friday night. Highland and Northmor are currently tied atop the KMAC standings.
Highland (8-1) rose from 10th to seventh in Division IV Region 14 this week after obliterating East Knox (7-2) on Friday, 50-7. The playoff race is incredibly close in this region, as just over one point separates fifth from 10th place. Of those six teams, however, Highland will face the strongest opponent in Week 10 (based on record).
The Scots will take on Northmor (9-0), while fifth-place Huron will play a 3-5 team and sixth-place Kenton faces an 0-9 squad. Behind Highland, eighth-place Napoleon faces a 5-4 team, ninth-place Bryan faces a 4-5 team and 10th-place Orange goes against a 6-3 squad. Not far off in 11th place, just over a point out of eighth, Port Clinton will take on an 8-1 team.
This means that if Highland can beat Northmor on Friday at Fishburn Family Field, chances are good it can move up to fifth in the region heading into Week 11. Doing so would allow the Scots to avoid a first-round matchup with Clear Fork (9-0), St. Mary’s Memorial (9-0) or Van Wert (7-2).
However, if the Scots lose to Northmor, they would likely need help to qualify for their second straight playoff bid.
Highland will look to win the KMAC title outright on Friday with a win over Northmor. The Scots had a chance to win it outright last year, but lost to Northmor in Week 10 and had to share the trophy with Danville.
Danville (4-5) remained 11th in this week’s Division VII Region 27 ratings after beating Mount Gilead (0-9) on Friday, 48-0. The Blue Devils sit two points out of eighth place in the region, although they will have an opportunity to make up that deficit on Friday with a win at East Knox (7-2) and some help from the rest of the field.
The good news for Danville fans is that the Blue Devils will face the toughest Week 10 opponent of anyone ahead or behind them in the ratings. 10th-place Southern will face a 4-5 team, ninth-place River will play a 2-7 team and eighth-place Caldwell will take on a 4-5 squad. Behind Danville, 12th-place Bishop Rosecrans will face a 5-3 team and 13th-place Notre Dame will play a 3-6 squad.
If the Blue Devils can beat East Knox, they might have a chance at sneaking into the playoff picture. However, they will likely need others to lose in front of them as well. What’s helped Danville this year has been its brutal early-season schedule. Its first five opponents currently have a combined record of 40-5, as all but Garaway (8-1) and Highland (8-1) have already clinched playoff spots.
The Blue Devils have won four straight after beginning the season 0-5, and are now one win (and some good fortune) away from their eighth straight playoff berth.
The rest of the KMAC: Both East Knox (7-2) and Centerburg (4-5) were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last week, according to Joe Eitel’s unofficial ratings. The Bulldogs were ultimately doomed by a weak schedule – their wins have come against opponents with a combined record of 8-55, while their losses have come to their only two opponents with winning records (Northmor and Highland). Centerburg began the season 3-1 but has lost four of its last five games, as the Trojans have also not beat a team with a winning record this season. Cardington-Lincoln (1-8), Fredericktown (1-8) and Mount Gilead (0-9) were all mathematically eliminated from playoff contention two weeks ago.
In the OCC: Two teams found themselves in the playoff picture in this week’s ratings, while two more are knocking on the door.
Wooster (7-2) rose from eighth to fifth in Division II Region 7 after winning its sixth straight game, a 44-12 blowout of non-conference foe Firestone (2-7). The Generals began the season 1-2, but now find themselves in favorable playoff position heading into Week 10.
Wooster is by no means a playoff lock at this point, however. Just one point separates fifth place from ninth place in the region, and the Generals are over three points away from fourth place. In addition, two teams behind Wooster will play 9-0 teams in Week 10: Medina Highland (sixth place) and Whitehall-Yearling (seventh). Eighth-place Tri-Valley and ninth-place Walnut Ridge will both face 5-4 teams in Week 10. Wooster will host Ashland (5-4).
If the teams behind Wooster pull off wins over undefeated opponents, it might make it more difficult for the Generals to get in. Wooster will need to beat Ashland and let the chips fall where they may – the ceiling is a five-seed, the floor is falling out of contention.
Lexington (5-4) rose from sixth to fifth in this week’s Division III Region 10 ratings after beating Madison on Friday, 42-16. The Minutemen began the season 0-3, but now have a serious shot at qualifying for the playoffs with one week left to play.
They currently sit more than three points behind fourth-place Tiffin Columbian and over a point ahead of sixth-place Sandusky. Less than two points separates fifth place from eighth place in the region. Lexington will face non-conference foe Canton South (2-7) this week, while Sandusky will also face a 2-7 squad. Seventh-place Rocky River will face a 7-2 team, while eighth-place Bowling Green will play a 6-3 squad.
Just over two points away from Lexington, ninth-place Padua Franciscan will play a 6-3 team on Friday.
If the Minutemen win on Friday, they will likely secure a playoff spot. If they lose, things could get interesting.
West Holmes (7-2) climbed from 11th to ninth in this week’s Division III Region 9 ratings, landing just outside the playoff picture. The Knights sit fractions of a point behind eighth-place Aurora and less than a point behind seventh-place Ravenna.
West Holmes beat Ashland (5-4) last week by seven points in double overtime. The Knights will face Mount Vernon (3-6) on the road in Week 10, while Ravenna will face a 1-8 team and Aurora will play a 2-7 squad. That said, there seems to be a decent chance West Holmes could sneak into the playoffs with a win. However, if all three teams win, it will likely come down to strength of schedule (which is prioritized in the OHSAA’s computer ratings).
In short, Knight fans should not only root for their team on Friday night, but also everyone else they faced this season. Heading into the final week, every hundredth of a point counts.
Mansfield Senior (4-5) rose from 12th to 10th in Division III Region 10 after beating Mount Vernon last week, 33-19. The Tygers are still over two points away from eighth place, however, and will not get any strength-of-schedule help in Week 10, when they face Madison (1-8).
Ninth-place Padua Franciscan and eighth-place Bowling Green both play 6-3 teams on Friday. Behind Mansfield Senior, 11th-place Defiance will face a 7-2 team on the road. The Tygers will need to beat Madison and hope that several teams slip up ahead of them to qualify.
Mansfield Senior’s playoff hopes are still alive, but it will take a considerable amount of good fortune for the Tygers to make it in.
The rest of the OCC: Ashland (5-4) was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last week (according to Joe Eitel’s unofficial ratings) after suffering its third straight loss. All three losses have come by a touchdown or less, and Friday's came in double overtime to West Holmes. The Arrows, who began the season 5-1, are now on the outside looking in heading into Week 10. Mount Vernon (3-6) and Madison (1-8) were both eliminated from playoff contention two weeks ago.
The OHSAA has published computer ratings each week since Week 4. The final ratings will be released on Sunday, when the playoff field is announced. The top eight teams in each region will make the playoffs.