COLUMBUS -- East Knox won't be the only rookie in the Division VI Final Four this week. Interestingly, the Bulldogs are surrounded by them.
There are six first-time state semifinal football qualifiers, and three of them are in Division VI. Two of them meet when No. 1-ranked Anna (12-1) faces Mechanicsburg (11-2) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Wapakoneta's Harmon Field. East Knox is the other newbie, and the Bulldogs (13-0) tangle with New Middletown Springfield (13-0) at Orrville High School on Friday at 7 p.m.
East Knox arrived on the stage in stunning fashion. The Bulldogs unleashed a goal-line stand on Carey that completely swung the game, then ripped off 25-unanswered points in the second half for a shocking, 32-21 victory over the Blue Devils.
Two first-time state semifinalists are from Richland County.
Mansfield Senior (12-1) moved into the Division III Final Four by dismissing Sandusky 15-9 in overtime on Friday night. Lucas reached the Division VII Final Four by nipping three-time regional champion Cuyahoga Heights 21-13 on Saturday night.
The other rookie in the state semifinals is Springfield (Division I).
In addition, four teams qualified for the state semifinals that did not appear in the final AP poll, including East Knox and Mechanicsburg in Division VI. The other two are Poland Seminary (Division IV) and Clyde (Division IV).
Fans are encouraged to buy their playoff tickets in advance online at www.OHSAA.org/tickets, as the participating schools keep a portion of presale ticket revenue. For state semifinal games, tickets are $10 at the gate.
All-session ticket books for the state championship games are on sale. The top tier ticket option includes indoor access in the stadium club during and between games. A premium parking pass is also available for sale. Access to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is included with some ticket packages.
The Ohio High School Athletics Association takes over the scheduling once the regional champions have been crowned. The pairings for the state semifinals are based on geography of the four schools in each division, not record, state rank, regional seed or past history in the playoffs.
Six of the 28 state semifinalists are making their first trip to the final four, including three of the four schools in Division VI. Meanwhile, Maria Stein Marion Local is making its 18th appearance in the state semifinals, Massillon Washington is making its 13th appearance and Ironton is making its 12th appearance. Newark Catholic, which lost in a Div. VII regional final Saturday, holds the record with 25 state semifinal appearances.
Only three state semifinal matchups feature schools that have played each other before in the playoffs.
All seven teams that ended the season ranked No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll are still playing, including Mentor (Division I), Massillon Washington (Division II), Columbus Bishop Hartley (Division III), Cincinnati Wyoming (Division IV), Kirtland (Division V), Anna (Division VI) and Maria Stein Marion Local (Division VII).
Playoffs Format and State Finals Schedule Announcement
During the first four rounds of the playoffs, Division I, II, III and VI games are on Fridays. Division IV, V and VII playoff games are on Saturdays. All games will kick off at 7 p.m.
The state championship games remain in Canton this year at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Either Division I, II, III or VI will be selected to play its state championship game on Thursday, Dec. 5 (7 p.m. kickoff). The other three “Friday divisions” will play their state championship games on Friday, Dec. 6. Divisions IV, V and VII will play their state championship games on Saturday, Dec. 7.
The divisional game-time assignments will be announced on the OHSAA’s Twitter account immediately after the state semifinal games this Friday and Saturday night. Game times on Friday and Saturday are 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Brackets and Pairings
During the playoffs, the brackets at OHSAA.org will be updated on Friday and Saturday nights. The pairings and neutral sites for the second, third and fourth rounds will be posted on Sundays by 3:30 p.m., after all sites have been confirmed.
About the Regionals and State Semifinals
The regional playoffs follow bracket format, beginning with the regional quarterfinals.
Regional Quarterfinals (Nov. 8 and 9): During the first round, the higher seed will host the playoff game at its home stadium or the stadium of its choosing. The No. 8 seed will play at the No. 1 seed, the No. 7 seed at No. 2, etc.
Regional Semifinals (Nov. 15 and 16), Regional Finals (Nov. 22 and 23) and State Semifinals (Nov. 29 and 30): Neutral sites are selected by the OHSAA. There are many factors that go into determining playoff sites, such as quality of field surface, seating capacity, quality of lighting, size of locker rooms and distance from field, press box size, parking spaces available, and a separate locker room for officials. After all those factors are taken into consideration, it must be confirmed that the site is available and willing to host a playoff game on the date needed.
State Semifinalists by Seed
No. 1 seed – 14
No. 2 seed – 6
No. 3 seed – 2
No. 4 seed – 2
No. 5 seed – 1 (Anna)
No. 6 seed – 1 (Mechanicsburg)
No. 7 seed – 1 (Trotwood-Madison)
No. 8 seed – 1 (Clyde)
Four state semifinal games feature No. 1 seeds facing each other:
Division I: Mentor (13-0) vs. Springfield (12-1)
Division II: Massillon Washington (13-0) vs. Avon (13-0)
Division II: Cin. La Salle (11-2) vs. Tol. Central Catholic (13-0)
Division V: Kirtland (13-0) vs. Oak Harbor (13-0)
Proving the Pollsters
All seven teams that ended the season ranked No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll are still playing, including Mentor (Division I), Massillon Washington (Division II), Columbus Bishop Hartley (Division III), Cincinnati Wyoming (Division IV), Kirtland (Division V), Anna (Division VI) and Maria Stein Marion Local (Division VII). Of the 28 state semifinalists, 24 appeared in the final Associated Press state poll.
In Division II, three of the top four teams ranked in the final AP state poll — #1 Massillon, #2 Toledo Central Catholic and #4 Avon — have advanced to the state semifinals. #3 Akron Archbishop Hoban fell to Massillon 17-14 in the regional finals.
The highest AP-ranked matchups are both #1 vs. #3 bouts: #1 Mentor vs. #3 Pickerington Central in Division I and #1 Kirtland vs. #3 Oak Harbor in Division V.
All 70 teams that were ranked in the final Associated Press state poll qualified for the playoffs. 58 of those teams advanced to the second round and 36 have advanced to the regional finals.
Past Meetings in the Playoffs
Only three state semifinal matchups feature schools that have played each other before in the playoffs. They include:
Pickerington Central 56, Mentor 28 – 2017 state final.
Newark Licking Valley 41, Poland Seminary 7 – 2008 regional semifinal.
Maria Stein Marion Local 42, Hamler Patrick Henry 20 – 2007 state semifinal.
Maria Stein Marion Local 36, Hamler Patrick Henry 7 – 2016 state semifinal.
Undefeated Teams Remaining
Of the 28 state semifinalists, 10 are undefeated. Three of the state semifinal matchups feature unbeaten teams:
Division II: #1 Massillon Washington vs. #4 Avon
Division V: #1 Kirtland vs. #3 Oak Harbor
Division VI: #2 New Middletown Springfield vs. Howard East Knox
Noting the Undefeated and .500
Only 28 teams in Ohio went undefeated this season. Of note, two undefeated schools, Gibsonburg and Northwood, did not qualify for the playoffs. Of the 26 undefeated schools that did qualify, all of them except two hosted a first-round playoff game. There was only one first-round game that featured two undefeated teams. That occurred in Div. VI, Region 21, when Glouster Trimble hosted and defeated Salineville Southern Local.
Six teams with 5-5 records qualified for the playoffs this year and two of them advanced to the regional finals, including Lewis Center Olentangy in Division I and Carey in Division VI. Both teams were defeated in the regional final.
In 2018, of the 24 teams went undefeated, which marked the fewest number of undefeated teams was 2015 when only 22 teams went undefeated. Last year a state record 11 schools with 5-5 records qualified for the playoffs. Only one of those 5-5 teams - Warren John F. Kennedy in Division VII - won their regional quarterfinal game and advanced to the regional finals.
Noting the 2018 State Finalists
Division I - Lakewood St. Edward (champion) lost in the regional final to Mentor, and Cincinnati Colerain (runner-up) lost in the regional final to Cincinnati Elder.
Division II - Massillon Washington (runner-up) defeated Akron Archbishop Hoban (champion) in the regional final.
Division III – Chagrin Falls Kenston (champion) lost to New Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs and Kettering Archbishop Alter (runner-up) lost to Hamilton Badin in the re-gional semifinals.
Division IV – Cincinnati Wyoming (champion) plays Clyde in the state semifinal, and Girard (runner-up) lost to Perry in the first round.
Division V – Orrville (champion) lost to Oak Harbor in the Region 18 final, and Johnstown-Monroe (runner-up) did not qualify for the playoffs.
Division VI – Kirtland (champion) plays Oak Harbor in at Div. V state semifinal, and Maria Stein Marion Local (runner-up) plays Hamler Patrick Henry in a Div. VII state semifinal. Kirtland moved up from Division VI to Division V, and Marion Local moved down from Division VI to Division VII.
Division VII – McComb (champion) lost to Edgerton in the first round of the playoffs, and Glouster Trimble (runner-up) lost to New Middletown Springfield in the second round of the Div. VI playoffs. Glouster Trimble moved from Division VII to Division VI.