By Brian Yauger
In the Mahoning Valley, there are few things held more sacred than high school football, especially come playoff time. With the playoffs underway, it felt appropriate to recap the regular season, and week one of the playoffs for the Valley’s high schools.
AUSTINTOWN-FITCH FALCONS: Qualified for the Playoffs
The lone Division I playoff team in the Mahoning Valley, the Austintown Fitch Falcons qualified for the playoffs with an 8-2 record. According to JoeEitel.com, the Falcons finished as the sixth seed and faced off against the third seeded Euclid Panthers in the first round, a game that they lost 35-0.
WARREN G. HARDING RAIDERS: Qualified for the Playoffs
Both Division II teams in the area also qualified for the playoffs. The Warren G. Harding Raiders after starting 1-2, stormed back to win the next seven games to get an 8-2 record, finishing fourth in Region 5, and clinching a home playoff game against the Garfield Heights Bulldogs, which they lost 42-25.
BOARDMAN SPARTANS: Qualified for the Playoffs
The second team, the Boardman Spartans, also clinched a playoff spot with a 6-4 record, finishing with the seventh seed in Region 5 and fell to the undefeated Maple Heights Mustangs in the first round 42-12.
CANFIELD CARDINALS: Qualified for the Playoffs
The lone area Division III team to make the playoffs was the Canfield Cardinals, who finished first in Region 9. The Cardinals finished 9-1 with their lone loss coming to the Youngstown East Golden Bears. Canfield defeated the Marlington Dukes 35-10, in the first round of the playoffs. They move on to face Akron East in the second round.
WEST BRANCH WARRIORS: Missed the Playoffs
The Warriors finished 18th in the region with a 6-4 record, failing to qualify for the playoffs. They lost their last three games of the season to West Holmes, Marlington and Salem to miss out on the playoffs. Their last appearance is 2007.
NILES MCKINLEY RED DRAGONS: Missed the Playoffs
Niles rebounded from a winless season in 2017 and won three of their last four games to finish the season 4-6. The Red Dragons won their last two games by a combined score of 124-0, leaving hope for next season.
HOWLAND TIGERS: Missed the Playoffs
After just missing out on the playoffs in 2017 and graduating a strong senior class, the Tigers went 1-9, finishing in 25th in the region. Their only win was against Perry Traditional Academy in Pennsylvania.
HUBBARD EAGLES: Qualified for the Playoffs
Region 13 proved to be a strong one for the Valley with three teams making the playoffs, none finished higher than the Hubbard Eagles, who with a 9-1 record captured the third seed. Their only loss was against Youngstown East in Week 10. The Eagles opened up the playoffs with Indian Creek, which they won 51-21. They face Steubenville in round two.
YOUNGSTOWN EAST: Qualified for the Playoffs
The Golden Bears proved to be a “team of destiny”, defying preseason expectations after last year’s 1-9 season, and not having a winning record since 2007. East started the season off in Division II but dropped due to the reopening of Chaney High School. The Golden Bears scored key victories against Youngstown Ursuline, Poland, Canfield and Hubbard on their way to a 7-3 record, good enough for fourth in the region.
They hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1997, a game against Girard that they wound up losing.
GIRARD INDIANS: Qualified for the Playoffs
Girard finished 9-1, only dropping one game to Hubbard, they finished fifth in the region. A key win against the LaBrae Vikings kept them in the playoff race despite a weak conference schedule. Girard defeated Youngstown East in a first round nailbiter 34-30 and takes on Massillon Perry in round two.
POLAND SEMINARY BULLDOGS: Missed the Playoffs
Despite starting 5-0, the Poland Bulldogs fell short of the playoffs, finishing with a 6-4 record, and 10th in the region. Poland dropped four of the last five to a tough slate of opponents, including a heartbreaking 22-21 loss to Struthers, and a 10-0 shutout loss to Youngstown East.
STRUTHERS WILDCATS: Missed the Playoffs
The Wildcats failed to qualify for the playoffs with their 7-3 record, finishing 11th in the region. Beating one of their two toughest opponents Canfield or Hubbard would have given them a playoff berth, but dropping both left them on the outside looking in.
SALEM QUAKERS: Missed the Playoffs
Salem had some missteps during the first half of conference play that sunk their 3-0 start. The Quakers went on to go 3-4 before coming back and winning their three final games to finish 6-4 and 12th in the region.
EAST LIVERPOOL POTTERS: Missed the Playoffs
The Potters rebounded from a 1-2 start, finishing 6-4 but it wasn’t enough to secure a playoff berth, slotting 13th in the region.
BEAVER LOCAL BEAVERS: Missed the Playoffs
The Beaver Local Beavers missed out on their first playoff berth since 2005 finishing with a 4-6 record and placing 20th in the region.
CARDINAL MOONEY CARDINALS: Missed the Playoffs
Cardinal Mooney had the fourth toughest schedule in Division IV and didn’t get the results they had hoped for out of it. The Cardinals dropped difficult games against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Warren G. Harding. Two of their wins came against Canadian teams brought in to play. The Cardinals finished 4-6 and 21st in the region.
LAKEVIEW BULLDOGS: Missed the Playoffs
Injuries proved to be costly for the Bulldogs, setting them back early. They started the season 1-4, but ended strongly, pushing them to a 4-6 final record, finishing 22nd in the region.
URSULINE FIGHTING IRISH: Missed the Playoffs
Typically one of the toughest teams in the area, the Fighting Irish had a rough year with a young roster as they finished 1-9, and 24th in the region.
LABRAE VIKINGS: Qualified for the Playoffs
One of the area’s strongest teams, the LaBrae Vikings finished 9-1, only dropping one game to Girard and finishing third in Region 17. The Vikings started their playoff journey against the Wickliffe Blue Devils, in a 21-0 shutout. They face Akron Manchester in the second round.
CRESTVIEW REBELS: Qualified for the Playoffs
Crestview was the most interesting team in the area, schedule-wise. Taking on large foes like East Cleveland Shaw and Kent Roosevelt. They beat them both. The Rebels had a school from each division except Division I on their schedule. Crestview finished 6-3 (their 10th game was against Youngstown Chaney and didn’t officially count towards their playoff position), good enough for fifth in the region. The Rebels started the playoffs off against the Gilmour Academy Lancers, and were defeated 43-21.
SOUTH RANGE RAIDERS: Missed the Playoffs
In their last season without a conference before transitioning to the Northeast 8, the South Range Raiders had the fifth most difficult schedule in Division V which gave the team some struggles. The Raiders finished 4-6 and 14th in the region with losses to the Louisville Leopards and the Garfield Heights Bulldogs.
EAST PALESTINE BULLDOGS: Missed the Playoffs
The Bulldogs finished at a middle of the road with a 5-5 record, which wasn’t enough to cut it in Region 17, falling to 18th in the region.
CHAMPION GOLDEN FLASHES: Missed the Playoffs
Champion got their first victory since 2016 this past season and got one more after that, but they couldn’t get any more, giving them a final record of 2-8, placing 24th in the region. A tough schedule stood in the way of the young team having more success. The Golden Flashes faithful will have to wait another year to end their 24-year playoff drought, tied for the longest in the region.
McDONALD BLUE DEVILS: Qualified for the Playoffs
By far the toughest region in Ohio, Region 21’s high level of competition kept a lot of strong teams out of the playoffs. McDonald was very close to being one of those teams, finishing 5th despite a perfect 10-0 record. Beating a solid Western Reserve team, 21-6, sealed their spot in the playoffs. The Blue Devils squared off against perennial powerhouse, the Rootstown Rovers in the first round and defeated them 46-20. They move on to face a bitter rival of Rootstown, another small school powerhouse, the Mogadore Wildcats.
SOUTHERN INDIANS: Qualified for the Playoffs
The Indians found themselves with a 9-1 record, falling to the United Golden Eagles. Their strength of schedule was enough to keep them in the playoff picture however, as they finished sixth in the region. They faced the Norwayne Bobcats to open their playoff push, falling 52-16 and ending their season.
SPRINGFIELD TIGERS: Missed the Playoffs
One loss. No playoffs. A 20-17 defeat at the hands of McDonald proved fatal for the Tigers despite a 9-1 final record. The Tigers finished in a tie for ninth place, just missing the cut for the playoffs.
UNITED GOLDEN EAGLES: Missed the Playoffs
Falling on the outside of the playoff picture once again was United. Despite their 8-2 record and big wins over Division IV and V schools, Minerva and East Palestine, and defeating 9-1 Southern, it wasn’t enough to propel them into the playoffs. A heartbreaking overtime loss to Columbiana was likely the deciding factor. They finished 11th in the region.
WESTERN RESERVE BLUE DEVILS: Missed the Playoffs
The Blue Devils are another on the list of falling victim to a weak conference along with Springfield. The weak Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference was the largest obstacle for Western Reserve, leaving very little room for error. The Blue Devils couldn’t capitalize and defeat either McDonald or Springfield, keeping them outside of the playoff picture with an 8-2 record and 12th in the region.
COLUMBIANA CLIPPERS: Missed the Playoffs
Columbiana started off the season 0-3 due to facing three of the toughest teams in the area, falling to McDonald, Western Reserve and Springfield. After the three losses, the Clippers got hot, only losing one more game to Southern. The Clippers finished 6-4 and 13th in the region.
LIBERTY LEOPARDS: Missed the Playoffs
Despite losing current Penguin Dra Rushton, the Leopards still proved to be a tough team. Finishing with a 7-3 record, but couldn’t get over the hump into the playoffs, finishing 14th in the region.
NEWTON FALLS TIGERS: Missed the Playoffs
The Tigers had a hot start, but sputtered to the finish. Opening the season with a 4-1 record, it appeared that the Tigers were going to push for their first playoff appearance since 2002, however, they only won one more game, setting them at 5-5 and 16th in the region.
BROOKFIELD WARRIORS: Missed the Playoffs
Brookfield lost a strong senior class this past year so making a playoff push wasn’t likely in the cards. The Warriors, however did score a huge win, beating last season’s Division VII champions Cuyahoga Heights 46-17, and won their final two games by a sizable margin, a bright spot for the 3-7 team. The Warriors finished 18th in the region.
MINERAL RIDGE RAMS: Missed the Playoffs
Mineral Ridge lost a huge impact player in Decosta Baptiste and it showed. It nearly took the Rams until October to get their first win, an 8-0 victory over the Atwater Waterloo Vikings, and it would take them until the last week of the season to get their second win, a 56-0 smashing of Sebring. The Rams finished 2-8 and ranked 23rd in the region.
CAMPBELL MEMORIAL RED DEVILS: Missed the Playoffs
Campbell is the first of two teams on this list to go the entire season without a win. The Red Devils put up more than seven points one time, and allowed more than seven points in all but one game. Campbell ended the season with a 6-2 loss to Newton Falls.
VALLEY CHRISTIAN EAGLES: Qualified for the Playoffs
Valley Christian went through the gauntlet better known as the Portage Trail Conference County Division and came out unscathed enough to qualify for the playoffs with a 5-5 record. The Eagles finished ranked sixth in Region 25, and squared off against the Ashland Mapleton Mounties, falling 47-28.
WARREN JOHN F. KENNEDY EAGLES: Qualified for the Playoffs
Early in the season, it looked like JFK had no chance at making the playoffs. The Eagles began the season with tough foes like Girard and LaBrae, losing to both. The Eagles had the 12 toughest schedule in Division VII. Once the Eagles got to conference play however, they only lost two games and finished 5-5, enough for 7th in the region. The Eagles started the playoffs with a 35-12 win against the Windham Bombers. They move on to face Ashland Mapleton.
CHALKER WILDCATS: Missed the Playoffs
Southington Chalker hasn’t finished over .500 since 2009 when they went 5-4. This season they went 6-4, the best record they’ve posted since 2003’s 8-2 finish. Despite this, they fell victim to a poor strength of schedule and failed to make the playoffs, finishing just on the outside at 9th in the region.
LEETONIA BEARS: Missed the Playoffs
The Bears had a lot to prove after a winless 2017, and were poised to do so to start 2018, winning their first three games for the first time in a decade. However, due to injuries, the Bears couldn’t maintain their hot streak, dropping all but one of their remaining games, finishing 4-6 and 10th in the region.
LISBON BLUE DEVILS: Missed the Playoffs
The Blue Devils had a hot 2-0 start with two wins by 30+ points, but were shot down quick, only winning one more game after that, a 6-0 victory over Leetonia. The 3-7 Blue Devils finished ranked 16th in the region.
JACKSON-MILTON BLUE JAYS: Missed the Playoffs
“A tale of two halves” best sums up the season for the Blue Jays. It took a 47-0 thrashing of Sebring five weeks into the season for the Blue Jays to catch their footing, but once they did they got up and ran, going 3-2 during the back half of the season, only losing to McDonald and Western Reserve. The 4-6 Blue Jays finished 18th in the region.
WELLSVILLE TIGERS: Missed the Playoffs
The Tigers were three points away from a winless season, their first victory came in a two-point victory over the Malvern Hornets, and their second and final win came against Lisbon, 41-40 The Tigers finished 20th in the region with a 2-8 record.
LOWELLVILLE ROCKETS: Missed the Playoffs
The Lowellville Rockets got three victories, two of which came over Division VI Mineral Ridge and Atwater Waterloo. One more victory over Sebring gave the Rockets their final 3-7 record, good enough to be ranked 21st in the region.
MATHEWS MUSTANGS: Missed the Playoffs
A year removed from a playoff berth, the Mustangs lost a strong senior core, finishing 1-9 and second to last, 26th, in the region.
SEBRING MCKINLEY TROJANS: Missed the Playoffs
The small roster of Sebring McKinley went a second season without picking up a win, making for their seventh winless season since 2000 and finishing last in the region.