Solon at St. Ignatius
With only two games on their resume before the 16-team Division I, Region 1 playoff bracket was announced last Thursday, the Solon gridders drew the short stick.
The No. 12-seed Comets (0-3) will hit the road to take on No. 5-seed St. Ignatius (1-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at Baldwin Wallace University’s George Finnie Stadium in Berea.
The Solon boys will be making their 24th postseason appearance, including 15th under 18th-year head coach Jim McQuaide, while the host Wildcats are making their 30th appearance after missing out last season.
The Comets, which are 0-3 for the first time since 2003, are coming off a 24-20 road loss against Greater Cleveland Conference foe Medina (3-3) in a game they led, 20-10, going into the fourth quarter.
Offensively, Solon 205-pound senior running back Khalil Eichelberger had a night to remember with 29 carries for 207 yards and three touchdowns along with three receptions for 59 yards.
While the Comets outgained Medina, 305 yards to 281 yards, a 14-0 fourth quarter in Medina’s favor led to a victory for the Battling Bees.
St. Ignatius, under 38th-year head coach Chuck Kyle, who owns a 359-98-1 record at the helm, is coming off a 62-37 road loss against AP No. 10-ranked St. Xavier (4-2) in a game Wildcat 6-foot-2 senior receiver Emmett Hanna scored a 74-yard touchdown on the first play of the game to lead the way for a 17-7 Ignatius lead at the quarter mark.
Wildcat senior kicker Declan Mangan had three field goals, including a 49-yarder.
Defensively, St. Ignatius surrendered 723 yards, including 556 yards passing to St. Xavier, which took the driver’s seat with 26 points in the second quarter.
But don’t get the Wildcats wrong. They lost a 17-0 defensive struggle against AP No. 4-ranked St. Edward (5-1) and a 21-14 affair with Division II AP No. 6-ranked Massillon Washington (5-1).
In six meetings between Solon and St. Ignatius, the Wildcats own a 4-2 series advantage, including a 31-17 playoff victory during their state runner-up campaign in 2016.
TONY’S TAKE: St. Ignatius wins, 30-14.
Akron East at West Geauga
The No. 11-seed West Geauga gridders (5-1) will be fixing for their first playoff win in five years when they host No. 22-seed Akron East (1-1) in the opening round of Division III, Region 9 action at 7 p.m. Friday at Howell Field. There are 27 teams in the region.
The Wolverines will be making their ninth postseason appearance but first under third-year head coach Adam Sopkovich, who owns a 14-12 record at the helm.
West Geauga is coming off a come-from-behind road victory, 30-22, against rival Chagrin Falls in a game that the Tigers took a 15-0 lead just 29 seconds into the game. But the Wolverines’ balanced offense of 229 yards passing and 150 yards rushing proved superior.
In particular, West G junior quarterback Danny Stewart has come into his own. Overcoming an early pick-six, the signal-caller finished 12-of-18 passing for two touchdowns, and he had eight carries for 48 yards and another two scores.
Despite coughing up three turnovers, West Geauga was backboned by a defense that surrendered 194 yards. Six-foot-3, 215-pound senior linebacker Julian Cicchella was a headliner with 13 tackles, two for losses, and one sack.
The Akron East Dragons (1-1), under ninth-year head coach Marques Hayes, who owns a 44-44 record at the helm, is coming off a 30-12 triumph against Kenmore-Garfield (0-2).
Akron East was riding four-straight postseason appearances before missing out with a 7-3 campaign last season. But when Akron Public Schools athletics were paused this August, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dragons had seven starters transfer schools, including three Division I college commits.
Akron East opened its 2020 campaign in a week-four home game against Akron Firestone, with the Dragons taking a 22-0 lead in the first half, but that game got canceled because of an argument in the stands that resulted in a shooting that wounded a 19-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman.
The Dragons lost to Akron Buchtel, 29-6, the following week.
West Geauga and Akron East are unfamiliar foes.
TONY’S TAKE: West G wins, 31-16.
Hawken School at Chagrin Falls
The No. 10-seed Chagrin Falls gridders (4-2) will host No. 23-seed Hawken School (0-2) in the first round of the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs at 7 p.m. Saturday at C.S. Harris Stadium. There are 24 teams in the region.
The host Tiger gridders will be making their 12th postseason appearance, 11 of which have come under 26th-year head coach Mark Iammarino, but this will be their first since 2013.
No doubt hungry for another home game, the Chagrin Falls boys are coming off a 30-22 rivalry loss against West Geauga on their senior night, despite a 94-yard kickoff return by Will Tropp and a 13-yard pick-six by Josh Norton that providing the Tigers a 15-0 lead just 29 seconds into play.
While the Tigers rushed for 175 yards in that game, a fumbled pitch in their own territory late in the game led to a West Geauga touchdown for the eventual final.
Defensively, Chagrin Falls came up with an interception and a fumble recovery, but the Tigers had weaknesses exposed on the edges against West Geauga’s speed.
Hawken School will be making its 11th postseason appearance, but it’ll be the first under third-year head coach Brian Stephenson. The Hawks were scheduled to play Division V AP No. 1-ranked Kirtland (5-0) last week, but they opted out of that game with just 18 healthy players.
In their two games, Hawken lost a 41-22 battle against Gilmour Academy (3-3) and a 55-28 effort against Berkshire (4-2).
Hawken had 400-plus yards in both of those games, with 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior quarterback Terrence Robinson accumulating 493 yards passing and 165 yards rushing on his season resume.
Defensively, Hawken surrendered 500-plus yards in both games.
Chagrin Falls and Hawken last collided in 2004, when the Tigers were the 28-14 victors.
TONY’S TAKE: Chagrin Falls wins, 42-21.
Orange at Lake Catholic
The No. 21-seed Orange gridders (0-4) are set to hit the road to take on No. 12-seed Lake Catholic (3-2) in the opening round of the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mentor High School’s Jerome T. Osborne Stadium. There are 24 teams in the region.
The Lion gridders, who will be making their fourth postseason appearance, including third since 2017, are coming off a 43-40 home loss against Ashtabula Lakeside (1-5) in a wild affair that the Dragons scored 22 points in the fourth quarter for the win.
After Lakeside took its first lead of the game, 35-34, with six minutes to play, Orange responded with senior quarterback Zak Basharat dialing up senior Devin Culliver on a 16-yard touchdown toss for a 40-35 lead with 2:53 remaining.
But Lakeside’s offense kept its momentum rolling and scored the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute to play.
Basharat was a man on a mission, throwing for 245 yards with two touchdowns and rushing for 75 yards with one touchdown. Orange senior back Greg Beard had 125 yards rushing for three touchdowns along with three catches for 17 yards, while senior Tyler Hoffman had nine catches for 142 yards.
Lake Catholic, under second-year head coach Marty Gibbons, who owns a 7-8 record at the helm, will be making its 20th postseason appearance but first since 2011.
The Cougars canceled their game against Padua Franciscan last week, because one of their players tested positive for COVID-19, but the Lake County Health Department gave them the OK this Monday to resume action and host Orange.
The previous week, Lake Catholic lost a 42-28 road battle against Division II Walsh Jesuit (4-1) in a game that Cougar 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior quarterback Joe Malchesky thew for 98 yards and rushed for 132 yards.
Orange and Lake Catholic are unfamiliar foes.
TONY’S TAKE: Lake Catholic wins, 35-14.
University School at Kent Roosevelt
The No. 17-seed University School gridders (1-5) will hit the road to take on No. 16-seed Kent Roosevelt (0-2) in the opening round of the Division II, Region 5 playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday at the Rough Riders’ home turf in Portage County. There are 26 teams in the region.
The Preppers will be making their eighth postseason appearance, including third under sixth-year head coach Ben Malbasa, who owns a 33-26 record at the helm.
University is coming off a 26-21 home loss against rival Gilmour Academy in a game the Preppers owned a 21-6 lead at halftime. US 175-pound senior running back Nick Flowers finished with 33 carries for 178 yards and two touchdowns, but he had two end-zone finds called back in the second half for penalties.
Meanwhile, University freshman quarterback Jackson Boland made his first start, passing for 71 yards and rushing for 84 yards with a 42-yard score.
Kent Roosevelt, under second-year head coach Alan Vanderink, who owns a 5-7 record at the helm, is making its seventh postseason appearance.
The Rough Riders got a late start on the season and did not schedule games for weeks one and two. Then they had to cancel their games for weeks three and four, because a player tested positive for COVID-19 and the team was put on quarantine.
The past two weeks, Roosevelt lost a 31-28 battle against Copley (5-0) and a 26-16 home affair against Tallmadge (2-3). In the latter game, the Rough Riders had 10 penalties, two of which negated touchdowns, and tossed two interceptions.
University and Roosevelt are unfamiliar foes.
TONY’S TAKE: Roosevelt wins, 34-20.
Gilmour Academy at East Liverpool
The No. 19-seed Gilmour Academy gridders (3-3) will hit the road to take on No. 14-seed East Liverpool (3-3) in the first round of the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs at 7 p.m. Saturday at Patterson Field in Columbiana County. There are 24 teams in the region.
The Lancers will be making their 12th postseason appearance, including third under sixth-year head coach Chris Kosiorek, who owns a 32-27 record at the helm.
Gilmour is coming off a tale-of-two-halves victory, 26-21, against rival University School (1-5) in a game that junior quarterback Thomas Richardson completed four passes for 66 yards in 34 seconds, resulting in a 13-yard, game-winning touchdown to sophomore Santino Harper.
Harper also provided Gilmour a spark with 79- and 59-yard touchdown rushes in the third quarter, after the Lancers trailed, 21-6, at intermission.
The East Liverpool Potters, under seventh-year head coach Josh Ludwig, who owns a 23-43 record at the helm, will be making their fifth postseason appearance, including their first since 2010.
The Potters are coming off a 46-10 victory against Edison (3-3) in a game that East Liverpool senior quarterback Howie Williams was 13-of-19 passing for 206 yards with four touchdowns and had 12 carries for 137 yards with two touchdowns.
Gilmour and East Liverpool are unfamiliar foes.
TONY’S TAKE: East Liverpool wins, 33-20.
Kenston at Marlington
The No. 19-seed Kenston gridders (2-2) will hit the road to open the Division III, Region 9 playoffs against No. 14-seed Alliance Marlington (3-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Duke Stadium in Stark County. There are 27 teams in the region.
The visiting Bombers, who are making their 12th postseason appearance, including sixth under ninth-year head coach Jeff Grubich, are coming off a come-from-behind victory, 33-30, against league foe Willoughby South.
Facing a 17-7 deficit with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, Kenston caught fire on a 68-yard touchdown toss from sophomore quarterback Nikko Georgiou to junior receiver Carson Rivera-Gebeau.
Defensively, Kenston surrendered 383 yards, all rushing, but continued to keep its offense in business with three fumble recoveries by linebackers Anthony Valocchi, Garrett Uhlir and Braden Krupp down the stretch.
The Marlington Dukes, under second-year head coach Mark Gulling, who owns a 10-5 record at the helm, are coming off a 31-3 victory against Division IV Minerva (0-6) in a game both teams coughed up three turnovers.
Marlington 6-foot-4 junior quarterback Connor Evanich had 186 yards passing with five completions going to 6-foot junior Rome Sims for 109 yards, while 180-pound senior back Nolan Hooker had 20 carries for 150 yards.
In addition to three turnovers, Marlington had 90 yards in penalties and surrendered 235 yards on defense.
This Friday will mark the first meeting between Kenston and Marlington.
TONY’S TAKE: Kenston wins, 35-17.