The Granville High School football team is hitting on all cylinders heading into the Division III playoffs.

The Granville High School football team is hitting on all cylinders heading into the Division III playoffs.

Showing tremendous balance, the Blue Aces scored five offensive touchdowns and added one each on defense and special teams to conclude the regular season with a 49-0 home victory last Friday over Newark Catholic.

Tyler Link had 205 all-purpose yards and ran for one touchdown, and Graham Rucker rushed for two scores. David Hettler ran for one score and threw a 72-yard touchdown pass on the opening play to Josh McKenzie, who put the exclamation point on the victory with a 60-yard punt return for the final points early in the fourth quarter. Ty Compton added an interception and Tyler Madden had a fumble recovery.

"It feels fantastic," said senior Michael Hofer, who had an interception and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown as the defense forced four turnovers and sacked Kevin Cox seven times. "Bringing the heat defensively was a big part of our game plan. He's a good quarterback, so we knew we needed to put the pressure on him."

The Blue Aces, who came within two points of an undefeated regular season, improved to 9-1 overall and finished 6-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division to share the title with Columbus Academy, which is their first league championship since 2002 in the MSL-Cardinal. Ranked fourth last week in Division III, Region 11, they likely have done enough to earn a home playoff game for the first time while qualifying for a third consecutive season and fourth time overall.

Newark Catholic, which was seventh in Division VI, Region 23, slipped to 6-4 and was 4-3 in league play. One of the reasons it has advanced to the postseason a state-record 30 times is because they entered last Friday with a 36-5 record all-time in week-10 games, but Newark Catholic now must hold its collective breath and could miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association will release the final Harbin computer ratings today.

•Elsewhere last Friday in the MSL-Ohio, Heath defeated winless Lakewood 62-6 to improve to 8-2 and 5-2 in league play. The Bulldogs already have qualified for the postseason and also await word on whether they will play host to a playoff game for the first time. Licking Valley topped Bexley 21-0 to finish 5-5 and 4-3.

In the MBC, Utica prevailed 14-13 at Centerburg to finish 7-3 for a second consecutive season without a playoff berth, although another runner-up finish in the league at 6-1 helps. Johnstown won the rivalry game against Northridge 62-8 to finish 5-5 and 4-3 as the Vikings ended up 1-9 and 0-7.

Licking Heights finished 8-2 and third in the MSL-Cardinal at 5-2 with a 27-13 victory against Berne Union.

Watkins Memorial finished 2-8 and was 1-5 in the OCC-Capital following a 26-14 win at Hilliard Bradley. Newark finished 0-10 and 0-6 in the OCC-Ohio with a 63-13 setback at Lancaster.

•PLAYOFF PREVIEW -- Heath was ranked third last week in Division IV, Region 15. The eight-team playoff field will feature a pair of heavy hitters in Amanda-Clearcreek and Ironton, who now have a combined 43 postseason berths and four state championships between them.

The Aces qualified for the first time since 2006, but will be making their 16th appearance overall. They won back-to-back state titles in 1999-2000 and finished runner-up three times since '97. The Fighting Tigers have made the playoffs 27 times and might have history on their side given the fact that they won state titles in 1979 and '89 and was the runner-up for a sixth time in '99.

West Muskingum is in and the region also could include Coshocton, which is trying to qualify for a 10th time, and Sparta Highland, which is aiming for a fourth consecutive berth. Others on the bubble entering last Friday included Chillicothe Zane Trace, Albany Alexander, Hartley, Portsmouth and Portsmouth West.

The top team in last week's state poll was Kettering Alter, which was third in Region 16, behind fellow unbeatens Clarksville Clinton-Massie and Cincinnati North College Hill. Overall, Division IV boasted seven undefeated teams entering last Friday.

"Some (schools) might have more history," Heath coach Mark Collier said, "but once you get to the playoffs, everybody's good."

In Division III, Granville faces a stacked field in Region 11 if it qualifies as expected. Steubenville has advanced to the postseason for the 22nd time overall and ninth consecutive season. The Big Red won a third state crown in 2006 and finished runner-up for the third time last year. Dover, meanwhile, made it for the fifth straight year and 13th time overall while Rayland Buckeye Local will be making its seventh playoff appearance overall.

The region also could include Canal Fulton Northwest, which is trying to qualify for the ninth season in a row. Other contenders could include Alliance Marlington, Wintersville Indian Creek, Minerva, Cadiz and Thornville Sheridan.

Looking down the road, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney is coming out of Region 9 and might be the best team in the state, regardless of division.

Newark Catholic, which has made a state-record 30 playoff appearances overall, remained in the hunt in Division VI, Region 23 entering last Friday and is trying to avoid being shut out of the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time. The region will include Malvern, which has qualified for the fourth time since 2004, and is expected to feature Columbiana, another postseason regular this decade.

Others in the hunt entering last Friday are New Philadelphia Tuscarawas Central Cath-olic, Bridgeport, Zanesville Rosecrans, Grove City Christian, Willow Wood Symmes Valley, New Matamoras Frontier and Shadyside.

In Division VI, there were seven undefeated teams entering last Friday. That included three each from Region 21 (Bucyrus Wynford, McDonald and Norwalk St. Paul) and Region 22 (Delphos St. John's, Carey and Ada).