Football playoff pictures taking shape
A handful of games played during week eight of the high school football season had playoff and league championship implications for teams in central Ohio.
The fascinating thing is how some of those games came to fruition.
Not many at the beginning of the season would have pegged Dublin Scioto at Hilliard Darby as the highest-profile game Oct. 12, but the Irish's rebirth this season set things up for something special. Before this year, Scioto had just two winning seasons since it last made the playoffs in 2005.
How about this for a big game that not many would have predicted: Olentangy at Mount Vernon on Friday, Oct. 19.
The Braves were 5-5 and the Yellow Jackets went 2-8 a year ago, but a win by Olentangy might lock up a home playoff game in Division I, Region 3 while a victory by Mount Vernon could send it to the postseason for the first time since 1993.
Pickerington North and Dublin Coffman had an abundance of returning talent, so even though the Panthers never have won a postseason game and the Shamrocks have lost in the first round of the playoffs each of the last two years it's no shock to see them near the top of Region 3.
What makes each season unique is when unexpected teams like Scioto and Olentangy get into the mix.
The Irish's 34-14 win over Westerville Central on Sept. 14 showed they would be a factor in the OCC-Cardinal Division, but their 42-35 victory over Westerville South on Sept. 28 felt like a signature win.
It might not have been a big shock to Scioto -- it just took the rest of us awhile to come around.
"We haven't done anything differently," Scioto coach Karl Johnson said. "Our kids have won some games to get some confidence. Getting some early wins helps."
When Olentangy beat Olentangy Liberty 28-16 on Aug. 31 for its third consecutive victory in the series, it would have been easy to chalk it up to being a rivalry game in which the Braves have the current advantage.
The Braves, however, added emphasis to that victory by beating a pair of strong teams in Lexington (35-21 on Sept. 7) and Big Walnut (40-24 on Sept. 14).
Olentangy, whose school district opened new high schools in 2003 (Liberty) and 2008 (Orange), hasn't won a playoff game since 1999, and it has made the playoffs just three times since then. The Braves' 2012 senior class included a pair of Big Ten recruits in Joshua Perry (Ohio State) and Kenton Playko (Northwestern).
Braves coach Ed Terwilliger, who is in his 24th season, likens his team to a blue-collar worker, winning this season because of resiliency.
The biggest thing the Braves and Irish have in common are strong senior classes.
There might not be a better passing quarterback in central Ohio than Scioto senior Evan DeMars, and Olentangy senior quarterback Andrew Horstman has developed into the leader Terwilliger has been looking for.
A year ago, two teams that took big steps forward were Gahanna and Westerville Central, and both had game-changing senior quarterbacks in Tyler Grassman and Cody Kondas, respectively.
Of course, having a great player or two isn't always enough. And it's too simple to say a focused senior class is enough to turn things around, but teams like Olentangy and Scioto are proving it's a great place to start.
Even for programs that traditionally have lost more than they've won, seniors find motivation in the fact they could be the ones to lead their programs to unexpected heights.
Jarrod Ulrey is a ThisWeek sportswriter. Follow his blog, "On the Recruiting Trail," for the latest in central Ohio high school recruiting news.