Playoff odds are stacked against three area teams
In the last five seasons, only four teams seeded fourth or lower in their region have won a high school football state championship.
That's just four out of 30 titles in the six divisions.
That doesn't bode well for two of the teams remaining in Division I, Region 3 or a Division II, Region 7 team that is playing as well -- or better -- than any area Division I team.
Pickerington North is seeded fourth and Hilliard Davidson is seventh in Region 3, while New Albany is fourth in Region 7.
All three look to be contenders for regional titles -- maybe more -- but recent history is not on their side.
The lowest seed to win a state title during the last five years was Kettering Alter, which was seeded sixth in Division IV, Region 16 in 2008. The Knights defeated Steubenville 21-6 in the state final.
In 2010, Maple Heights, the fifth seed in Division II, Region 6, beat Trotwood-Madison 45-33 for the championship. In 2007, Coldwater was the fifth seed in Division IV, Region 16, but it defeated Youngstown Mooney 28-27 in the title game.
Mooney was the fourth seed in Region 11 last year, but it won the Division III title by defeating Springfield Shawnee 21-14 in the title game.
That means the local powerhouses have their work cut out for them.
Pickerington North cruised through the first nine weeks of the regular season before possibly looking ahead to the postseason. The Panthers lost an unbeaten season and an outright OCC-Ohio Division title by falling 13-10 to Grove City, which played much better than its 5-5 record.
That week 10 slumber dropped Pickerington North to fourth in Region 3 and set up a playoff matchup with sister school Pickerington Central.
Since opening in 2003, Pickerington North had never beaten Pickerington Central in five meetings before this season, but that has changed. The Panthers not only defeated the Tigers but humbled them twice, winning 37-0 on Sept. 28 and 24-0 on Nov. 3 in their playoff opener.
Maybe that's the jump-start the Panthers needed to prove they again could display the dominance of the first nine games.
But that could be a tall order Saturday, Nov. 10, against undefeated Hilliard Darby, the top seed of Region 3. Darby was dominant in a playoff rematch with OCC-Cardinal rival Westerville South, winning 31-10 on Nov. 3.
Staying in Hilliard, Davidson looked like the team that won Division I state titles in 2006 and 2009 in defeating second-seeded Dublin Coffman 17-14 on Nov. 3. The visiting Wildcats forced four turnovers and used its ball-control offense to defeat a Shamrocks team that humiliated Davidson 33-10 in week four.
Since that loss to Coffman, the Wildcats have looked like their old selves with their misdirection wing-T formation, with senior running back and workhorse E.J. Jennings carrying the load.
Don't count out Davidson. The Wildcats always seem to find ways to win late in the season, and they might have another chance at redemption should Darby get past Pickerington North. Darby defeated the Wildcats 17-3 in week two.
First, Davidson must overcome third-seeded Olentangy on Saturday, Nov. 10. Much like the Wildcats, the Braves have a hard-nosed defense that, in a 21-17 victory Nov. 3, bottled up a high-powered Dublin Scioto offense that had been averaging 35.3 points.
New Albany has found new life during a nine-game winning streak. The Eagles, who lost their first two games (Reynoldsburg 10-9 and Westerville Central 23-20 in overtime) by a total of four points, have outscored opponents by an average of 38.7 to 14.3 in the past nine contests, including a 25-6 first-round playoff win over Beechcroft on Nov. 2.
But New Albany faces nemesis Dresden Tri-Valley on Friday, Nov. 9. The unbeaten Scotties, the region's top seed, ended the Eagles' season the past two years. New Albany lost 24-7 in a regional semifinal last season and 30-27 in double overtime in the opening round in 2010.
The difference this season might be momentum and a multifaceted offense. Once Ohio State recruit Darron Lee became comfortable at quarterback after playing wide receiver in previous seasons, the Eagles have been nearly unstoppable.
But at this point of the season, no victories are guaranteed. Davidson, New Albany and Pickerington North are playing well, but they will have to defy the odds to make it to a 15th game.