Coming off back-to-back Division IV state championships, the Hartley High School football team enters this year's postseason feeling rejuvenated because of a fresh goal.
The Hawks have won nine games in a row and are seeded third in the Region 11 playoffs, and they're competing in the Division III postseason for the first time.
"We're hungry going into the playoffs, and we're looking to establish ourselves as a dominant team in Division III," senior running back and linebacker Nick Cone said. "Coming off nine straight wins going into the playoffs only helps in our relentless pursuit of another long playoff run. We're clicking extremely well as a team and playing at a high level going into the playoffs, which is a great feeling."
Hartley, which is 9-1, will play host to sixth-seeded New Philadelphia, which also is 9-1, in its playoff opener Friday, Nov. 3.
The Hawks are in the playoffs for the eighth year in a row, while the Quakers are in for the seventh consecutive season.
The contest represents the first meeting between the teams. Their only common opponent this season was St. Charles, which New Philadelphia edged 29-28 on Sept. 15 but Hartley blew past 46-7 on Oct. 27 in its regular-season finale.
The first-round winner plays second-seeded Independence or seventh-seeded Jackson in a regional semifinal Nov. 10.
The Hawks' win over the Cardinals gave them the outright CCL championship at 3-0, ahead of DeSales (2-1), Watterson (1-2) and St. Charles (0-3). They also defeated Ready 42-10 on Oct. 6, but the Silver Knights did not compete in the same division of the CCL this fall.
"When you build as a team, the goal is to win a championship," coach Brad Burchfield said. "To win the CCL means a ton to our program. We revere our place in this great league and there's a great sense of pride in winning it."
New Philadelphia, which was the Division III, Region 9 runner-up last season, is led on offense by sophomore quarterback Baron May, sophomore wide receiver Sam Zemis and senior running back Kye Crowthers.
"They have a great quarterback who is dangerous," Burchfield said. "We need to stop him and limit his opportunities. We're healthy and focused. Our program always has lofty goals. Now's our chance."