A pair of programs riding high from the east side of Columbus will match up in the second round of the Division III, Region 11 playoffs when the Independence and Hartley high school football teams meet Friday, Nov. 10, at Hilliard Darby.
The second-seeded 76ers opened the postseason with a 32-7 victory over seventh-seeded Jackson on Nov. 3 to improve to 10-1 and have won four games in a row since losing to Eastmoor Academy 39-22 on Oct. 6.
The third-seeded Hawks, who won the past two Division IV state titles, opened the postseason with a 62-21 win over sixth-seeded New Philadelphia on Nov. 3.
Hartley is 2-1 all-time against Independence and also takes a 10-1 record into the matchup. The Hawks have won 10 games in a row since opening with a 35-16 loss to Toledo Central Catholic on Aug. 25.
"Independence is playing with a ton of confidence," Hartley coach Brad Burchfield said. "They've beaten some really good football teams in recent weeks. They understand how to beat good teams and win big games. Their tailback (Demontae Taylor) is a fantastic runner. He's very strong and punishing, and very explosive as well. Their lineman (Chad Douglas) is one of the best linemen I've seen on tape in a long time. He's an outstanding player.
"We're looking forward to this game -- the best of the City League versus the best of the Central Catholic League. It's really an exciting matchup."
In the win over New Philadelphia, Elijah Carter rushed for 184 yards and four touchdowns, three of which came in the first half. Alexander Blackmon also ran for two touchdowns.
The Hawks led 35-21 at halftime and pulled away in the second half.
"We felt great about our win over New Philadelphia," Burchfield said. "It was a total team-dominating effort. We were very efficient on offense. A ton of players were able to contribute, and defensively we played really well. (We took) away their passing game, (which is) what they did best, and (we caused) several turnovers."
In Independence's victory over Jackson, Taylor ran for a 66-yard touchdown on a fake punt and threw a 49-yard touchdown to Daleron McCarrell as the 76ers built a 26-0 lead. Taylor finished with 238 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
Quarterback Kionte Blow passed for 112 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score.
"Obviously, on paper, they're the best team in our region, two-time state champions," 76ers coach Maurice Douglas said. "We've got our work cut out for us. Usually when you have a great program like that, you just move one piece in and one out every year."
Scots to face Eagles in second round
Although the Walnut Ridge football team last made the postseason in 2009, it earned its first playoff win since 2002 when it beat eighth-seeded Canal Winchester 27-14 in a first-round Division II, Region 7 game Nov. 3.
Next up for the top-seeded Scots is fifth-seeded New Albany in a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 10, at Westerville South.
The Eagles are just 7-4 but were regional runners-up last season.
"They have been here before and that experience is huge, but our guys aren't fazed by much, so I expect a very physical contest," coach Byron Mattox said.
Among New Albany's top offensive players is junior running back Michiah Burton, who rushed for 831 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season. He ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-35 win over fourth-seeded Whitehall in a first-round game Nov. 3.
Brode White recovered a fumble in the end zone with 58.1 seconds left for the game-winning score.
"New Albany is going to run the ball," Mattox said. "They force you to play assignment football. They'll mix in enough passes to keep you honest. Defensively, they're fast and physical. We have to be sound defensively and take care of the football."
Against Canal Winchester, Calvin Dawson had six catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Isaiah Murphy connected with Julian Wood for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:53 remaining in the first half to give the Scots a 20-14 lead.
In the second half, the Indians drove inside Walnut Ridge's 20 twice but failed to score on either possession.
"We were able to play well in all three phases of the game," Mattox said.
Punchers, Devils fall in playoffs
Also in the football playoffs Nov. 3, third-seeded and host Mifflin lost to sixth-seeded Ashland 48-47 in overtime in the first round in Division II, Region 7, and fourth-seeded and host Marion-Franklin fell to fifth-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley 27-18 in Division III, Region 11.
The Punchers, who finished 8-3, led 41-21 heading into the fourth quarter before the Arrows forced overtime. Ashland's Keagan Armitage scored on a 1-yard run in overtime and Carson Hubler made the extra point to seal the win.
Mifflin quarterback Daveonn Logan threw three touchdowns.
The Red Devils also finished 8-3 after they were unable to hold an 18-7 lead against Tri-Valley.
Maleek McIntosh rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown, Zaire Porter had six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown and Brandon Scruggs returned an interception 37 yards for a score to lead Marion-Franklin.
The Red Devils were back in the playoffs after a two-year absence that included a 3-7 finish last season.
Vikings to return several key players
Although the Northland football team came up short of making the playoffs, its 39-32 victory over Beechcroft in the regular-season finale Oct. 27 earned it a share of the City League-North Division title.
The Vikings, Cougars and Mifflin all went 5-1 in the league to finish ahead of
Centennial (3-3), Whetstone (2-4), East (1-5) and Linden-McKinley (0-6).
Northland, which went 7-3 overall and finished ninth in Division II, Region 7, had just nine seniors.
The biggest loss will be Mike Williams (WR/DB), who rushed for 784 yards, had 372 yards receiving and scored 15 touchdowns on offense and had 50 tackles and one interception on defense.
Seniors D.J. Combs (LB), K.B. Adade (OL/DL) and Mike White (QB) all were second-team all-league and senior Rmani Brown (RB/LB) was honorable mention all-league.
Earning first-team all-league honors were juniors John Branham Jr. (RB), Mark Lee (WR/DB), Jordan McCall (OL/DL) and Lavell Mitchell (TE/LB), while sophomore Kalil Branham (WR) was second-team all-league and juniors Jamal Edwards (K/P), Alfie Banks (OL/LB) and sophomore Brian Dean (WR/DB) were honorable mention all-league.
White completed 79 of 170 passes for 1,388 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions, Branham Jr. rushed for 1,129 yards and scored 18 touchdowns and Branham had 311 yards receiving and seven touchdowns to lead the offense.
Defensively, Lee had seven interceptions, McCall had 61 tackles and 18 tackles for loss and Mitchell had 72 tackles and eight tackles for loss.
Others eligible to return include juniors Jeremiah Desper and Cyrus Slaughter on the offensive line, Josh Moore at wide receiver and Jarius Richardson at tight end and sophomore Dayzon Busby at running back.
Seniors led way for Cougars football team
A 12-member senior class featuring Shemar Samuel (RB/LB), Sincere Henderson (DB/WR), Deonteze Newsome (OL/DL), Suliman Conteh (DB) and Datrey Long (DB) helped the Beechcroft football team earn a share of the City-North title.
Conteh, Henderson, Newsome and Samuel all were first-team all-league and Long made the second team.
The Cougars, who have won at least a share of the last four league titles, finished 5-4 overall.
Samuel ran for 807 yards and nine touchdowns and had 15 receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns on offense and added 35 tackles on defense.
Henderson had 49 tackles and 12 pass breakups on defense and 22 receptions for 278 yards on offense. Conteh had four interceptions and Long had three interceptions.
Junior Elijah Hairston (OL/LB), who was first-team all-league, leads the eligible returnees. He had 63 tackles and an interception.
Junior quarterback Jovaughn Hill, who was second-team all-league, completed 99 of 191 passes for 1,298 yards with 11 touchdowns.
Also making second-team all-league were sophomores Alhaji Sidibe (OL/LB) and Devon Wooden (DB).
"Alhaji Sidibe is a sophomore (who called the plays on) the defense and the offensive line," coach B.J. Queen said. "I've never had a sophomore calling the line play or the defense, and he (did) both, so he's special. Another standout sophomore is Devon Wooden in the secondary."
Beechcroft opened with three consecutive losses to teams that made the playoffs, but bounced back with a 14-8 victory over eventual Division II playoff qualifier Mifflin on Sept. 15. The Cougars won their next four games before falling to Northland as the Vikings forged a three-way tie for the league title.
Beechcroft gave up a combined 17 points in its five victories.