There are 97 high school football teams in the Central District, but just three remain as we head into Week 14 of the season.
Two of them, Olentangy Liberty and Pickerington Central, compete in Division I.
For the first time since 2006, all four of the teams that made it to state semifinals in Ohio’s big-school division are public schools.
Here are five things we expect heading into Week 14:
1. Central’s semifinal against Cincinnati Colerain will be a battle of willpower.
Perhaps the biggest reason the Tigers have been among central Ohio’s best big-school powers the last several years is that they consistently make opponents uncomfortable with their combination of strength, speed and sheer aggression.
They’ll need to flex their muscles again Nov. 24 in a state semifinal at Springfield against Colerain, a team that wins year after year because it mixes efficient passing with the power and option running game.
The Cardinals average fewer than eight passes per game but rushed for 385 yards in a 21-14 victory over Cincinnati St. Xavier on Nov. 17 for the Region 4 title.
On the other side of the ball, Central’s talented sophomore quarterback, Demeatric Crenshaw, is dangerous with his feet and has been up to the task when asked to make deep throws.
Last season, the Tigers also won the Region 3 title but lost to eventual champion St. Xavier 29-27 in a state semifinal.
2. Back at full strength, Liberty gets another shot at making the championship game.
A season after losing 24-14 to Cleveland St. Ignatius in a state semifinal for their only loss, the Patriots won all three of their games in Region 2 with crushing defense.
Liberty held Toledo Whitmer to 127 yards in a 34-7 victory for the regional title Nov. 17 despite being without its best all-around player, senior safety and wide receiver Johnny Wiseman.
He was serving a one-game suspension after being ejected from the Patriots’ 17-14 victory over Gahanna on Nov. 10 because of targeting, but he’ll be back for the state semifinal against Mentor on Nov. 24 at Arlin Field in Mansfield.
Liberty has used a ball-control approach on offense throughout the playoffs, with senior running back Matt Webb doing much of the dirty work.
The Patriots will face an opponent that has produced about 3,000 yards both through the air and on the ground.
3. The only other Central District team still alive is Danville, which has a tough task ahead.
Danville was ranked third in the final state poll in Division VII and is in a state semifinal Nov. 24 at Orrville.
Its opponent is Cuyahoga Heights, which was ranked fifth in the final poll but was the Division VI state runner-up last season. Its only loss this season is to undefeated Kirtland, which is in a state semifinal in Division VI.
The Blue Devils have been to the playoffs 18 times, including each of the last seven seasons, but they’re 0-3 in state semifinals.
The biggest reason to hope this season could be different is that Danville has one of the state’s top quarterbacks in Skyler Durbin, who passed for 352 yards and rushed for two touchdowns in a 29-28 win over Hannibal River on Nov. 17 in the Region 27 final.
4. Wheelersburg will try to stay on a roll after beating three consecutive central Ohio teams.
At 13-0 and the third-ranked team in the final Division V state poll, Wheelersburg ended the seasons of Ready, Columbus Academy and Johnstown.
The Pirates’ run is no fluke considering they are in a state semifinal for the second time in three seasons and were regional runners-up in 2013, ’14 and ’16.
On Nov. 24, Wheelersburg plays Middletown Madison at Chillicothe.
If the Pirates win that game, then the Division V state final would feature two undefeated teams, considering top-ranked Pemberville Eastwood and second-ranked Canfield South Range both are 13-0 heading into their state semifinal at Strongsville.
5. The two teams that beat Hartley this season could meet for a state championship.
Although Hartley wasn’t able to win a third consecutive state championship, the Hawks’ first season in Division III has to be considered a huge success.
Hartley, which had won consecutive state titles in Division IV before losing to Dresden Tri-Valley 13-9 on Nov. 17 in the Region 11 final, lost its only other game this season to Toledo Central Catholic 35-16 on Aug. 25.
Tri-Valley takes a 12-1 record into its matchup Nov. 24 against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary at Massillon Perry and Central Catholic is 11-2 as it prepares to play Trotwood-Madison, which is 13-0, in the other state semifinal at Piqua.
Central Catholic is looking for its third win in four seasons in a state semifinal against Trotwood-Madison after losing in the matchup last fall.
Tri-Valley is in a state semifinal for the first time.