The Upper Arlington High School football team's 15-9 victory over Solon in the Division I state final in 2000 ushered in the most successful decade the Central District has enjoyed since the playoffs began 38 years ago.

The Upper Arlington High School football team's 15-9 victory over Solon in the Division I state final in 2000 ushered in the most successful decade the Central District has enjoyed since the playoffs began 38 years ago.

Nine schools combined to win 10 state championships, including Hilliard Davidson's 16-15 victory over Cleveland Glenville in the Division I state final last fall as the Wildcats captured their second title in four seasons. Moreover, central Ohio also produced a dozen state runners-up over that 10-year span, and in 2001 the area participated in four of the six state finals.

The last decade also gave us the first state championship game contested by two central Ohio teams when Columbus Academy defeated Amanda-Clearcreek 13-8 in Division V in 2003. Big Walnut got by Licking Valley 17-10 in another such matchup in Division III in '07.

"It truly was a great decade," ThisWeek Community Newspapers columnist and 610 WTVN radio personality Larry "Mr. High School Sports" Larson said. "Upper Arlington got it started, and that was probably the biggest win for central Ohio, too."

That's because the Golden Bears became the first area team to capture the big-school state championship. In fact, only three others had even advanced to the title game since the playoffs began in 1972. Upper Arlington and Gahanna lost in the Class AAA state finals in 1973 and '76, respectively, and Westerville South met the same fate in Division I in '94.

So does that trio of Division I state titles, which includes Davidson's 36-35 overtime victory against Mentor in 2006, mean the tide is beginning to turn in central Ohio's favor?

"It certainly lends credence to that theory," Davidson coach Brian White said. "I don't know if we're better or maybe some of the other areas are just not as good as they used to be.

"We've still only won three and we only played for three (in the past decade). We still have to show more consistency before we can put central Ohio in the same category as Cleveland or Cincinnati."

Four area teams remain in the hunt for state championships this year as the postseason moves to the state-semifinal round. They include Davidson, which turned back nationally-recognized Pickerington Central 13-6 in the Region 3 final last Saturday at Upper Arlington. Watterson (Division III), Hartley (IV) and Fredericktown (V) also won regional championships last weekend. Lakewood St. Edward, Toledo Whitmer and Huber Heights Wayne are the other Division I state semifinalists.

"Here in central Ohio, we're still fighting the same old problems in terms of enrollment disparity (in Division I)," White said. "I think we've caught up to the Cleveland teams, but Cincinnati is still a stronghold with all those large parochial schools.

"Here, we build more schools when enrollment caps out, whereas in other places they just add on to the existing ones. People in education will tell you that we're doing it right here in central Ohio, that we're providing a better education for all students and more opportunities for athletes. I'm not necessarily sure I buy into that, but I know it definitely puts us in a bind football-wise.

"But then I guess you can look at Massillon (Washington), for example. They probably have as many resources as any school in the state and they haven't won anything for a long time (no state titles and only three appearances in the final since 1972). It's the same at (Cincinnati) St. Xavier."

The next state championship will be the Central District's 30th overall and 16th dating to Dublin Scioto's 21-14 overtime victory against Akron Buchtel in the Division II state final in 1995. Marion Pleasant won the first one by defeating Lorain Clearview 20-14 in the Class A final in 1972.

"We've got our momentum going in the right direction now," Pickerington Central coach Jay Sharrett said. "I think what's happened is that, collectively, everyone realized what needed to be done."

It also appears as if there are more area programs capable of producing state championship teams today. Eight schools were among the 12 state runners-up from the past decade, and 14 schools overall participated in the 20 state finals central Ohio took part in from 2000-09.

The Central District also produced 10 state championships during the 1980s, but half of those were won by Newark Catholic (1982, '84-'87). The others were won by West Jefferson (1982), Ready ('83), DeSales ('85), Hartley ('86) and Academy ('87). There were five state runners-up, including the Green Wave (1980, '81 and '83), from central Ohio during that decade.

The Central District produced three state titles during the 1970s and six during the 1990s.

"There are just so many good programs out there in central Ohio right now, and that makes this an exciting time for the fans," Larson said.

"But it's becoming very hard to establish a dynasty like you saw at Newark Catholic or Moeller or (Cleveland) St. Ignatius (a record 10 state titles overall, including six in the 1990s). There's just too much parity. Hilliard Davidson's giving it quite a go, though."