For the most part, the opening night of the high school football playoffs went exactly as it was expected to Nov. 2.
The biggest “upset” occurred when sixth-seeded Pickerington Central beat third-seeded Hilliard Bradley 14-13 in Division I, Region 3, but that hardly could be considered shocking since the Tigers are the defending state champions.
The other matchup that didn’t go according to the seeding took place in Division II, Region 7, where fifth-seeded Whitehall defeated fourth-seeded Dover 38-31.
Here are five things we learned from the opening night of the playoffs:
1. The little things made a difference in Central’s win over Bradley.
Those following the Bradley-Central game on Twitter might have assumed that the Jaguars had things under control when they built a 13-0 halftime lead and had outgained the Tigers 227-54 in first-half total yards.
What wasn’t evident at the time is that one of the game’s biggest plays already had taken place when the Tigers’ Isaiah O’Connor blocked an extra-point attempt after one of Bradley’s touchdowns.
Bradley led 13-7 when it got down to the Central 4-yard line in the fourth quarter, but it was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and fumbled on the next play. The Tigers’ C.C. Gordon picked up the loose ball and returned it for a 93-yard touchdown.
A defensive adjustment by Central also helped it extend its season.
2. Whitehall and Olentangy both ended up in Division II thrillers.
Olentangy was in a similar boat to Bradley considering it played last year’s Division II state runner-up in Cincinnati Winton Woods, but the eighth-seeded Braves were heavy underdogs against the top-seeded Warriors in Region 8.
Despite entering the playoffs with a 5-5 record, the Braves led 35-14 at halftime. They ended up losing 49-42 because they couldn’t find an answer for Winton Woods’ Miyan Williams, who finished with 431 yards rushing and six touchdowns, with 279 yards and four scores coming in the second half.
Whitehall moved on in Region 7 with a victory at Dover as quarterback Raymell Byrd continued a spectacular season with 165 yards rushing and two touchdowns and 100 yards passing and two more scores.
3. Hartley and Eastmoor Academy looked solid in their Division III, Region 11 playoff wins.
Even with No. 1 running back Jalan January limited because of an ankle injury, top-seeded Hartley piled up 338 yards rushing in a 51-14 home victory over eighth-seeded Athens.
Fourth-seeded Eastmoor set itself up for a matchup against the Hawks in a regional semifinal with a 34-14 victory over fifth-seeded Hillsboro as Savon Edwards produced 182 yards rushing and three touchdowns and also returned an interception 35 yards for a score.
4. Grandview and Olentangy Orange had strong seasons end with close losses.
The eighth-seeded Bobcats nearly put together a huge Division VI, Region 23 upset but came up short 39-36 against top-seeded Bainbridge Paint Valley.
Grandview was back in the playoffs for the first time since its state semifinal run in 2015 and following a 5-5 finish last season.
Sixth-seeded Orange visited third-seeded Toledo Whitmer for a Division I, Region 2 game and took a 17-13 lead on a 21-yard run by quarterback Robbie Dayhuff midway through the final quarter. The Panthers, however, scored the game-winner during the final two minutes.
5. Reynoldsburg, Olentangy Liberty, Hilliard Davidson and Dublin Coffman also moved on in Division I.
Things went as expected for Reynoldsburg and Coffman in Region 2, although the 52-0 win by the top-seeded Raiders over eighth-seeded Toledo Start might raise eyebrows because of its lopsidedness.
Second-seeded Coffman put together a 27-10 win over seventh-seeded Westerville Central.
In a low-scoring affair that wasn’t at all unsurprising considering the tendencies of both teams, fourth-seeded Liberty found a way to beat fifth-seeded Gahanna 14-7 in Region 2.
In a Region 3 opener, top-seeded Davidson didn’t have the easiest of times during a 28-21 victory over eighth-seeded Huber Heights Wayne, but the Wildcats were able to create enough distance to hold off a late rally attempt.