With their schools separated by less than two miles, Hartley High School football coach Brad Burchfield joked that a proper place for the Hawks to face Eastmoor Academy in a Division III, Region 11 semifinal would be at the corner of Main and James streets.
The top-seeded Hawks and the fourth-seeded Warriors will follow convincing victories in their respective playoff openers by matching up Friday, Nov. 9, at Hamilton Township.
The programs have scrimmaged every year since 2009, which was Burchfield's second season at Hartley after coaching Centerburg from 2003-07.
The only previous times Burchfield and Warriors coach Jim Miranda have coached against each other were in 2003 and '04, with Eastmoor winning both regular-season matchups.
"I'm excited and I think our kids are excited," said Miranda, who has coached Eastmoor since 2003. "It's an opportunity to play one of the better programs in the state. They're very well-coached. I knew coach Burchfield from back in the day when he was at Centerburg. He has the same type of system, but now it's like they're on adrenaline. They've got great athletes. We'll have to get ready for them."
Eastmoor is 10-1 after beating fifth-seeded Hillsboro 34-14 and Hartley is 9-2 after routing eighth-seeded Athens 51-14 in first-round home games Nov. 2.
The Warriors trailed 8-6 at halftime, but Savon Edwards scored three of his four touchdowns in the third quarter, on runs of 35 and 6 yards and an interception return of 35 yards.
Quarterback Marquise Laster threw a 47-yard touchdown to Cameron Long in the fourth quarter to round out Eastmoor's scoring.
Edwards finished with 15 rushes for 182 yards and Miicah Coleman added seven carries for 68 yards.
On the season, Laster has thrown for nearly 1,500 yards with 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions and Edwards has 1,499 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns -- 25 on the ground, two on receptions, two on punt returns and his interception return against Hillsboro.
"They're only two blocks away from us, and we scrimmage them every year," Burchfield said. "It'll be good. It'll be very intense. The scrimmages are always very intense. Coach Miranda and his staff are fantastic. When you scrimmage people, you can see how coaches teach and how coaches coach and how they work with their assistant coaches within the realm of the team. They do a fantastic job. It's going to be a great game, very hotly contested. It's going to take our very best efforts to get this win."
Hartley had no trouble against Athens even though its No. 1 running back, Jalan January, battled through an ankle injury that he sustained during a 6-3 win over St. Charles on Oct. 26.
January rushed 11 times for 40 yards and a touchdown against Athens, while quarterback Miles Fleming completed four of eight passes for 142 yards and a touchdown and rushed nine times for 98 yards and one score. Kiron Anderson added 10 carries for 92 yards.
Cole had three catches for 129 yards and a touchdown and ran three times for 38 yards and one score, Angelo Evans added three rushes for 34 yards and a touchdown and Mason Sawyer scored two rushing touchdowns.
"(January's ankle) is better this week than it was last week, and it'll be better (this) week than it (was Nov. 2)," Burchfield said. "It's just going to take time and rest. He'll be full throttle Friday night. It's really been a good blessing because we've been able to get other kids some good reps.
"Kiron Anderson was just an animal out there carrying the football. We're going to need it this week. He's such a strong runner and he's a really, smart dependable kid. You want exclamation points in the backfield and that's what he is."
Scots' season ends with loss to Tigers
The Walnut Ridge football team had its season end with a 45-14 loss at top-seeded Massillon Washington in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs Nov. 2 to finish 9-2 overall.
The eighth-seeded Scots, whose only other loss came against Eastmoor (26-20 on Sept. 21), took a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter when Kaylyn Anderson returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
The Tigers answered with back-to-back touchdowns for a 17-7 halftime lead.
Walnut Ridge quarterback Isaiah Murphy threw for 229 yards, connecting with Qian Magwood nine times for 139 yards.
Murphy and Magwood hooked up for a 12-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to cut the Scots' deficit to 17-14, but Massillon led 24-14 after three quarters and tacked on three additional touchdowns as they improved to 11-0.
"We didn't take advantage of opportunities in the first half," coach Byron Mattox said. "We were 0-for-3 in the red zone. We cut the score to 17-14 and then they scored on a 15-play drive. Then we just got overwhelmed with their depth, but the kids fought hard the entire game. The final score really doesn't tell the story."
Walnut Ridge went 6-1 in the City League-South Division to place second behind Eastmoor (7-0) and made the playoffs for the seventh time in program history, including for the second year in a row.
Vikings football team dwelling on successes
Northland football coach Brian Staats isn't planning to let the disappointment of not making the Division II, Region 7 playoffs detract from what his team accomplished this season.
After losing back-to-back tight games to Zeeland (Michigan) West (28-27 on Aug. 24) and Whitehall (31-28 on Aug. 31) to start the season, the Vikings won their final eight games to finish 8-2 overall, including going 6-0 to win the City-North.
Northland wrapped up the league title with a 7-0 victory over Beechcroft on Oct. 26 at home.
"This year, it was expected (that we'd beat Beechcroft), but I don't know if it's really sunk in yet," Staats said. "It's the first time in the history of our school that we won back-to-back league championships from the people I talk to. (Northland) only beat Beechcroft once in (former coach Kevin Tooson's) 14 years. I think it's kind of a big deal to go back-to-back in the league and beat Beechcroft back-to-back because I don't know if it's ever been done."
The Branham brothers led the way offensively for the Vikings.
Senior running back John Branham Jr. rushed for 1,196 yards on 155 carries, had 12 receptions for 160 yards and finished with 22 touchdowns overall.
Junior quarterback Kalil Branham completed 66 of 116 passes for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns, rushed for 295 yards and five touchdowns and added two receiving scores.
Senior Jesse Prewitt III had 14 receptions for 274 yards and eight touchdowns at wide receiver and two interceptions at defensive back.
Senior defensive lineman Jordan McCall had three tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks over the first seven games before getting injured.
Mark Lee (WR/DB), Isaiah Golden (WR), Lavell Mitchell (DL/TE), Alfie Banks (OL/LB), Jamal Edwards (LB/RB), Brian Dean (DB) and Jarius Richardson (DL/TE) were other key seniors.
Others eligible to return include juniors Rasi Bailey (WR/DB), Josiah Ellis (OL/DL) and Isahman Ford-Cowans (OL/DL) and freshmen Japhrone Chapman Jr. (WR/DB) and Corey Craddolph (OL/DL).
"Obviously, we lose a lot because we had 18 seniors, but the cupboard is not completely bare," Staats said.
Cougars football team made steady climb
After opening with a 27-10 win over Dayton Ponitz on Aug. 24, the Beechcroft football team lost its next three games, including falling 12-7 to Mifflin on Sept. 14 in its City-North opener.
The Cougars then won five games in a row before losing to Northland to finish 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the league to tie for second.
"I'm definitely happy with the season," first-year coach Charles Gibson said. "We let a couple (wins) get away from us that shouldn't have gotten away from us."
Elijah Hairston, a wide receiver and linebacker who emerged as one of the team's top players, is among the team's 10 seniors. Other key seniors were Tahjon Francis (RB/DB), Mchoud Wimberley (RB), Asmar Huntley (TE/LB), Martell Radcliff and Na'elle Simmons (WR/DB).
Junior DeShannon Butler is eligible to return at quarterback, while juniors Alhaji Sidibe (LB/OL) and Davon Wooden (DB) also should be key returnees.
"We've got a ton of kids coming back," Gibson said. "I think we'll be much-improved, especially with our quarterback getting a year under his belt. On our defense, we are returning nine out of 11 starters, so we should be pretty good."
Eastmoor's Bonkiye preps for state meet
Eastmoor senior Bushra Bonkiye will compete in the Division II state boys cross country meet at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at National Trail Raceway.
The meet originally was scheduled for Nov. 3 but was postponed because bad weather had caused flooding conditions across the course.
Bonkiye placed fourth in 16 minutes, 27.8 seconds at the regional meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North to advance to state.