The arrival of the playoffs means that two-thirds of Ohio’s high school football teams packed away their gear last week and another 112 went home for the offseason this weekend.
That harsh reality also means that the games being played are worth our attention, particularly when they live up to expectations.
There was plenty of drama Nov. 8 and 9 for central Ohio programs, with the three rematches in Division I, Region 3 all featuring high-stakes moments, perhaps the game of the year being fought and won by one of the area teams remaining in Division I, Region 2 and even some upsets taking place in other divisions.
Here are five things we learned in the first round of the playoffs:
1. Groveport backed up its breakthrough season with a comeback win.
In what was just their fourth playoff appearance, the fourth-seeded Cruisers scored all of their points in the fourth quarter to win 18-17 over fifth-seeded Hilliard Davidson on Nov. 8 in Region 3 and improve to 9-2.
Groveport, which won its only other playoff game during its last appearance in 2007, got touchdown runs of 4 and 95 yards from Jalil Underdown, with the longer score being followed by the recovery of an onside kick. On third-and-goal from the Davidson 4 with 19.9 seconds left, quarterback Colin Rice hit tight end R’rion Cobb for the game-winning touchdown.
2. Dublin Jerome survived a five-overtime game to win its playoff opener.
The fourth-seeded Celtics were tied with fifth-seeded Springboro at 14 at the end of regulation in their Region 2 playoff opener Nov. 8 before things got wild.
The teams exchanged touchdowns in the first overtime, field goals in the second overtime and touchdowns in the third overtime but neither scored in the fourth extra session.
In the fifth overtime, Jerome’s Adam Booth scored on a 17-yard pass from Ryan Miller and Ryan Richards forced a fumble that was recovered by Dominic Nardone on Springboro’s possession as the Celtics won 38-31 to improve to 9-2.
3. The favorites got their jobs done in Division I.
In each of the big-school matchups involving central Ohio programs, the home team won.
In Region 2, third-seeded Dublin Coffman had no trouble beating sixth-seeded Perrysburg 45-14 as the Shamrocks led 35-7 by halftime.
In the other Region 3 games, top-seeded Olentangy Liberty got by eighth-seeded Westerville Central 14-7, second-seeded Pickerington Central held off a late rally to beat seventh-seeded Reynoldsburg 20-14 and third-seeded Olentangy Orange avenged a regular-season loss to sixth-seeded Pickerington North by winning 36-17.
Liberty got a 74-yard touchdown pass from Corbin Parrish to A.J. Rausch with 2:38 to go to win its rematch against the Warhawks.
Pickerington Central overcame a pair of fourth-quarter fumbles to win its rematch over the Raiders.
North quarterback Jack Sawyer sustained a knee injury and his team was unable to extend its season against the Pioneers, who have won eight in a row since losing to the Panthers in the regular season.
4. Four area teams earned road victories.
Of the six central Ohio programs competing in the Division II playoffs, three earned upset victories Nov. 8.
In Region 7, sixth-seeded Olentangy fell behind 10-0 but dominated the rest of the way to earn a 42-10 victory over third-seeded Troy.
There were three teams in Region 8, with two of those teams – fifth-seeded Walnut Ridge and seventh-seeded DeSales – coming away victorious.
The Scots improved to 11-0 with a 28-7 win at fourth-seeded Xenia as quarterback Howard Thornton ran for two short touchdowns, Antonio Felts had a touchdown run and Thornton connected with tight end Kaveon Ross for a 10-yard score against the first-time playoff qualifier.
The Stallions got 278 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 38 carries from Quintell Quinn as they won 27-13 at second-seeded Cincinnati Turpin.
Also earning a road victory was seventh-seeded Grandview, which dropped second-seeded Bainbridge Paint Valley 35-28 in a Division VI, Region 24 playoff opener Nov. 8.
5. Three other No. 1 seeds from central Ohio moved on.
Hartley is the top seed in Division III, Region 11 and used a stout defensive effort to beat eighth-seeded London 14-8 on Nov. 8 to win a playoff game for the 10th consecutive season.
On Nov. 9, top-seeded Harvest Prep was impressive in Division VII, Region 27 while beating eighth-seeded Fisher Catholic 37-7 and top-seeded Licking Valley had little trouble beating eighth-seeded Marion-Franklin 28-6 in Division IV, Region 15.