Friday Night Live: Central Ohio programs prepare to kick off postseason

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Ronald Blackman and Gahanna open the Division I, Region 3 playoffs with a first-round home game Friday, Oct. 9, against Hilliard Darby. The Lions are in the postseason for the fifth time in seven seasons under coach Bruce Ward.
Brock Tibbitts and New Albany open the Division I, Region 3 playoffs Friday, Oct. 9, at Westerville North.

Entering the playoffs as a No. 1 seed could prove particularly advantageous considering the extended length of this year’s postseason.

There will be seven rounds of competition in Division III — instead of the normal five — with DeSales earning the top seed in Region 11, getting a first-round bye and then having home-field advantage throughout the next three rounds.

All opening-round games in Divisions I, II, III and VII will be played Friday, Oct. 9, with Divisions IV, V and VI opening Saturday, Oct. 10.

There are 64 teams among the four regions in Division I, which means No. 1 Dublin Coffman in Region 2 and No. 1 Pickerington Central in Region 3 don’t have a bye and that there will be six rounds of competition. But both programs could play as many as three home games before the regional final round.

The Shamrocks, who are adjusting to not having senior standout Sheron Phipps (WR/DB) for the playoffs because of the OHSAA transfer rule, open against 16th-seeded Beavercreek.

The Tigers, like Coffman, are 6-0 and begin defense of their state championship against 16th-seeded Grove City.

Matchups such as those two openers likely won't provide the type of drama expected from the Region 3 contest between eighth-seeded and host Gahanna and ninth-seeded Hilliard Darby.

Those teams both are 3-3 and have had a mixed bag of results, with the Lions beating New Albany 42-41 in overtime Sept. 11, being outscored by an average of 34 points in their losses and outscoring their other two opponents by a combined 83 points.

Darby lost its opener 17-13 to Hilliard Davidson, which hasn’t won since, but handed Marysville its only loss 31-28 on Sept. 4.

The Panthers enter the postseason after a 28-27 victory over Dublin Jerome on Oct. 2. They gave up a touchdown with 34 seconds left, but the Celtics’ two-point conversion pass failed. Jerome then recovered the onside kick but failed to score before the clock ran out.

“There’s a lot going on in the world and we felt like people needed a little excitement,” Panthers coach Jon Santagata said.

Both Santagata and Gahanna coach Bruce Ward have stressed the need for their teams to clean up their mistakes heading into the matchup. The winner will play the Pickerington Central-Grove City winner on Oct. 16 in a regional quarterfinal.

The Lions are in the postseason for the fifth time in seven seasons under Ward, while the Panthers are making their eighth playoff appearance in 13 seasons under Santagata. 

Gahanna lost to Pickerington North 31-6 on Oct. 2 with a share of the OCC-Ohio Division title on the line.

“Our kids are resilient,” Ward said. “If you’re living in 2020, you’ve got to be resilient.”

Here are other matchups of note during the opening week of the playoffs:

•With the top seed going against No. 16, the second seed playing No. 15, and so on, in Division I, two of the better matchups figure to be the games between seeds No. 7 and No. 10.

Those matchups are seventh-seeded Westerville North playing host to 10th-seeded New Albany in Region 3 and seventh-seeded Marysville playing host to 10th-seeded Jerome in Region 2.

Although it hasn’t been to the postseason since 1999, North was on a path to qualify even if teams were playing a typical 10-game regular season considering it improved to 5-1 with a 22-21 win Oct. 2 at Worthington Kilbourne. The Warriors’ only loss was 32-28 on Sept. 11 to OCC-Capital champion Westerville South.

New Albany is 3-3, but Pickerington North and Westerville Central — the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively — are the other teams it lost to in addition to Gahanna.

•A pair of rematches to keep an eye on in Region 3 will take place when fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg plays host to 12th-seeded Lancaster and 11th-seeded Olentangy Orange travels to sixth-seeded Upper Arlington.

The Pioneers beat the Golden Bears 31-14 on Sept. 18 and are 3-3, while UA is 2-4 but lost its other three games by 10 points or fewer.

The Raiders are 3-3, with one of their losses coming 41-40 on Sept. 18 to the Golden Gales as they failed on a two-point conversion pass late in the fourth quarter. Lancaster is 2-4, with three of its losses coming by seven points or fewer.

•After not getting started until Week 4 of the regular season, the City League will have 13 of its 15 programs competing this weekend. Africentric, Columbus South, Linden-McKinley and Whetstone all will be making their first postseason appearances.

In a rematch from Week 6, 15th-seeded Walnut Ridge plays host to 18th-seeded Independence on Friday, Oct. 9. The 76ers avenged 35-0 losses each of the past two seasons by beating Walnut Ridge 26-14 on Oct. 2 to improve to 2-1, while the Scots dropped to 1-2.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Playoffs — Week 1

Friday, Oct. 9

Division I, Region 2

Beavercreek (16) at Dublin Coffman (1); Miamisburg (13) at Olentangy Liberty (4); Dublin Jerome (10) at Marysville (7)

Division I, Region 3

Grove City (16) at Pickerington Central (1); Hilliard Darby (9) at Gahanna (8); Hilliard Bradley (13) at Groveport (4); Lancaster (12) at Reynoldsburg (5); Hilliard Davidson (15) at Pickerington North (2); New Albany (10) at Westerville North (7); Central Crossing (14) at Westerville Central (3); Upper Arlington (11) at Olentangy Orange (6)

Division II, Region 7

Canal Winchester (17) at Mount Vernon (16); Mifflin (25) at Dublin Scioto (8); Logan (24) at Big Walnut (8); Whetstone (20) at Licking Heights (13); Marion Harding (21) at Worthington Kilbourne (12); Independence (18) at Walnut Ridge (15); St. Charles (23) at Uniontown Lake (10); Northland (19) at Watkins Memorial (14); Whitehall (22) at Olentangy Berlin (11)

Division II, Region 8

Columbus West (25) at Trenton Edgewood (8); Franklin Heights (24) at Troy (9); Briggs (22) at Teays Valley (11)

Division III, Region 11

Centennial (23) at Mount Orab Western Brown (10); Bellefontaine (19) at Columbus South (14); Beechcroft (22) at Hamilton Township (11)

Saturday, Oct. 10

Division IV, Region 15

Columbus East (25) at Vincent Warren (8); Linden-McKinley (23) at Cambridge (10); Bexley (22) at Carrollton (11)

Division VI, Region 23

KIPP Columbus (25) at Africentric (8); Grandview (23) at Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant (10)