Friday Night Live: Division I second-round playoff previews

ThisWeek Sports Staff
ThisWeekSPORTS.com
Upper Arlington's Carson Gresock tries to escape from the grasp of Westerville Central's Kyle Denney during the Warhawks' 28-23 win Aug. 28. The teams will meet again Friday, Oct. 16, in the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.

Upper Arlington at Westerville Central

Although his team beat Upper Arlington in the opener Aug. 28, Westerville Central coach Brent Morrison believes the Warhawks will face a much-improved Golden Bears squad in a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal.

The teams will meet again Friday, Oct. 16, as third-seeded Central plays host to 11th-seeded UA.

The Warhawks won 28-23 at UA in the opener, holding off the Bears in the fourth quarter. Central led 15-0 after one quarter and 28-14 heading into the fourth before a UA rally fell short.

“If you make it to the second round of the playoffs, your records don’t really indicate what you’ve done,” said Morrison, whose team is 5-1. “We’re pretty familiar with this team. 

“When we played them the first time, neither one of us really had much film on each other. We’ve changed and evolved a lot since then. I expect this game to be completely different than what we saw in Week 1.”

The winner plays second-seeded Pickerington North or 10th-seeded New Albany in a regional semifinal Oct. 23 at the home field of the higher seed.

UA earned its first postseason win since 2015 on Oct. 9, going on the road to beat sixth-seeded Olentangy Orange 17-10. UA lost 31-14 to the Pioneers on Sept. 18 in an OCC-Central Division contest.

Bears quarterback James Hayek completed 12 of 21 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown and Carson Gresock rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to lead UA in the rematch.

The Bears have won back-to-back games for the first time this season to improve to 3-4.

“The way things were set up, our first two (playoff) games were against teams we had played before and lost,” UA coach Justin Buttermore said. “Our kids want to keep playing and we’re excited to get a chance to play (Central) a second time.”

The Warhawks had a first-round bye after 14th-seeded Central Crossing backed out of their playoff game Oct. 9 because an individual associated with the program tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, the South-Western City School District announced Oct. 5.

Central quarterback Judah Holtzclaw has completed 83 of 129 passes for 1,004 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Running back Michael Ross has rushed for 681 yards and 10 touchdowns on 91 carries, and receiver Luke Swaney has 34 catches for 429 yards and five scores.

“They’re a good, big football team and their quarterback is tough,” Buttermore said. “They’re huge on both sides of the ball.”

—Frank DiRenna

UPPER ARLINGTON at WESTERVILLE CENTRAL

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16

•Last meeting: 2020, Central 28-23

•UA (3-4) to date: Lost to Central 28-23; defeated Hilliard Bradley 7-6; lost to Olentangy Liberty 21-14; lost to Olentangy Orange 31-14; lost to Dublin Coffman 24-14; def. Hilliard Davidson 35-0; def. Orange 17-10

•Central (5-1) to date: Def. UA 28-23; lost to Pickerington North 34-20; def. Grove City 34-0; def. Gahanna 43-0; def. Westland 56-7; def. New Albany 42-7

•Top Golden Bears: Michael Ballenger (DL), Carter Brock (LB), Doak Buttermore (RB/DB), Sam Cannon (WR), Dominic Chiavaroli (DL), Jack Flowers (OL), Carson Gresock (RB), James Hayek (QB/DB), Shea Keethler (DB) and Marco Landolfi (LB)

•Top Warhawks: M.J. Davis (WR/DB), Vince Francescone (LB/LS), Zeke Healy (RB/LB), Judah Holtzclaw (QB), Will Jados (OL), Braeden Murray (DL), Michael Ross (RB), Luke Swaney (WR/DB) and Mason Toomey (C)

Pickerington North's Idris Lawrence evades a tackle from New Albany's Brock Kidwell during their game Sept. 25. The teams will play a Division I playoff rematch Friday, Oct. 16.

New Albany at Pickerington North

Tenth-seeded New Albany will have a chance to gauge its progress over the past three weeks when it visits second-seeded North for a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal, as the Panthers routed the Eagles 56-21 on Sept. 25 during the regular season.

New Albany, which also lost 42-7 at Westerville Central the next week, roared back in a big way Oct. 9 by defeating host and seventh-seeded Westerville North 34-3 in a first-round game.

Quarterback Brock Tibbitts threw for three touchdowns — two to Owen Wilcox and another to Braedon Elwer — to complement a defense that recorded 15 negative-yardage plays. 

“We were coming off a few losses that we regretted. We wanted to come out and show ourselves and central Ohio that our program won’t shy away from anyone,” Eagles defensive back Kole Clay said. “We learned from those experiences and bounced back from a few tough losses. We’ve improved and we want to show everyone we can really play.”

North improved to 6-1 by outlasting 15th-seeded Hilliard Davidson 35-22 in a first-round home game Oct. 9. 

Idris Lawrence’s 4-yard touchdown run with 50 seconds left clinched the win, the Panthers’ sixth in a row and first by fewer than 23 points since a 34-20 victory at Westerville Central in Week 2.

Lawrence rushed for 96 yards and two scores and quarterback Jaylen Gilbert threw for 159 yards and a touchdown while running for 87 yards and another score.

“I think (a close game) was a great thing for us. It forced us to get a big stop and play well under pressure,” North coach Nate Hillerich said. “You see a rematch like this and I think there’s an advantage for the team that lost. They see what didn’t work the first time and have a chance to fix it.”

The winner will play third-seeded Westerville Central or 11th-seeded Upper Arlington in a regional semifinal Oct. 23 at the home of the higher seed.

—Dave Purpura

NEW ALBANY at PICKERINGTON NORTH

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16

•Last meeting: 2020, North 56-21

•New Albany (4-3) to date: Defeated Lancaster 20-13; def. Grove City 23-7; lost to Gahanna 42-41 (OT); def. Westland 49-0; lost to Pickerington North 56-21; lost to Westerville Central 42-7; def. Westerville North 34-3

•North (6-1) to date: Lost to Pickerington Central 35-9; def. Westerville Central 34-20; def. Westland 59-6; def. Grove City 47-24; def. New Albany 56-21; def. Gahanna 31-6; def. Hilliard Davidson 35-22

•Top Eagles: Braedon Elwer (TE/OL/LB), Jayden Fudge (RB), Ian Hoff (LB/K), Collin Johnson (OL/LS), Brock Kidwell (RB/QB/DB), Mechi McCaulley (RB), Brock Tibbitts (QB/P), Tyler Van Meter (RB/LB) and Owen Wilcox (WR/DB)

•Top Panthers: D.J. Davenport (OL), Dawaun Green (RB), Jaylen Gilbert (QB), Elijah Hawk (DL), Cole Johnson (LB), Hayden Kaltenecker (WR), Idris Lawrence Jr. (RB), Devin McShan (DB) and Tyce Neu (OL)

Hilliard Darby at Pickerington Central

Following a 49-0 victory over 16th-seeded Grove City in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs Oct. 9, top-seeded and defending state champion Pickerington Central will play host to ninth-seeded Hilliard Darby in a regional quarterfinal Friday, Oct. 16. 

“Not only are they the most talented in the state of Ohio, they’re one of the most talented teams in the United States of America,” Darby coach John Santagata said. “I think you try and control what you can control, and that means that we need to execute at the highest level that we have all year. And that’s in every phase of the game.”  

After losing 37-6 to Olentangy on Sept. 18, the Panthers are riding a three-game winning streak following a 21-7 victory over eighth-seeded Gahanna in the first round of the playoffs Oct. 9. 

The Panthers also defeated Thomas Worthington 35-14 on Sept. 25 and Dublin Jerome 28-27 on Oct. 2. 

Darby finished with 251 yards of total offense against the Lions as quarterback Blake Horvath accounted for all of the Panthers’ scoring. He carried 23 times for 114 yards and three touchdowns and also was 2-for-4 passing for 59 yards. 

Central coach Jay Sharrett said his team will enter the game with plenty of respect for Darby. 

“They’re a very well-coached team,” Sharrett said. “You’re not going to get them out of position. You’re not going to get them on a trick play. You’re not going to fool them on a stunt defense. 

“You’ve just got to go out and play well for four quarters, because they’re about as sound as a team that you’re going to get. You can tell they’ve played in big ball games before and that’s why they’re in the second round.” 

Against Grove City, Nick Mosley carried 16 times for 117 yards and six touchdowns for the Tigers, who finished with 386 yards of total offense while holding the Dawgs to 102 yards. Olando Kamara carried four times for 54 yards and another score.

The winner will play 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley or fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg on Oct. 23 at the home field of the higher-seeded team.

—Stephen Borgna

HILLIARD DARBY at PICKERINGTON CENTRAL 

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16 

•Last meeting: 2009, Pickerington Central 48-0 

•Darby (4-3) to date: Lost to Hilliard Davidson 17-13; def. Marysville 31-28; lost to Olentangy Berlin 48-41; lost to Olentangy 37-6; def. Thomas Worthington 35-14; def. Dublin Jerome 28-27; def. Gahanna 21-7

•Central: (7-0) to date: Def. Pickerington North 35-9; def. Newark 49-0; def. Central Crossing 47-0; def. Groveport 43-3; def. Lancaster 35-0; def. Reynoldsburg 38-13; def. Grove City 49-0

•Top Panthers: Jake Baird (WR/DB), Blayne Barnes (TE/DL), Sam Donnelly (OL/DL), James Hakes (RB/LB), Blake Horvath (QB/DB), Connor Jones (RB/LB), Kole Kendall (OL/DL), Luke Manche (RB/LB), Ben Marsh (RB/LB), Bradley Weaver (TE/DL) and Eric Williams (WR/DB)  

•Top Tigers: C.J. Doggette (DL), William Dukes IV (LB), Tyler Gillison (LB/TE), Nick Mosley (RB), A.J. Sanders (DB), Sirron Smith (DB/RB), Keaton Snyder (OL), Lorenzo Styles Jr. (WR/DB) and Garner Wallace (QB) 

Hilliard Bradley at Reynoldsburg

Longtime friends will be on opposite sides of the field when 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley plays at fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg on Friday, Oct. 16 in a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal.

Raiders coach Buddy White and Bradley’s Mike LoParo were both former assistants from 2003-05 at Reynoldsburg, and their teams are set to square off for the first time since 2014 and third time overall.

The Jaguars won 21-7 in 2014 after Reynoldsburg posted a 33-21 victory in 2013.

White knows what to expect from the Jaguars — a full dose of quarterback A.J. Mirgon. The senior leads Bradley in rushing (142 carries, 871 yards, 7 touchdowns) and passing (73-for-146 passing for 866 yards, 5 touchdowns, 6 interceptions).

Mirgon had 148 yards rushing and one score on 22 carries in a 28-7 upset at fourth-seeded Groveport on Oct. 9 in the opening round, as the Jaguars improved to 2-5. He also was 5-for-13 passing for 86 yards and one touchdown. 

Caden VanVorhis rushed for 47 yards and two scores on eight carries, and Jake Duffer had two receptions for 76 yards and one score.

“This is one of the few times that we’ve seen a true spread team, because they spread you out and they make you cover all of the field,” said White, whose team is 4-3. “(Mirgon) is the key to their offense. He’s athletic and also does a good job running the ball.

“Their defense isn’t big, but they’re aggressive and they get to the ball. Their linebackers are active and create some problems. They seem to come from everywhere.”

Quarterback Dijon Jennings and running back Daniel Broomfield fuel the Raiders’ attack. Jennings is 66-for-126 passing for 1,180 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions, while Broomfield has 545 yards rushing and six scores on 62 carries.

Wide receiver Markez Gilliam has 29 catches for 540 yards and six scores and also has touchdowns on two kickoff returns and one punt return. Wide receiver Savian Torrence has 17 receptions for 307 yards and four scores.

Broomfield ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries as host Reynoldsburg avenged a regular-season loss with a 53-19 first-round victory over 12th-seeded Lancaster on Oct. 9. 

The Golden Gales won the earlier matchup 41-40 on Sept. 18.

“I think we do a good job on the in-the-box run, but now we have to deal with the spread run,” LoParo said. “They run zone schemes and (Broomfield) does a good job. (Jennings) slings it all over the place, and (Gilliam) is like 5-(foot-)5 but he makes all kinds of plays.

“Defensively, they run a 4-3 and have big kids up front. Their linebackers are athletes and they cover you well.”

The winner plays in a regional semifinal Oct. 23 against top-seeded Pickerington Central or ninth-seeded Hilliard Darby at the home field of the higher seed.

—Scott Hennen

HILLIARD BRADLEY at REYNOLDSBURG

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16

•Last meeting: 2014, 21-7 Bradley

•Bradley (2-5) to date: Lost to Marysville 17-0; lost to Upper Arlington 7-6; defeated Hilliard Davidson 22-17; lost to Olentangy Liberty 38-17; lost to Olentangy Orange 37-34; lost to Dublin Coffman 28-14; def. Groveport 28-7

•Reynoldsburg (4-3) to date: Def. Gahanna 48-14; lost to Groveport 45-14; def. Newark 48-14; lost to Lancaster 41-40; def. Central Crossing 34-10; lost to Pickerington Central 38-13; def. Lancaster 53-19

•Top Jaguars: Matthew Cooper (OL), Jake Duffer (WR), A.J. Mirgon (QB), Peyton Murphy (LB), Kenyon Richardson (WR), Chance Roberts (OL/DL), Mitchell Robinson (LB), Jordan Thompson (DB), Caden VanVorhis (RB/DB) and Walter Williams (DL)

•Top Raiders: Daniel Broomfield (RB), Markez Gillam (WR), Dalton Hall (OL/DL), Dijon Jennings (QB), Chris Karr (LB), N’Rique Love (WR/DB), Jabari Mitchell (WR/DB), Ajani Preston (RB/DB) and Mekhai Woodfork (RB/DL)

Springboro at Dublin Coffman

For the second consecutive week, top-seeded Dublin Coffman will play host to a Greater Western Ohio Conference team in the Division I, Region 2 playoffs.

The Shamrocks are 7-0 and will play eighth-seeded Springboro on Friday, Oct. 16, in a regional quarterfinal. They defeated 16th-seeded GWOC-member Beavercreek 56-7 on Oct. 9 in the first round.

The Panthers snapped a two-game losing streak and are 3-3 after defeating ninth-seeded Findlay 28-19 on Oct. 9 in their playoff opener. 

Moise Armbruster leads the Springboro rushing attack with 476 yards and seven touchdowns on 59 carries. Quarterback Mikey Appel is 65-for-109 passing for 747 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. 

His top receiver is Titan Case, who has 26 receptions for 286 yards and three scores. Case also has rushed for 154 yards and five touchdowns on 12 carries.

“They’re very solid and a good-looking team physically,” said Coffman coach Mark Crabtree, whose team was ranked third in the state behind Pickerington Central and West Chester Lakota West entering the postseason. “They have good size and good skill players.

“Balance is a big part of what they want to do. They have a big offensive line and a big quarterback who can throw, along with good receivers and a good running back.”

The winner plays in a regional semifinal Oct. 23 against fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty or 12th-seeded Kettering Fairmont at the home field of the higher seed.

The Shamrocks rolled past Beavercreek in their playoff opener as senior Bryon Threats rushed for 225 yards and five touchdowns on five carries and also caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Mason Maggs.

Starting quarterback Connor Mathews was 5-for-10 passing for 76 yards, and wide receiver Trey Hedderly caught two passes for 45 yards.

—Scott Hennen

SPRINGBORO at DUBLIN COFFMAN

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16

•Last meeting: First meeting

•Springboro (3-3) to date: Lost to Clayton Northmont 40-36; defeated Beavercreek 77-16; def. Centerville 35-22; lost to Clayton Northmont 42-8; lost to Springfield 41-0; lost to Kettering Fairmont 10-7; def. Findlay 28-19

•Coffman (7-0) to date: Defeated Dublin Jerome 41-6; def. Olentangy Liberty 24-17; def. Olentangy Orange 28-7; def. Hilliard Davidson 49-0; def. Upper Arlington 24-14; def. Hilliard Bradley 28-14; def. Beavercreek 56-7

•Top Panthers: Mikey Appel (QB), Moise Armbruster (RB), Tanner Banks (LB), Titan Case (WR/LB), Michael Ethridge (RB/DB), Andrew Harrison (LB), Conner Heyser (WR/DB), Logan Manes (OL/DL), Kaleel Trent (WR) and Luke Zier (TE/DL)

•Top Shamrocks: Maguire Davis (LB), Hunter Hicks (WR), Connor Mathews (QB/P), O.J. Morris (LB), Hammond Russell (DL), Toby Simpson (OL), Bryon Threats (RB/LB), Daniel Warnsman (OL), Dorian Weaver (DB) and Devon Williams (RB/LB)

Kettering Fairmont at Olentangy Liberty

Olentangy Liberty coach Steve Hale wasn’t surprised when he heard his team’s next opponent in the Division I, Region 2 playoffs Friday, Oct. 16, at home would be 12th-seeded Kettering Fairmont rather than fifth-seeded Perrysburg.

The Firebirds are 3-4 after losing four of their first five games but are coming off a 41-14 win over the previously unbeaten Yellow Jackets, who dropped to 6-1.

Perrysburg was without its starting quarterback because of a quarantine issue and Fairmont scored four first-half touchdowns to take control.

Junior Keon Wright, who has split time at quarterback for the Firebirds with junior Male’k Hilton, ran for a 43-yard touchdown and passed for a 67-yard score to senior wide receiver Anas Musaimi.

Sophomore fullback Drew Baker, who had 432 yards and four touchdowns on 90 carries through six games, rushed for two touchdowns.

Junior running back Tank Gant also has been a key contributor for the Firebirds, who are in the postseason for the third time in four seasons.

The Liberty-Fairmont winner will face top-seeded Dublin Coffman or eighth-seeded Springboro on Oct. 23 in a regional semifinal at the home field of the higher-seeded team.

“They’re a really good football team,” Hale said. “They grind and run the football and have some really nice, big athletes. The (Greater Western Ohio Conference) is a really good conference and there are a lot of battles over there. It’ll be interesting.”

Fourth-seeded Liberty is 6-1 after opening the playoffs with a 35-0 win over 13th-seeded Miamisburg on Oct. 9. It marked the fifth consecutive season that the Patriots have won at least one postseason game.

Quarterback Mitch Fields completed 12 of 13 passes for 152 yards with scoring throws to Dom Magistrale, Matt Hale and Cam Barcus. Aidan Kenley rushed 12 times for 86 yards and two touchdowns and added 46 yards on four receptions.

Brian Yamokoski and Reid Follmer both had one interception for the Patriots, who have won five in a row since losing 24-17 to Coffman on Sept. 4.

“We went out and did a lot of things really well,” Hale said. “Our offense was able to score and when you can get a lead, especially to get up 14 in the first quarter, it’s really hard in the playoffs for teams to come back from. 

“Our defense did a really nice job of getting off the field early and giving our offense an opportunity to move the ball.”

—Jarrod Ulrey

KETTERING FAIRMONT at OLENTANGY LIBERTY

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16

•Last meeting: First meeting

•Fairmont (3-4) to date: Lost to Centerville 21-20; lost to Clayton Northmont 20-6; lost to Springfield 27-21; defeated Miamisburg 21-7; lost to Huber Heights Wayne 31-24; def. Springboro 10-7; def. Perrysburg 41-14

•Liberty (6-1) to date: Def. Olentangy Berlin 35-21; lost to Dublin Coffman 24-17; def. Upper Arlington 21-14; def. Hilliard Bradley 38-17; def. Hilliard Davidson 45-7; def. Olentangy Orange 42-21; def. Miamisburg 35-0

•Top Firebirds: Drew Baker (RB/DB), Jacob Deglow (RB/LB), Tank Gant (RB/DL), Male’k Hillon (QB), Jack Roncagli (LB), Ethan Saum (WR/DB), Keon Wright (QB) and Caleb Young (WR/DB)

•Top Patriots: Cam Barcus (WR), Jacob Bonacci (DL/TE), Mitch Fields (QB), Aidan Kenley (RB), Dom Magistrale (WR), Tyler Rosselli (WR/K), Drew Thornton (DB), Matthew Wrather (OL) and Brian Yamokoski (LB)

Playoffs — Week 2

Friday, Oct. 16

Division I, Region 2

Springboro (8) at Dublin Coffman (1); Kettering Fairmont (12) at Olentangy Liberty (4)

Division I, Region 3

Hilliard Darby (9) at Pickerington Central (1); New Albany (10) at Pickerington North (2); Upper Arlington (11) at Westerville Central (3); Hilliard Bradley (13) at Reynoldsburg (5)

Division II, Region 7

Watkins Memorial (14) at Westerville South (3); Licking Heights (13) at Olentangy (4); Big Walnut (9) at Dublin Scioto (8); Olentangy Berlin (11) at Wooster (6); Worthington Kilbourne (12) at Uniontown Green (5); Walnut Ridge (15) at Massillon Washington (2); Canal Winchester (17) at Massillon Perry (2)

Division III, Region 11

Wilmington (16) at DeSales (1); Mount Orab Western Brown (15) at Hartley (2); Eastmoor Academy (9) at Granville (8); Columbus South (14) at Thornville Sheridan (3); Hamilton Township (11) at Watterson (6)

Division VII, Region 28

Grove City Christian (11) at St. Henry (6)

Saturday, Oct. 17

Division IV, Region 15

Carrollton (11) at Marion-Franklin (6)

Division V, Region 19

Coshocton (13) at Columbus Academy (4); Piketon (21) at Harvest Prep (5); McDermott Northwest (11) at Ready (6)

Division VI, Region 23

Lucasville Valley (13) at Worthington Christian (4); Lore City Buckeye Trail (9) at Africentric (8)