Friday Night Live: Liberty-Coffman matchup highlights next playoff round

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Justice Ross and Hilliard Bradley visit top-seeded Pickerington Central on Friday, Oct. 23, for a Division I, Region 3 semifinal. The 13th-seeded Jaguars upset fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg 31-30 on Oct. 16.
Mitch Fields and fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty visit top-seeded Dublin Coffman on Friday, Oct. 23, for a Division I, Region 2 semifinal. The Patriots lost to the Shamrocks 24-17 on Sept. 4.

The limited attendance at football games this season means many fans will miss out on what Olentangy Liberty coach Steve Hale believes could be an instant classic when his team plays Friday, Oct. 23, at Dublin Coffman.

Teams in Division I have reached the regional semifinal round, with Coffman-Liberty in Region 2 representing a rematch of a 24-17 victory by the Shamrocks on Sept. 4.

Neither has lost since, with top-seeded Coffman improving to 8-0 with a 45-35 victory over eighth-seeded Springboro and fourth-seeded Liberty moving to 7-1 with a 35-7 victory over 12th-seeded Kettering Fairmont on Oct. 16.

The winner faces second-seeded Clayton Northmont or third-seeded Springfield on Oct. 30 for the regional championship.

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Hale said. “We’re in round three of the playoffs and we’re playing an opponent that we know well.”

While the Patriots got 258 yards and three touchdowns passing from quarterback Mitch Fields against Fairmont, the Shamrocks gave up a season-high point total but weren’t seriously threatened against Springboro.

Quarterback Connor Mathews rushed for 236 yards and four touchdowns and running back Bryon Threats had 192 yards rushing for Coffman.

“It sounds like Liberty is definitely hitting their stride as of late, but they’ve been consistently good all year anyway,” Shamrocks coach Mark Crabtree said.

Pickerington Central coach Jay Sharrett stresses a philosophy he calls “win them and forget them" that has served his team well the last few years.

The Tigers are two victories away from making it to the state semifinal round for the fifth consecutive season.

During their 8-0 start, the top-seeded Tigers have outscored their opponents by a combined 331-41, but it did take them a half to get untracked during a 35-16 win over ninth-seeded Hilliard Darby in a Region 3 quarterfinal Oct. 16.

“We’re just happy to go to the third round,” Sharrett said.

Central’s semifinal opponent is Hilliard Bradley, which is seeded 13th and is just 3-5.

The Jaguars, though, are coming off back-to-back upsets to open the postseason, including beating fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg 31-30 on Oct. 16.

Against the Raiders, quarterback A.J. Mirgon ran for 111 yards and one touchdown and passed for 171 yards and three scores.

Central has one of the area’s best athletes in Lorenzo Styles Jr., who had both a punt return and a kickoff return for scores against Darby, while running back Nick Mosley rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns.

“It’s a challenge for the coaches to prepare for and it’s a challenge for the kids,” Bradley coach Mike LoParo said.

The Central-Bradley winner will play third-seeded Westerville Central or 10th-seeded New Albany on Oct. 30 for the regional title.

The Eagles, like the Jaguars, have beaten two higher-seeded opponents.

New Albany rallied from a 14-0 deficit to upset second-seeded Pickerington North 44-20 on Oct. 16 and improve to 5-3 as Mechi McCaulley rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

In the same way New Albany turned the tables on North after losing 56-21 to the Panthers on Sept. 25, it will try to beat a Westerville Central team that it lost to 42-7 on Oct. 2.

The Warhawks are 6-1 after beating 11th-seeded Upper Arlington 21-20 on Oct. 16, as they held on when the Golden Bears missed an extra-point attempt with 12 seconds left.

Here are other playoff matchups involving central Ohio teams:

•In Division II, Region 7, third-seeded Westerville South plays host to 11th-seeded Olentangy Berlin, fourth-seeded Olentangy plays host to 12th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne and eighth-seeded Dublin Scioto travels to top-seeded Massillon Perry in games Friday, Oct. 23.

South is 6-0 after beating 14th-seeded Watkins Memorial 56-28 on Oct. 16 in its first game since Sept. 25. Berlin beat sixth-seeded Wooster 48-40 the same night to improve to 5-3.

Olentangy is 5-2 and Kilbourne is 5-3 heading into their matchup. The Braves are coming off a 47-0 victory over 13th-seeded Licking Heights while the Wolves upset fifth-seeded Uniontown Green 30-27.

Scioto gets a shot at the top seed after beating ninth-seeded Big Walnut 31-13 on Oct. 16 to improve to 7-1. The Irish, who have won seven games in a row, also defeated the Golden Eagles 15-14 on Oct. 2.

•Three quarterfinal games featuring area teams will take place Friday, Oct. 23, in Division III, Region 11.

Top-seeded DeSales and eighth-seeded Granville will square off after each had an opening-round bye and had its second-round game canceled. The Stallions are 5-1 and the Blue Aces are 4-2.

Second-seeded Hartley is 4-3 after beating 15th-seeded Mount Orab Western Brown 65-14 on Oct. 16 and will play host to 10th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley, which improved to 7-1 with a 50-0 victory over 23rd-seeded Centennial in the second round. The last time the Hawks faced Tri-Valley was in a 2017 regional final, which Hartley lost 13-9.

Sixth-seeded Watterson beat 11th-seeded Hamilton Township 39-21 on Oct. 16 and takes a 4-3 record into its matchup at Thornville Sheridan, which beat 14th-seeded Columbus South 27-0 to improve to 7-0.

•The quarterfinal matchups Saturday, Oct. 24, in Division V, Region 19 include sixth-seeded Ready at third-seeded Wheelersburg and fifth-seeded Harvest Prep at fourth-seeded Columbus Academy.

Both Harvest Prep and Academy are 6-1, with the Warriors’ loss coming against the Vikings 20-10 on Sept. 4. The Vikings beat 13th-seeded Coshocton 45-21 and the Warriors defeated 21st-seeded Piketon in second-round games Oct. 17.

Ready improved to 6-2 with a 52-3 victory over 11th-seeded McDermott Northwest on Oct. 17, while Wheelersburg is 6-1.

•Eighth-seeded Africentric, which is in the postseason for the first time, picked up its second playoff win when it beat ninth-seeded Lore City Buckeye Trail 28-22 in overtime Oct. 17 in Division VI, Region 23.

The Nubians are 4-1 heading into their matchup Saturday, Oct. 24, at top-seeded Beverly Fort Frye, which is 7-0.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Playoffs — Week 3

Friday, Oct. 23

Division I, Region 2

Olentangy Liberty (4) at Dublin Coffman (1)

Division I, Region 3

Hilliard Bradley (13) at Pickerington Central (1); New Albany (10) at Westerville Central (3)

Division II, Region 7

Olentangy Berlin (11) at Westerville South (3); Worthington Kilbourne (12) at Olentangy (4); Dublin Scioto (8) at Massillon Perry (1)

Division III, Region 11

Granville (8) at DeSales (1); Dresden Tri-Valley (10) at Hartley (2); Watterson (6) at Thornville Sheridan (3)

Saturday, Oct. 24

Division V, Region 19

Harvest Prep (5) at Columbus Academy (4); Ready (6) at Wheelersburg (3)

Division VI, Region 23

Africentric (8) at Beverly Fort Frye (1)