Friday Night Live: Division I regional semifinal previews

ThisWeek Sports Staff
ThisWeekSPORTS.com
Quarterback Connor Mathews and Dublin Coffman play host to Olentangy Liberty on Friday, Oct. 23, in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal.
Running back Aidan Kenley is among the key players for Olentangy Liberty.

Olentangy Liberty at Dublin Coffman

When Dublin Coffman played at Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 4, the game seemed like a tease for something yet to come.

The 24-17 victory by Coffman in OCC-Central Division play was just that, as the top-seeded Shamrocks will play host to fourth-seeded Liberty on Friday, Oct. 23, in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal.

The Shamrocks — who were fourth behind top-ranked Pickerington Central, West Chester Lakota West and Lakewood St. Edward in the state poll released after the first round of the postseason — are unbeaten through eight contests. 

That Week 2 setback was the lone loss for Liberty, which is 7-1.

Both coaches know exactly what to expect in the second meeting — another tough, hard-fought game.

“I think I’m probably concerned about the same things as the last time we played,” Coffman coach Mark Crabtree said. “They’re just a good team.”

The winner will face second-seeded Springfield or third-seeded Clayton Northmont in the Region 2 final Oct. 30.

Liberty relied on its passing game to defeat visiting and 12th-seeded Kettering Fairmont 35-7 on Oct. 16 as quarterback Mitch Fields completed 23 of 30 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns. 

Cam Barcus had six receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown, and Dom Magistrale added six catches for 53 yards and a score.

For much of the season, however, the Patriots offense has gone through running back Aidan Kenley, who has rushed for 960 yards and 16 touchdowns on 159 carries. 

Fields is 115-for-156 passing for 1,302 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. 

His top targets have been Barcus (33 catches, 319 yards, 5 touchdowns), Magistrale (24 catches, 266 yards, 4 TDs) and Chase Brecht (23 receptions, 371 yards, 3 TDs).

“They have a really good running back (Kenley), who has great feet,” Crabtree said. “Their scheme is by no means sophisticated, but it’s really effective.

“They have a good athletic quarterback (Fields) and their offensive line does a great job. They’re good at both run and pass blocking. They have good receivers, and their special teams are solid, much like their defense.”

Coffman surrendered the most points it has allowed this season but cruised to a 45-35 victory at home over eighth-seeded Springboro on Oct. 16. The 17 points scored by Liberty was the previous high. 

Quarterback Connor Mathews ran for 236 yards and four touchdowns on 15 carries, and he was 9-for-13 passing for 106 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Running back Bryon Threats rushed for 192 yards and one score on 25 carries, raising his season totals to 1,056 yards and 18 touchdowns on 124 carries. The senior also has 18 receptions for 358 yards and four touchdowns. 

Mathews has 616 rushing yards and six scores on 84 carries, and he has completed 72 of 106 passes for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions.

Hunter Hicks has 18 receptions for 224 yards and two touchdowns, and Trey Hedderly has 18 catches for 212 yards and one score.

“We’re playing an opponent that we know well, and we know they’ll be really, really good,” Liberty coach Steve Hale said. “They’re incredibly well-coached and they’ll be incredibly sound.

"We’re going to have to go out and focus on our fundamentals and our discipline. We’re going to try to make plays when we can and see if we can keep it close and have a chance in the fourth quarter. I’m sure it’s going to be another of our epic battles."

—Scott Hennen

OLENTANGY LIBERTY at DUBLIN COFFMAN

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23

•Last meeting: Sept. 4, Coffman 24-17

•Liberty (7-1) to date: Defeated 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; def. Kettering Fairmont 35-7

•Coffman (8-0) to date: Def. Dublin Jerome 41-6; def. Liberty 24-17; def. Orange 28-7; def. Davidson 49-0; def. UA 24-14; def. Bradley 28-14; def. Beavercreek 56-7; def. Springboro 45-35

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

•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)

New Albany's Mechi McCaulley uses a block from Parker Smith (11) to score a touchdown against Pickerington North on Oct. 16.

New Albany at Westerville Central 

Tenth-seeded New Albany is fully aware that it has a chance to avenge back-to-back lopsided regular-season losses in consecutive weeks.

After upsetting second-seeded Pickerington North 44-20 in a regional quarterfinal Oct. 16, three weeks after a 56-21 home loss to the Panthers, the Eagles will visit third-seeded Westerville Central for a regional semifinal Friday, Oct. 23 — exactly three weeks after a 42-7 loss to the Warhawks on the same field.

“Our whole thing is about gaining respect,” said New Albany coach Bubba Kidwell, whose team is 5-3. “We didn't play very well against Westerville Central last time and normally, you have to wait an entire year to gain respect back and get a chance to play (a given opponent again). 

“We’re fortunate that we played them a couple weeks ago and now we get an opportunity to face them again. We’re excited about it.”

A healthier backfield led by Mechi McCaulley, who missed most of the regular season because of a broken collarbone, and a swarming defense led the Eagles past North. McCaulley rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries as New Albany amassed 451 total yards and shut out North 27-0 in the second half.

Central’s 21-20 win over 11th-seeded Upper Arlington on Oct. 16 featured more drama than the Eagles’ victory. 

Michael Ross rushed for 65 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, and his second score with 2 minutes, 36 seconds left proved to be the game-winner as the Warhawks improved to 6-1.

UA pulled within a point with 12 seconds left on James Hayek’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Chiavaroli, but the extra-point try hit the left upright.

“Our first game (against New Albany) was one of those situations where it seemed like every bounce went our way and we were able to capitalize on everything,” Warhawks coach Brent Morrison said. “(McCaulley) being back adds another dimension to their offense. 

“We have to respect what they can do with the run and their misdirection plays because those can open up everything else.”

The winner will play top-seeded Pickerington Central or 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in the regional final Oct. 30.

—Dave Purpura

NEW ALBANY at WESTERVILLE CENTRAL

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23

•Last meeting: Oct. 2, Central 42-7

•New Albany (5-3) 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; def. Pickerington North 44-20

•Westerville Central (6-1) to date: Def. Upper Arlington 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; def. UA 21-20

•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 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)

Hilliard Bradley at Pickerington Central

Pickerington Central will play its second Division I, Region 3 playoff matchup against 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in three seasons with the top-seeded Tigers as the host team Friday, Oct. 23, in a regional semifinal.

The teams met at Bradley in 2018, with Central rallying for a 14-13 victory in the opening round en route to reaching a state semifinal.

The Tigers are 8-0 and have won 20 consecutive games after defeating ninth-seeded Hilliard Darby 35-16 on Oct. 16 in a regional quarterfinal. Central defeated Cincinnati Elder 21-14 to win its second state title in three seasons a year ago.

“They’re going to try to out-formation you and they try to get you outnumbered at the line of attack,” said Bradley coach Mike LoParo, whose team is 3-5 after edging Reynoldsburg 31-30 on Oct. 16. “There’s nothing sophisticated about what they’re doing. 

“They’re going to impose their will against you, and you have to stop it. No one has done that yet, and I’m not sure anyone will.”

Tigers quarterback Garner Wallace was efficient against Darby, completing 10 of 13 passes for 172 yards with one interception. He also had 10 rushes for 52 yards.

Nick Mosley rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, and Lorenzo Styles Jr. caught five passes for 95 yards. Styles also had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown and returned a kickoff 90 yards for another score.

Bradley went on the road and held off fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg by stopping an attempted two-point conversion run by the Raiders with 16.5 seconds to play.

Quarterback A.J Mirgon rushed for 111 yards and one score on 26 carries, and he was 14-for-24 passing for 171 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Justice Ross caught six passes for 99 yards and one touchdown.

Trevor Schuler ran for 62 yards on seven carries, and Mason Koons had an interception.

“Coach LoParo and I have coached against each other in the past and in the playoffs,” Central coach Jay Sharrett said. “You know his team is going to come out and play stout football, and we’ll put a game together and see what happens in the first quarter.

“When you get to the third round of the playoffs, this is usually the regional championship week. You have to score one more point than the other team, and we’ll just line it up and play."

The winner will face third-seeded Westerville Central or 10th-seeded New Albany in the Region 3 final Oct. 30.

—Scott Hennen

HILLIARD BRADLEY at PICKERINGTON CENTRAL

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23

•Last meeting: 2018, 14-13 Central

•Bradley (3-5) 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; def. Reynoldsburg 31-30

•Central (8-0) 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; def. Hilliard Darby 35-16

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

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)