Poland plays Cardinal Mooney in a Division III regional final, while Ursuline meets Cuyahoga Heights in a rematch from 2008.
As they continued to win, area high school football fans wanted to know how Poland High matched up against the area’s acknowledged king of Division III, Cardinal Mooney.
Tonight they’ll get to see it up close and personal.
The Cardinals (12-0), the top-seeded team in Region 9, will play No. 2 seed Poland (10-2) in the regional championship game at Fitch Falcon Stadium in Austintown.
It’s one of two local games in the postseason tonight.
Ursuline (8-3), the No. 3 seed in Region 17, will play No. 1 seed Cuyahoga Heights (12-0) in a Div. V regional final at Veterans Stadium in Aurora.
Just two weeks after a record 17 teams in the tri-county area qualified for the playoffs, just three clubs remain to carry the Valley banner.
The Mooney-Poland matchup is one of the most anticipated in years.
The teams have never played in football, and their athletic history has been most recently been marked by a post-game fight at a basketball game.
Cardinal Mooney has run the table with a powerful running game and defense.
The Cardinals are led by running back Braylon Heard, who’s rushed for 1243 yards and 16 touchdowns, despite missing one game. Karrington Griffin and Ray Vinopal have also rushed for more than 500 yards.
The Mooney defense is allowing just 193 yards per game. Opponents have completed just 38 percent of their pass attempts (87 of 226).
“Their record speaks for itself,” Poland coach Mark Brungard said of the Cardinals. “To have the schedule they have and to win every game, obviously, they are tremendous. You don’t see many weaknesses up and down the lineup.”
Poland opened with seven consecutive victories before losing to Steubenville, 24-13. The Bulldogs also lost to Canfield, 16-0, in the season finale before rebounding with wins over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Akron Hoban in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Bulldogs also have big-play potential, led by running back Luke Wollet, who’s rushed for 984 yards and 18 touchdowns. Quarterback Colin Reardon has completed 114 of 172 passes (66 percent) for 1,810 yards and seven TDs, and Darius Patton has 53 receptions for 968 yards and three touchdowns.
“Poland is a really good football team,” said Mooney coach P.J. Fecko. “They’re a team that has played well all year, a team that is solid in all three phases of the game, and a team that has some big play ability with some of their athletes.
“They’ve proven week in and week out that they’re a very good football team that deserves to be in the third round of playoffs,” said Fecko.
The Ursuline-Cuyahoga Heights game is a rematch of their first-round playoff of 2008.
That game was tied at halftime, 7-7, before the Fighting Irish pulled away in the second half. Four weeks later, coach Dan Reardon’s team was hoisting the state championship trophy.
Ursuline is led by Allen Jones, the running back who has rushed for 1,777 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Quarterback Paul Kempe is 81 of 147 for 1,517 yards and 12 TDs, and Akise Teague and Chris Collins have combined for 53 catches for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns.
“We changed our offense this year to a spread offense and it’s been very, very good to us,” said Ursuline coach Dan Reardon, whose team has averaged 36 points per game and has scored at least 21 in every game. “Paul Kempe has had a tremendous year from a decision-making standpoint and with his playmaking ability.”
Cuyahoga Heights hasn’t lost since the 2008 playoff lost to Ursuline.
The Redskins are led by quarterback Zach D’Orazio, who has rushed for 1,195 yards (average 11.2 yards per carry) and completed 56 of 89 passes for 1,049 yards and 13 TDs.