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Tonight's big games in Mahoning Valley

Week 9 surprises turn several of this week’s games into play-in contests for Week 11

By Tom Williams


Just when you thought it was safe to make Blitz Picks with little worries, along came Week 9 of the high school football regular-season.

Several of last week’s key games ended with surprises, some big (Ursuline over Mooney, Niles over Canfield, Canton McKinley over Boardman), some not-as-big (United over Mineral Ridge, Springfield over Columbiana).

Left in the rubble were some assured postseason appearances by some of the Valley’s seemingly strongest teams.

Instead, football fans will be treated to a Week 10 slate that has turned several games into play-in contests for Week 11.

Take Canfield at Poland. Two weeks ago, Mike Pavlansky’s Cardinals were 6-1 and in position for a home playoff game (the top four teams in each region open the postseason at home). Their only loss had been a 30-28 thriller at Howland in Week 4.

But losses to Canal Fulton Northwest (26-17) and Niles (29-28 on a last-minute touchdown pass) have the Cardinals desperate for a win. Canfield has fallen to seventh in Division II Region 5, two spots behind idle Howland.

Up next is Canfield’s fiercest rival — Poland, the seventh team in this week’s computer ratings for Div. III, Region 11.

In the past two weeks, Mark Brungard’s Bulldogs (6-3) defeated East (21-7) and Beaver Local (42-7). Those wins followed a tough overtime loss to Howland (21-14) and an overtime victory over Northwest (42-41).

The Canfield-Poland winner should plan for a Week 11 road trip. It’s possible but highly unlikely that the loser could squeak into the postseason.

Speaking or archrivals hooking up, Fitch (6-3) travels to Boardman (6-3) to face the Spartans who most likely will share the Federal League crown with Canton McKinley and Canton GlenOak.

Although Fitch is no longer a member of the Federal League, Phil Annarella’s Falcons can still spoil Boardman’s season and have an outside shot at the Div. I playoffs. Going into the game, Mark D’Eramo’s Spartans are eighth in Region 1 and the Falcons are 12th.

Perhaps the biggest mystery to be unraveled tonight is whether Ursuline, the three-time defending state champion in Div. V, can sneak into the playoffs with a 4-6 record.

Without a doubt, Dan Reardon’s Irish have played the toughest schedule imaginable for any team not in Div. I. The Irish were competitive in losses to powerhouses Mentor (Div. I), Mentor Lake Catholic (Div. III) and Steubenville (Div. III).

Ursuline’s 28-25 win over their archrival Mooney sent out an alert that the Irish (3-6) are still alive. Standing in their way is Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (8-1), the No. 5 team in the Region 9 computer ratings that is trying to earn a home playoff game.

Ursuline is 13th in this week’s Region 17 standings. To get into the postseason, Ursuline must win and then leap over five teams. Directly ahead of the Irish are Waterloo, Barnesville, St. Thomas Aquinas, Columbiana and Southern.

When it comes to luck, don’t count out the Irish.

After a 6-0 start, Bob Spaite’s Clippers have lost twice in the past three weeks and are playing for their postseason lives tonight against hard-to-figure Mineral Ridge (4-5).

Last week’s 40-21 loss to United knocked the Rams down to 13th in Div. VI Region 21. But they haven’t been eliminated.

Sean Guerriero’s Springfield Tigers (7-2) and Mickey Sikora’s Campbell Memorial Red Devils (7-2) are playing for a home game in Region 17. At the moment, the Tigers are fourth as they prepare to travel to Hanoverton to face United (3-6).

The Red Devils are sixth as they prepare for the arrival of archrival Struthers (5-4), a Div. III school worth a lot more in computer points. The number five team is 7-2 Sugarcreek Garaway, which is playing is playing 5-4 Strasburg-Franklin, a Div. VI squad.

And in Div. IV, two All-American Conference schools — LaBrae and Lakeview, both 5-4 — remain alive. The Vikings, this week’s No. 8 team, are playing Steubenville Catholic Central (3-6) while the Bulldogs, No. 10, will play at Champion (2-7).


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