Puskas: Who’s in, who’s out of playoff race?


LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.

LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.

LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.

With that out of the way, let’s talk football.

Specifically, playoffs.

Somewhere, Jim Mora just randomly blurted out, “Playoffs? You want to talk about PLAYOFFS?”

Well, yes.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s 2014 playoff field will be mostly known by the wee hours of Saturday morning, if not before.

A few spots won’t be determined until late Saturday night, but the Mahoning Valley teams with playoff hopes should pretty much know their fate by the end of tonight, since no area teams postseason prospects are playing Saturday.

Here’s a look at how things are shaping up, courtesy of Joe Eitel’s online projections and the OHSAA computer ratings:

They’re in: Austintown Fitch (6-2 in Division I, Region 1), Hubbard (9-0 in Division III, Region 7), Cardinal Mooney (5-3 in Division IV, 11), Liberty (8-1 in Division V, Region 15), Ursuline (6-3 in Division V, Region 15), McDonald (9-0 in Division VI, Region 19), Western Reserve (8-1 in Division VII, Region 23) and Wellsville (7-2 in Division VII, Region 23) already have reservations for Week 11. In fact, Fitch, Hubbard, Liberty and Western Reserve have clinched first-round home games, no matter what happens tonight.

In control: Poland (8-1 in Division III, Region 7), Springfield (7-2 in Division VI, Region 19) and Mathews (6-3 in Division VII, Region 23) are in if they win tonight. Poland visits Canfield (5-4) in an All-American Conference, American Division game. Springfield (6-3) hosts South Range (6-3) in an Inter Tri-County League, Tier One matchup. South Range can share the title and perhaps make the playoffs with a victory. Mathews hosts Pymatuning Valley with the Mustangs’ playoff hopes and the Northeastern Athletic Conference championship at stake.

On the bubble: Howland is still alive in Division III, Region 7, but the Tigers need to beat Niles tonight and get help.

Several Division IV teams still have faint hopes, but they also need to win and get serious breaks elsewhere. Those teams include West Branch, Lakeview and Struthers, none of whom have been mathematically eliminated in Region 11, West Branch hosts Salem, Lakeview visits Liberty and Struthers visits Hubbard.

Crestview, United, Girard and even East Palestine have yet to be mathematically eliminated in Division V, Region 15. But all of them must win and get help. Crestview (5-4) hosts Columbiana tonight, United (6-3) hosts East Palestine (4-5). Girard (7-2) hosts AAC Natonal rival Jefferson (7-2), which harbors playoff hopes in Divsion IV.

Like South Range, Lisbon (6-3) is still alive in Division VI, Region 19. The Blue Devils finish the regular season at Jackson-Milton.

So yes, it’s perfectly acceptable for more than a few Valley teams to talk — or at least think — playoffs as Week 10 unfolds tonight, no matter what Jim Mora says and no matter that a lot of Northeast Ohio sports fans turned their eyes toward basketball for a couple of hours on Thursday night.

Write Vindicator Sports Editor Ed Puskas at epuskas@vindy.com and follow him on Twitter, @EdPuskas_Vindy.

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