West Branch’s Eliza Hirst enters Warriors’ record books
The kicker made a school-record 10 PATs in the Warriors’ 70-0 win over Minerva on Friday
When Eliza Hirst was first approached about playing football, she laughed it off as a joke.
Hirst had played soccer her entire life, but she never even remotely entertained the thought of taking her soccer skills to the gridiron.
“I was in the seventh grade and my grandfather said the football team was looking for a kicker and he asked if I was interested,” Hirst said. “I thought he was joking around. But then I thought about it. It sounded like a pretty cool idea and I gave it a shot.”
Four years later, Hirst’s kicking skills are no laughing matter for West Branch opponents.
Hirst, now a junior at West Branch, put herself in the record books Friday in the Warriors’ 70-0 win over Minerva. She booted a school-record 10 PAT kicks.
In West Branch’s last two games, Hirst is a perfect 17-of-17 in PATs.
“It’s pretty crazy to think that I’d be playing high school football, let alone doing this,” Hirst said of her record-setting performance.
“It’s a lot of fun. I have always loved playing soccer and kicking the football kind of plays right into what I do on the soccer field.
“Our line is magnificent and the holder and snapper are always perfect in what they do. So much goes into the play before I actually kick the ball, so the entire team is responsible for the successful kicks.”
Hirst was unaware that she was zeroing in on a school record as she continued to kick one PAT after another Friday night.
“Before I went out for the eighth kick a coach told me to go out and beat my seven from a week ago,” Hirst said. “I wasn’t really paying attention to how many points we were scoring, I was just trying to concentrate on each kick. After the game ended, it was pretty neat to look back and reflect on the night.”
Hirst has played soccer since she was six years old. She spends her afternoons juggling time between the soccer field and gridiron.
“I never expected to be playing both sports in high school, but I’m having a blast and I have great coaches and teammates who are very supportive,” Hirst said.
A year ago, a record 25 schools from the Mahoning Valley qualified for the playoffs. That number topped the 22 schools that qualified in 2021, the first year when the tournament field was expanded to 448 teams.
The record could very well be equaled or topped for a third straight year.
Currently, 14 area schools have already punched their ticket to the postseason. Another nine are “likely” to advance, meaning they have a better than 95 percent chance of playing into week 11. Still, a handful of others are strong contenders and control their own fate.
In Division III, Ursuline (6-0) not only clinched a playoff spot, but the Irish are also one of three area teams already guaranteed to be playing a home game in the first round of the playoffs. The Irish are expected to finish in the top four in Region 9. The top eight schools in each region host a first-round game.
At least six area schools will advance in Division IV, Region 13. They include Poland, Niles, West Branch, Cardinal Mooney, Beaver Local and Struthers.
In Division V, South Range and Garfield both already clinched a first-round home game.
Jackson-Milton, United and Pymatuning Valley have punched their tickets in Division VI, while Springfield and Western Reserve did the same in Division VII.
Austintown Fitch, Canfield, Girard, Mineral Ridge, McDonald, Lowellville, Southern and Lisbon are among the schools “likely” to advance.
Despite its 2-4 record, Warren G. Harding currently is ranked 14th in Division II, Region 5. The Raiders would “likely” stay in the top 16 after week 10 with one more win.
Canfield (3-3) hopes to be able to defend its Division III state crown. The Cardinals currently hold the 14th spot in Region 9. They close with games against Holy Name, Howland and Boardman – three teams with a combined record of 2-16.
Four area schools – Howland, Campbell, East Liverpool and Leetonia – have mathematically been eliminated from postseason consideration.
Poland, Jackson-Milton and United fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last Friday, leaving Ursuline as the lone undefeated team in the Mahoning Valley. Garrettsville Garfield (6-0) is also without a loss…..The G-Men are averaging 53.7 points per game. Meanwhile, they have given up just 52 points through six games…..Mathews logged its first win of the season with a 30-28 win over St. John. East Palestine, Leetonia, Salem, Howland and Champion are all still seeking their first win of the season…..South Range (5-1, 3-0) hasn’t lost a league game since Oct. 4, 2019. The Raiders have reeled off 27 consecutive victories against Northeast-8 opponents.