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Play it again

First round of playoffs features rematches

A year ago, the first round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs included six schools from Trumbull County and five from Mahoning County.

History repeated itself Sunday when the OHSAA released its pairings for the first round of the playoffs, which begin Friday. Among the 224 qualifiers are six Trumbull County schools. They include; Warren G. Harding, Hubbard, Girard, Brookfield, John F. Kennedy and McDonald.

Mahoning County will be represented by Poland, Struthers, South Range, Springfield and Western Reserve.

History will also be repeated in many of the first-round games, which feature rematches from either earlier this year or the 2018 tournament.

Warren G. Harding (7-3) won its last four regular season games to secure the eighth spot in Division II, Region 5. As a result, the Raiders will travel to Massillon to take on the Tigers (10-0). While finishing atop the region 5 rankings, Massillon (10-0) accumulated more computer points than any other team in the state with the exception of Mentor (DI).

Harding and Massillon met on Sept. 13 at Mollenkopf Stadium. The Tigers cruised to a 49-7 win.

Massillon has been ranked atop the DII Associated Press poll since Sept. 30.

Just three days ago, Poland defeated Struthers 14-12 at home to capture the Northeast-8 Conference title. The Bulldogs (8-2) and Wildcats (6-4) will return to Dave Pavlansky Field on Saturday, this time to decide which team advances to the Division IV, Region 13 semifinals.

Also in region 13, Girard and Hubbard will both face familiar playoff opponents.

Girard (6-4) lost its regular-season finale at Niles, but the Indians were able to snag the final playoff spot when the ninth through 12th-place teams in Region 13 also lost. The Indians will travel to Perry to take on the top-ranked Pirates (10-0).

Girard and Perry are meeting in the postseason for a third consecutive year . In 2017 Perry prevailed 50-21. A year ago Girard gained revenge with a 42-33 victory.

Last year Hubbard handed Wintersville Indian Creek a 51-21 opening round loss at Hubbard. This time, the Eagles (6-4) will travel to Indian Creek (9-1).

Hubbard enters the playoffs having lost two straight and three of its last four games.

Less than a month ago, South Range owned a 3-3 record and was 13th in the Division V, Region 17 rankings. Thanks to a four-game winning streak which included back-to-back wins over Struthers and Hubbard, the Raiders (7-3) finished fourth in the region and will host Bellaire (7-3).

Garfield narrowly missed the playoffs in each of the past two years, finishing ninth in Region 17 on both occasions. This year, Garfield (9-1) earned the third spot in Region 17 and as a result will play its first-ever home playoff game. The G-Men will host Sugarcreek Garaway (8-2).

Like Garfield, Springfield fell just short of the playoffs in both 2017 and 2018. In fact, the Tigers missed out on both occasions by less than one-tenth of a point. This year, Springfield (10-0) earned more computer points than any other Division VI school. As a result, it will host a Region 21 first-round game against fellow Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference member Western Reserve (8-2).

Just two weeks ago, the Tigers defeated the Blue Devils 35-14.

Western Reserve is making its ninth playoff appearance under coach Andy Hake.

Brookfield (8-2) won its last three games to finish seventh in Region 21. The Warriors now face the unenviable task of beginning their playoff journey at Mogadore (9-1).

Mogadore owns a 31-5 record against teams from the Mahoning Valley, including a 17-2 playoff record. This is the first-ever meeting between the Warriors and Wildcats.

John F. Kennedy returns to the playoffs for the 24th time. The Eagles (7-3) will travel to Independence (7-3) in a five-vs.-four match-up in Division VII, Region 25.

Kennedy is in the postseason for a fifth straight year, the longest current consecutive streak among all area schools.

McDonald (6-4) lost its first two games of the regular season and its regular-season finale. However, the Blue Devils’ six wins earned a seventh-place finish in Region 25. The Blue Devils will make a two-hour trip to Lucas (8-2). McDonald is making its 17th playoff appearance.

In the first four rounds, playoff games in Divisions I, II, III and VI will be played on Fridays, while Division IV, V and VII games will be played on Saturdays. First-round games will be played at the home field of the higher-seeded team, while the remaining rounds will be played at a neutral site.

All playoff games in the first four rounds kick off at 7 p.m.

PLAYOFF NOTES

In its inaugural season of play, the Northeast-8 Conference sent five teams to the playoffs. … Four area teams — McDonald, Girard, Hubbard and Struthers — all advanced despite losing their regular-season finale. … Despite finishing 10-0 for the first time in school history, Southern Local must travel nearly three hours for its first-round game. The Indians’ opponent — Glouster Trimble — has outscored opponents this year 452-6. … This year’s just-miss team is Lowellville, which finished ninth in Region 25, two-tenths of a point behind eighth-place Malvern. … Eight of the 12 local playoff teams will begin their postseason journeys on the road. … The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association has submitted a proposal to expand the playoffs to 12 teams per region. Had the proposal been in place this year, Canfield, Niles, Cardinal Mooney and Champion would have qualified