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2nd round of unusual playoffs starts tonight

Rematches, road trips and a return to action highlight the second round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association football tournament.

The playoffs resume tonight with 208 games statewide scheduled to be played over the course of the next two days. By Saturday evening, the field will be narrowed to 16 schools in Division I and 32 schools in the other six divisions. Since 1999, 32 schools in each division have qualified for the playoffs.

For the 16 area schools which earned first-round byes, the second round of the tournament means a return to the gridiron following an off-week.

As a two-seed in Division V, Region 17 South Range (6-0) was sidelined last week after winning six straight. On Saturday, the Raiders host Cadiz Harrison Central (3-3).

“Quite honestly, I would have loved to have played last week,” said South Range coach Dan Yeagley. “As a team, you’re doing well, you’re in a rhythm and you don’t want to slow the momentum. Having that week off just isn’t something that any of us are used to.

“We tried to use the week to our advantage. We used the time off to work on South Range, to better ourselves. And, with bye weeks being added to the future playoff format, we used it as a learning tool.”

South Range opened its season with a 24-21 win over Poland. Despite being the smallest school in the Northeast-8 Conference, the Raiders beat each of their next five league foes by 28 or more points.

“We feel like the league prepares us well for the playoffs,” Yeagley said. “Every week we go up against bigger schools, great athletes, great coaching staffs. Our kids are battle-tested. We’ve been fortunate to have a solid season to this point. Now our goal is to carry that over to the playoffs.”

Week two of the tournament includes 25 area games involving 32 area teams. Three of those games are rematches from the regular season.

¯ LaBrae (5-2) will travel to Brookfield (5-1). Earlier this season the Warriors defeated the Vikings 35-7.

¯ Western Reserve (4-3) visits Springfield (6-0) in a rematch of a game played Sept. 4. In that contest, Springfield rolled to a 31-0 victory.

¯ Just two weeks ago, East Liverpool (4-3) gave West Branch (6-0) its biggest challenge of the season. The Warriors prevailed 34-28. The teams will meet again in Beloit.

Of the 14 area schools which earned first-round home wins, 12 will hit the road this weekend. Along with Brookfield, Warren G. Harding is the only team that will play at home for a second straight week.

Harding (4-3), which beat Akron North 49-0 a week ago, returns to Mollenkopf Stadium tonight to host Maple Heights (5-2). In their last five games, the Mustangs are 5-0 and have outscored opponents 154-6. They have pitched four consecutive shutouts, including a 58-0 win over Firestone last week.

Many of the area schools which play on the road are — at least based on seeding — decisive underdogs.

¯ Niles (5-2) will travel to Streetsboro to play a 6-0 Rockets team that is averaging 54 points per game.

¯ Girard (3-4) visits Canal Fulton Northwest (6-0), the top seed in Division IV, Region 13.

¯ Western Reserve (4-3) and Lowellville (3-4) both must also deal with the top-seeded teams in their respective regions. The Raiders visit Springfield (6-0) while the Rockets will play Warren John F. Kennedy (4-2) at Liberty High School.

¯ Boardman (4-3) visits a Painesville Riverside team that is 5-1.

¯ Perennial power Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (2-5) will travel to Garrettsville to play a 6-0 Garfield team which earned more computer points than any other team in Division V.

A pair of area teams will play on the road for a second straight week. Howland (4-3) will go up against Chardon (6-0), the top-seeded team in Division III, Region 9. In the same region, Youngstown Chaney (3-4) will visit fourth-seed New Philadelphia (5-1).

Through at least the regional finals, playoff games in Divisions I, II, III and VII will be played on Fridays. Division IV, V and VI games will be played on Saturdays.

For each round through at least the regional semifinals, the higher seeded team has the opportunity to host the game.

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