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Mogadore, Kenton back in OHSAA state football finals

They're back.

The Mogadore Wildcats return to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state football championships this weekend.

This is the third year in a row that the Wildcats have made the Division VI game. The last two years they've lost 54-0 and 63-7 to Maria Stein Marion Local.

Not this year. Marion Local was bounced by Dola Hardin Northern in the state semifinals, setting up Friday's Mogadore-Hardin Northern matchup.

Wildcats (13-1) coach Scott Pollock said he's impressed that his team is back again.

''That's quite an accomplishment, especially after the way the first two games have gone,'' he said. ''Mentally, to fight through those two poor games in the championship is a big thing for them.''

Pollock said he doesn't blame people for focusing on the scores of the last two games and not on the fact that Mogodore is in the title game for the third consecutive year.

''We feel like we've embarrassed ourselves the last two years,'' he said. ''It's something that bothers us.''

Mogadore and Hardin Northern (14-0) play in Friday's second game at Canton.

Kenton's Benny Mauk brings his staggering numbers to the Division IV championship, which Kenton won last year. The Wildcats (12-2) take on Portsmouth West in Friday's first game in Massillon.

Through the state semifinals, Mauk has completed 391 of 631 passes for 6,228 yards and 72 touchdowns.

He's also rushed for 1,252 yards and 15 touchdowns, meaning that Mauk has accounted for 7,480 yards of total offense and 87 touchdowns. Mauk also holds the national records for most yards passing (17,223) and touchdowns (175).

''In four years he's seen every defense known to man,'' Senators (12-2) coach Michael Sammons said. ''I don't know if he's a perfect fit, but he's a real good fit for their system. He's got good speed, good power, makes tremendous decisions.''

And the Senators probably won't be given much of a chance. But Sammons says bring it on.

''We're down here in southern Ohio, we don't know how good those folks are,'' Sammons said. ''We're going to make them prove it on the field.

''We've been underdogs for four weeks. Hey, we've had four flukes in a row. We just tell our kids to go out and earn it on the field. The last four weeks we've done that and we look forward to going out and doing it in week 15.''

If the Senators can pull it off, it will probably be the work of senior running backs Jeremiah Lens, who rushed for 1,616 yards and 26 touchdowns, and Justin Cantrell, who rushed for 1,320 yards and 12 touchdowns.

As for Kenton, after stumbling in its first two games, the team has rolled. The Wildcats (12-2) are averaging 52.5 points in the playoffs and are looking forward to a shot at a second state title.

''Our kids love playing football,'' Kenton coach Mike Mauk said. ''Our kids look forward to any challenge put before them. We're playing for a state title. There's only 12 teams in Ohio that have a chance to do that. We're going to come out and play our best football, but Portsmouth West is going to do the same thing.''

In Division I, Warren Harding (14-0) takes on Cincinnati Elder (13-1) in Saturday's last game at Canton Fawcett Stadium. The Raiders are led by junior running back Richard Davis, who stepped in for 2001 Mr. Football Maurice Clarett and racked up 1,410 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Elder is making its first trip to the state finals and is trying to become the first Cincinnati Division I school to win a state championship since Cincinnati Princeton in 1987. Harding won titles in 1987 and 1990.

If Harding wins, coach Thom McDaniel will become the first coach to win a state title at two different schools. He won his first title at Canton McKinley in 1997.

In Friday's last game, Dayton Chaminade-Julienne (13-1) and Macedonia Nordonia (13-1) face off in Massillon in the Division II final.

Neither school has won a state title.

Nordonia is led by senior running back Dan Macon, who rushed for 1,981 yards and 24 touchdowns in the regular season and a defense that has given up less than 10 points a game this year.

Chaminade-Julienne relies on a high-powered offense that has put up more than 35 points per game. The Eagles are led by sophomore running back Javon Ringer (1,634 yards, 24 touchdowns) and junior quarterback Anthony Turner, who finished the regular season 94-for-170 for 1,778 yards and 17 touchdowns.

In Division III, Columbus Bishop Watterson (10-4) and Cleveland Benedictine (12-2) face off Saturday in Massillon. The two teams played each other this season in week five, with Benedictine winning 23-17.

Benedictine has won four state titles, in 1973, 1980, 1981 and 1996. To do it again, the Bengals will probably rely on Raymond Williams, who rushed for 3,149 yards and 39 touchdowns this season. Watterson is led by quarterback Danny DeLucia, who threw for 2,133 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Division V has the only matchup by two undefeated teams. Marion Pleasant (14-0) won the first OHSAA state football title in 1972 and won another in 1996. Smithville is playing for its first state title.