26 unbeaten teams, 6 defending state champions qualify for OHSAA playoffs

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 27, 2003

COLUMBUS - The coach of North Canton Hoover isn't counting on riding the momentum of an undefeated season into the first round of the state high school football playoffs.

Don Hertler, whose Vikings (10-0) are a top seed in Division I, region 2, said regular season records might as well be forgotten in the postseason.

''It's pretty much a new season,'' he said. ''You don't know how kids are going to respond to the second season. The seeds don't matter. It's equal for everyone now.''

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The 192 teams in the 2002 OHSAA high school football playoffs were announced Sunday. All six defending state champions, all the top-ranked teams in the Associated Press poll and one team with a losing record are in.

Hoover plays Hudson (9-1) Saturday in the first round of the playoffs. Hertler and his staff have begun scouting tapes of their opponent, which he said will be tough.

''They're just a good strong well-coached team,'' he said.

Three of last year's state champions are returning as top seeds: Cincinnati Elder in Division I, Marion Pleasant in Division V and Mogadore in Division VI.

Division III is crowded with the rest of last year's champs: Dayton Chaminade-Julienne (8-2) won in Division II last year, and Kenton (7-3) was in Division IV. Both are now seeded fifth in their regions. Columbus Watterson (8-2), the division's defending champion, hosts Pemberville Eastwood (8-2) on Friday.

All 26 undefeated teams made the cut, said Bob Goldring, a spokesman for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Uniontown Lake (4-6) is the only team with a losing record to make the playoffs, the third year in the row that's happened. The eighth-seeded Blue Streaks face unbeaten Columbus Brookhaven (10-0) on Friday in Division II, region 7.

''It's very rare that that occurs, that a team with a below-.500 record qualifies. The four teams they did beat must have been pretty strong and had good seasons,'' Goldring said.

Columbus DeSales heads into the Division III playoffs coming off a big win over Division I's Cleveland St. Ignatius. The Stallions (6-4) host Sandusky Perkins (7-3) Friday in region 10.

DeSales coach Bob Jacoby said the season-ending win should give his team confidence, but hopes his players don't dwell on it.

''It can't hurt us any, but every week is a new week,'' he said.

St. Ignatius (8-2) plays at Cleveland Glenville (9-1) on Saturday in Division I, region 1.

The nine-time state champions, who lost to Warren Harding in the first round of the playoffs last year, suffered their first loss of 2003 at the hands of Cincinnati St. Xavier 20-17 the week before the DeSales loss.

St. Xavier didn't make the playoff cut.