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DB135 11-10-17 06:33 AM

Plain Dealer Playoff Previews

High school football playoffs

Mentor-St. Ed's rematch among semifinal pairings
Matt Goul

The OHSAA football regional semifinals are 7:30 p.m. today for all seven divisions. They include a slew of all-area matchups in Divisions I and II with Mentor facing St. Edward and St. Ignatius meeting the challenge of Euclid for a second time this year.

Notable Division II matchups include Olmsted Falls taking on Wadsworth, while Avon and Highland meet again in the playoffs. Also, Bay puts its undefeated record on the line in Division III vs. Padua.

Here is a breakdown of the 16 games involving Northeast Ohio schools.
Division I | Region 1 semifinals

EUCLID (9-2) VS. ST. IGNATIUS (10-1) Where: Bearcat Stadium in Bedford Matchup: A rematch from their Week 3 encounter at Byers Field, Euclid gets another crack at the top seed in the region and No. 1-ranked team in the state. St. Ignatius turned away the Panthers, 34-20, in September, but trailed at halftime. The challenge for the Wildcats this time is slowing Euclid's potent offense, which includes Northeast Lakes District Offensive Player of the Year Ronald Lee, who broke Robert Smith's single-season school rushing record last week vs. Massillon Jackson. Lee now has 2,220 yards on the season. Leading receiver Dre'Von Lindsay and Jovan Owens could stress a talented St. Ignatius secondary. Lindsay had seven catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns last time. Lee had for him a low total of 103 yards on 19 carries. The difference this time is that Aubrey Shabazz is at quarterback for injured Cee Jay Hale. St. Ignatius also has been without senior running back Mark Bobinski, who rushed 32 times for 143 yards in the first meeting. Junior Jahadge ''Bo'' Floyd rushed for 114 yards and added a receiving touchdown last week in a 24-7 win vs. Massillon Perry.

MENTOR (10-1) VS. ST. EDWARD (10-1) Where: Byers Field in Parma Matchup: The second-seeded Eagles and third-seeded Cardinals meet for the first time since the 2015 playoffs. St. Edward won that game, 34-10. Mentor quarterback Tadas Tatarunas knows it well. He started as a sophomore in his second playoff game. This will be Tatarunas' fourth playoff game, and the 6-foot-5 senior slinger is coming off his third straight 2,000-yard passing season. Tatarunas and Mentor's wealth of receivers will provide one of the toughest tests to date for St. Edward's seasoned secondary, which includes Michigan State commit Michael Dowell at cornerback and Cincinnati-bound Darnell Shields at safety. Also, first-year cornerback Richard White and junior safety Caden Kolesar received honorable mention All-Northeast Lakes District. The passing game matchup could come down to what happens up front, a strength for both sides.

Division II | Region 5 semifinals

BRUSH (9-2) VS. ARCHBISHOP HOBAN (10-1) Where: Nordonia's Boliantz Stadium in Macedonia Matchup: One team is used to this stage, as Hoban bids for a third straight state championship. Brush just picked up its second playoff victory in school history with last week's 26-20 overtime win vs. Hudson. Brush quarterback Godwin Joe, the Division II Northeast Lakes District Offensive Player of the Year, will face his stiffest test with Hoban's defense. The Knights have four shutouts, but gave up a season- high 27 points last week vs. Brush's Western Reserve Conference rival, Mayfield. The problem for Mayfield was Hoban scored 56 points.

BEDFORD (10-1) VS. BARBERTON (11-0) Where: Gilchrist Field in Ravenna Matchup: Two of the area's most electric seniors who star at running back and linebacker should meet up. That is Bedford's Kenny Wilkins and Barberton's Keye Thompson. While Thompson is an Ohio University recruit, Wilkins has offers from Mid-American Conference schools and Iowa State and Cincinnati. Thompson ran 12 times last week for 146 yards, including one long run that was supposed to be a punt in a 36-6 win vs. Benedictine. Wilkins rushed 21 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns last week as the Bearcats held off Eastlake North, 30-22. Both teams have talented senior quarterbacks in Barberton's Zane Ries who threw his first interceptions of the year last week and Bedford's Emmanuel Jenkins. Oh, and don't forget the receivers. Bedford's Davion Johnson and Barberton's Garrett Turnbaugh both have more than 1,000 yards.

Division II | Region 6 semifinals

HIGHLAND (9-2) VS. AVON (11-0) Where: Pat Catan Stadium in Strongsville Matchup: Avon and Highland have a history. They met three straight years in the playoffs, beginning with Highland's regional final victory in 2013. Avon won the following two years and enters this one as the top seed in Region 6. Highland is the fourth seed. Avon overcame early turnovers last week to beat Toledo St. John's Jesuit, 28-12. Highland got off to a better start in its 21-14 win vs. Whitehouse Anthony Wayne, scoring on its first two possessions. The Hornets' offense stalled before retaking the lead midway through the fourth quarter. The next task is curtailing Avon junior quarterback Ryan Maloy, a 2,000-yard passer in the regular season.

OLMSTED FALLS (10-1) VS. WADSWORTH (11-0) Where: Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium in Brunswick Matchup: This region now has a Southwestern Conference vs. Suburban League feel. Second-seeded Wadsworth (SL) looks to keep Olmsted Falls (SWC) from repeating its regional final run of 2016. The Grizzlies, of course, will try to do that with dual-threat senior quarterback Joey Baughman. He threw for 232 yards and ran for 194 yards last week in a 61-42 win vs. Sylvania Northview. Olmsted Falls, which likes to run, used a halfback pass to shock Midview in the final minute last week for a 26-23 win. Can the Bulldogs' ground game keep Baughman off the field? That could determine the winner of this one.

Division II | Region 7 semifinal

ASHLAND (9-2) VS. MASSILLON (8-3) Where: Follis Field in Wooster Matchup: For the second straight week, Massillon won by less than a touchdown with its opening-round win against Youngstown Boardman. The second-seeded Tigers draw sixth-seeded Ashland, which knocked off Mifflin last week on the road in a wild, 48-47 overtime win. Ashland scored 20 straight points to close regulation in that one. Massillon, which beat Boardman by a 28-23 score, has not seen a shootout since early October.

Division III | Region 9 semifinals

ST. VINCENT-ST. MARY (8-3) VS. TALLMADGE (8-3) Where: Revere Stadium in Richfield Matchup: The sixth seed and seventh seed meet here, as No.
6 STVM left Woodridge with a 27-17 win. Tallmadge shocked Buckeye, which had not lost since Week 1. Senior running back Ty Shannon, after rushing for 247 yards and three touchdowns in that 27-14 win vs. the Bucks, will be the focus of STVM's defense. The Fighting Irish gave up just 48 yards last week on the ground, but Mason Lydic burned them for 306 yards through the air.

NOTRE DAME-CATHEDRAL LATIN (9-2) VS. CANFIELD (11-0) Where: Mollenkopf Stadium in Warren Matchup: NDCL's meeting with a top seed comes a week early this year. Andrew Mooney's Lions look to return for the regional finals up from Division IV but face a Canfield defense coming off three shutouts in its last four games. The Cardinals have not given up more than 10 points since September and shut out Aurora last week, 23-0. NDCL's defense packs a punch, too. It led a 38-14 win last week against Alliance and standout running back Duce Johnson. He ran for 186 yards and both touchdowns, but it took 47 carries for him to do it. The Lions' focus will now be quarterback Vinny Fiorenza, who rushed last week for 121 yards. NDCL's Josh Peroni broke out last week for 206 yards rushing.

Division III | Region 10 semifinal

PADUA (9-2) VS. BAY (11-0) Where: Serpentini Chevrolet Stadium in North Royalton Matchup: University School could be a barometer for these teams. Bay beat the Preppers 42-28 in Week 2, and Padua did it last week in the first round to get here. The Bruins won a wild one, 48-41, as Trent Cramer rushed for 263 yards on 30 carries. Both teams will want to control the game on the ground, as Bay has two-way standout Trey Psota. Bay has won 17 of its last 18 dating back to last year. It might take an encore from Cramer and the Bruins' front to dent that mark.

Division IV | Region 13 semifinal

GIRARD (10-1) VS. PERRY (11-0) Where: Tiger Stadium in Twinsburg Matchup: Perry is inching closer to that potential rematch with Steubenville, which halted the Pirates' school-record run to last year's state semifinals. Girard stands in their way and comes off a 33-31 win vs. Cortland Lakeview in which quarterback Mark Waid compiled 475 total yards and five touchdowns. He threw for 363 yards and three scores. Waid will face a Perry secondary led by Northeast Lakes District Defensive Player of the Year Jake Reed, who pulled in 13 interceptions on the year. That includes one last week in a 38-8 win vs. Struthers. Record-setting quarterback Kolston Brewster threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

Division V | Region 17 semifinals

BLACK RIVER (10-1) VS. WICKLIFFE (8-3) Where: Ranger Stadium in North Ridgeville Matchup: Last year, Black River upset Orwell Grand Valley in the first round. This time, Wickliffe took its shot and came out with a 25-22 upset. Now they meet in the second round. Wickliffe, a seventh seed like the Pirates a year ago, got here with 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Isaac Pettway. He scored the go-ahead TD late on a 55-yard run. Now-third-seeded Black River picked apart Gilmour with a three-headed rushing attack of Jacob Campbell, Riley Gibbs and Travis Sexton. They combined for 447 yards and six touchdowns in a 44-13 win.

MANCHESTER (9-2) VS. CANFIELD SOUTH RANGE (11-0) Where: Leopard Stadium in Louisville Matchup: Manchester ran up 267 yard in a 38-12 win last week vs. Fairless. Ethan Wright and Hunter Foster combined for 194 of those yards. Their reward is top-seeded South Range, which defeated Columbiana Crestview, 28-14. A win for Manchester can pull it within a game of its first regional crown since 2013.

Division VI | Region 21 semifinals

KIRTLAND (11-0) VS. MOGADORE (9-1) Where: Stewart Field in Solon Matchup: Here is a game taking place thanks to competitive balance. Mogadore, up from Division VII, is now the second seed facing third-seeded Kirtland. Each program has three state championships to its credit, with Tiger LaVerde's Kirtland squad winning one two years ago. The Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division champions ousted Youngstown Liberty, 40-13, last week in the first round. Mogadore took down East Palestine, 38-20. The Portage Trail Conference County Division runners-up top-seeded Rootstown ran for nearly 250 yards rushing. Junior Gavin Christy led the way for the Wildcats. Kirtland counters with two juniors of its own in Joey Torok and Jake Neibecker. They combined last week for 196 yards and four TDs.

NORWAYNE (10-1) VS. ROOTSTOWN (11-0) Where: Green Memorial Stadium in Uniontown Matchup: Top-seeded Rootstown, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and making only its third appearance, had little trouble with a 34-0 rout of Columbiana. Norwayne beat Berlin Center Western Reserve, 22-13, to get here.

Division VII | Region 25 semifinals

EAST CANTON (9-2) VS. CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS (9-1) Where: Ken Dukes Stadium in Medina Matchup: Second-seeded Cuyahoga Heights bounced defending state champion Warren JFK, 40-12, at home and now faces a team coming off its first postseason win in program history. Nathanael Suntheimer's 130 yards and two touchdowns rushing led the Hornets past Valley Christian, 37-7. Senior Lucas D'Orazio had a similar game last week for Cuyahoga Heights, rushing for 155 yards and two TDs.

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