July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

High school football: Black River, Highland, Wadsworth qualify for playoffs

Following Highland’s stunning 41-35 to Cloverleaf on Friday night, the Hornets slowly walked up the nostalgic hill at Highland Stadium to the locker room, wondering if they played their last game.

Luckily for them, they joined Black River and Wadsworth in the playoffs when the OHSAA announced the official pairings Sunday at 2 p.m.

Highland's Jerry Scholle. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

Thanks to Holy Name defeating Cleveland Central Catholic 56-42 Saturday afternoon, the Hornets (6-4) tied with Maumee (7-3) for the eighth spot in Division II, Region 6. Highland won the tiebreaker and will play at No.1 Avon on Friday night at 7:30.

“We always knew it was a possibility, but after last week’s game it was uncertain,” Hornets senior tackle Jacob Justik said. “It feels really good because we thought our season was coming to an end.
Our seniors wanted a second chance and we got it. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

Highland and Maumee each had a Harbin average of 17.9000. According to OHSAA tournament regulations, points are earned for each game that a defeated opponent’s defeated opponents may win.
For example, Holy Name’s seven victories came against opponents with a combined 24 wins.

In layman’s terms, Highland won the tiebreaker with Maumee 92-87. Officially, it will go down as 485.5-451.

The specifics don’t matter to the Hornets, however, because they get a shot to redeem themselves against the West Shore Conference champion Eagles (9-1), who held the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press state poll before a loss to Mentor Lake Catholic on Friday.

“Coming off the two losses, we really want to show we can do something great like we did against (North) Royalton and Olmsted Falls,” Justik said. “It’s going to be the biggest challenge we’ve had all year. (Avon’s) been ranked No. 1 as long as we remembered. I really kind of hoped we could play them to show what we’ve got.”

Black River (8-2) and Wadsworth (9-1) will also get second chances in the form of rematches.

The Pirates received the fourth seed in D-IV, Region 13 and will play at Art Stevenson Field for the first time in eight years. Manchester, which lost 29-28 to Black River in a thrilling Week 3 game, will be chomping at the bit after sharing the Principal’s Athletic Conference title.

“It feels great to finally be in the playoffs since 2003,” Black River tight end/defensive end John Guilford said. “There’s a lot of talk going around school about it.

“Now they’re going to be more prepared to beat us, but, then again, we know what to do and how to beat them.”

Wadsworth downplayed its rematch that was two years in the making. Entering Saturday’s action, the Grizzlies were slated to play at Sylvania Southview. Canton McKinley’s win over Massillon bumped Wadsworth to seventh and Wooster lost to Orrville to negate a possible matchup at Hudson.

As a result, the Grizzlies will lock horns with Ohio State recruit Bri’onte Dunn and the Golden Eagles of GlenOak (9-1) in D-I, Region 2 action on Saturday.

Two years ago, GlenOak ousted Wadsworth 40-21 while limiting running back Jack Snowball to just 24 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Each of the team’s personnel has drastically changed since then, and the 6-foot-1, 221-pound Dunn (1,577 rushing yards, 14 TDs) and Snowball (2,176 rushing yards, 170 points) have drastically improved.

Snowball made it clear the Grizzlies have a different focus this time around, and aren’t using what happened on Nov. 7, 2009 in Plain Township as motivation.

“We feel like we can compete with anyone if we play our game, we’re physical and we’re not scared f the situation,” he said. “We have a group of guys who can go out and get a win in the playoffs.

“We’re a different team from two years ago and I’m sure they feel the same. … It’s kind of ironic, but we’re not looking at that (2009) outcome. We’re focused and looking at them as a new opponent.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Albert Grindle About Albert Grindle

Albert Grindle is a sportswriter for the Gazette. He can be reached at 330-721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.