And then there were three.
What started out with five local teams in play for a possible run at an OHSAA state championship was trimmed to three after Monroe Central and Martins Ferry were eliminated this past weekend.
St. Clairsville, Shadyside and Beallsville stayed alive. The latter two did so in fairly convincing fashion, while the Red Devils escaped a serious upset bid from eighth-seeded Chesapeake thanks to a walk-off field goal from Zach Musilli.
All three sat patiently and clicked refresh early and often on their respective brackets on the OHSAA website, awaiting their locations for this week's regional semifinal contests.
The Red Devils will meet Coshocton at Zanesville; the Tigers will meet Youngstown Christian at New Philadelphia and the Blue Devils will take on Willow Wood Symmes Valley at Athens High School in The Plains.
The St. Clairsville and Beallsville sites make plenty of sense to me, but the Shadyside game is a logical fit for Steubenville, which will sit idle this week.
It's extremely tough to get a handle on these three teams' games this week. There are reasons to believe each of the locals are favorites and plenty reasons to think all three are underdogs.
St. Clairsville is going to have to stop the run better than it did last Saturday. Shadyside has to realize that it had the best draw of anyone in the region with a Wellsville squad, which just wasn't very good.
Beallsville has to break out the GPS system for the second straight week and is well on its way to setting some kind of record for most miles traveled in the tournament. Last week, it was 200-plus miles to Sciotoville Community School and this week, it's about 120 miles to Athens.
On the positive side, the Red Devils are the only passing team left in the Region 15 field and have the ability to score in bunches quickly.
Shadyside has been there and done that. The Tigers are in the second round of the playoffs for the 11th time in school history and have played in two state title games. Youngstown Christian, meanwhile, is in its first playoff this season.
Beallsville has offensive versatility and the Blue Devils have a suffocating defense. Throw in the fact that they have already proven to themselves and the field that they can get it done despite the long trip should take that out of the equation.
I guess we'll just wait and see what happens. While the football playoffs are exciting for everyone involved, the sitting around and waiting seven days between games can be quite nerve-wracking.
CHECKING ON THE LOCALS
Last Friday, I spoke about the area natives involved in the playoffs at schools outside of the area.
Unfortunately, both John Magistro (Westerville Central) and Todd Filtz (Maple Heights) were eliminated last week in their opening-round games despite being the higher seed.
Chase Delande and the Hilliard Davidson Wildcats breezed past Olentangy Orange, 22-0.
Jacob Matuska and the Columbus Bishop Hartley Hawks stayed alive in their chase for a repeat with a 42-14 win against North Union.
Cincinnati Moeller and quarterback Zach Iacovone, whose mother Lisa is a native of New Athens and father Dom is from Mingo Junction, raced past Cincinnati Sycamore and will take on Middletown this week.
FINAL POWER POLL
1. Steubenville - Big Red has held this position for the entire season and rightfully so. Coach Reno Saccoccia's club is now 11-0 and will meet old nemesis Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the Region 11 semifinals at Canton's Fawcett Stadium. Big Red gets it done in every facet of the game. Their defense is tough; their offense is explosive and their special teams are sound. Obviously, Indian Creek must have woke a sleeping giant last Friday when it scored first, marching right down the turf at Harding Stadium. However, as is the case in most sports, the team with the better players eventually got it done. Steubenville will have to come up with a plan to contain highly regarded Mooney running back Roosevelt Griffin this week. However, when you've got those aforementioned good players and really, really good coaching, they'll find a way to slow him down.
2. St. Clairsville - The Red Devils tumbled to the fifth spot after falling to Martins Ferry, but have rebounded with two consecutive victories. St. C.'s victory was documented earlier in this column, but the Red Devils will need a stronger effort this Saturday in Zanesville. St. C. was victimized by the Chesapeake running game. Sophomore linebacker Michael Ferns was charted for 23 tackles. The St. C. defensive line will have to get a better push against Coshocton because the Redskins also utilize the Wing-T offense, like Chesapeake did. The great equalizer for St. C. is the fact that it can score basically at anytime from anywhere on the field. There's never a point where you say there's not enough time or there's too far to go. The Red Devils are holding out hope that sophomore speedster Jaylon Brown will return this weekend.
3. Cambridge - The Bobcats are still venting that they didn't get into the playoffs and rightfully so. Something tells me they might have had a better representation than Indian Creek. However, I guess we'll never know.
4. Indian Creek - The Redskins were in the playoffs for the first time since 1996 and unfortunately finished eighth, earning a trip to Big Red. While that didn't go very well, accuentuating the positives for Creek is the biggest thing. They had a tremendous season and narrowly missed winning the OVAC 5A title. They also claimed a piece of the Buckeye 8 title. Creek had a solid defense and wide receiver Mike Furda is one of the area's best. He and quarterback David Kemp were one of the area's best duos.
5. Martins Ferry - The Purple Riders had no answer for the physicality of Coshocton last Saturday. Saying someone is more physical than Martins Ferry isn't something you hear or read very often. The Purple Riders are another team that really needs to talk about the positives and not dwell on last weekend's loss. The Riders won a piece of the Buckeye 8 title and the OVAC Class 3A crown. Ferry got solid play on defense and rode a talented rushing duo of Tyrel Simmons and C.J. Williams to those aforementioned championships. Ferry will again lose its fair share of talented players to graduation, but remember the cliche, "Tradition doesn't graduate." And that's totally true when it comes to Ferry football.
1. Linsly - I got to witness the Cadets for the first time last Friday against Wheeling Central. I am officially sold that Linsly is by far the best small-school team in the Ohio Valley. Actually, they're on a different planet than the other small schools in this valley. I was most impressed with Akil Blount. You can immediately tell that that young man is just toying with people on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Alex Stephens just threw the ball up for grabs a couple of times, but Blount made the catch because of his frame and athleticism. Tailback Chinelo Oparanozie has a gear that most OV players don't have. Throw in Adam Jones, who is a beast at linebacker and basically talented players all over the field and it's easy to see how the Cadets thumped the Knights so badly.
2. Wheeling Central - The Maroon Knights were beaten badly last Friday, but I kept them at No. 2 because I still firmly believe they're the second best small school team in the area. Central was humbled by Linsly, but the thing to keep in mind is there are plenty of goals still out there for Coach Mike Young's squad. The quest for the West Virginia Class A title begins Friday against Parkersburg Catholic. Central's Gino Bianconi is a really talented running back, who carved the Linsly defense for more than 200 yards. It's going to take a really, really good Class A team to deny the Knights another state title.
3. Monroe Central - The Seminoles saw their season come to a crashing halt last Friday against a talented St. Thomas Aquinas squad. Monroe Central simply were bitten by the turnover bug. The Seminoles had trouble holding onto the ball and Aquinas made them pay. The loss ends Monroe's season at 9-2 with a PVC championship. It also ends the brilliant career of Tyler Kinchen, who finished as the all-time leading rusher in Monroe Central history.
4. Shadyside - The Tigers made it a perfect 10-for-10 in home playoff games last Saturday, destroying Wellsville, 46-6. Shadyside is firmly hitting its stride. The Tigers are going to be a tough out because they're tough on defense and they're versatile on offense. It's going to be interesting to see how they match up with Youngstown Christian this weekend.
5. Beallsville - The Blue Devils are another team that's going to be a tough out. The Blue Devils are also highly versatile on offense, play solid defense and have a good kicking game. I believe the Blue Devils can win the Region 23 title. The Blue Devils have been steady all season and are playing really well right now. It seemed as if it took them a half to shake the bus trip to Sciotoville off last Saturday and they took the game over from that point.
Finally, the OVAC championship hardware can be officially delivered to its five homes.
Morgantown claimed the 5A title with its victory against Brooke last Friday; Steubenville (4A) and Martins Ferry (3A) basically had their respective titles clinched after Week 10, but had to wait for the West Virginia schools to finish their regular season.
Linsly used its victory against Wheeling Central to catapult into the title spot. Linsly, obviously, doesn't compete for the state title, so winning the conference title is the best they can do, which makes the accomplishment even more cherished for the Cadets.
Beallsville had put itself in position to win the 1A crown by finishing 8-2, but had to wait and see what happened with Madonna, which lost to Clay-Battelle last weekend.