Twenty-three area teams have made the grade for the Ohio high school playoffs, with 10 beginning postseason play on Friday and 13 on Saturday.
Only two of these teams - Toledo Area Athletic Conference champion Northwood (7-3) and Upper Sandusky (6-3) of the Northern Ohio League - are testing playoff waters for the first time.
Eight teams from the four regions in six divisions qualify for postseason play, a total of 192 teams (32 per division). This year Divisions II, III and V play their playoff games at 7:30 on Friday nights, and Divisions I, IV and VI plays theirs at 7 p.m. on Saturdays.
City League champion St. Francis de Sales (8-1) grabbed the No. 2 spot in Region 6, and will open the Division II playoffs by hosting Bedford (8-2) from the Cleveland area.
The Knights, 7-7 in eight prior appearances, were Division I state champs in 1984 and Division II runners-up in '82. Bedford is in for the first time.
Central Catholic (8-2), which lost its chance at a CL title in Friday's 16-8 loss to St. Francis, fell from the No. 2 to the No. 3 spot in Region 6. Making their third appearance (first since 1987), the Irish host Amherst Steele (8-2).
The question now is where will St. Francis and Central do the hosting? Neither has an on-campus home field. They will find out at a meeting with the Ohio High School Athletic Association today what facility they will use.
St. Francis' first choice is the Glass Bowl, where rental cost will be the deciding factor. Option No. 2 is Waite's Mollenkopf Stadium. Central will use Waite or Start, depending on St. Francis' decision.
Also in Division II, Maumee (8-2) - which earned a share of the Northern Lakes League championship with its come-from-behind 29-27 win over Perrysburg (9-1) Friday - will host third-ranked Defiance (8-2) of the Western Buckeye League.
Northwood's Rangers - who will face record-setting twins Dusty and Rusty Aldrich and fourth-ranked McComb (10-0) in the Division VI regional quarterfinals - were one of 16 schools (three in area) that jumped into the top eight in the final week. They were 10th in Region 22 after nine weeks, but climbed to No. 7 by beating Cardinal Stritch 26-7 for the TAAC title Friday
Stritch (7-3), NLL co-champion Perrysburg and Tiffin Columbian (D-II) dropped from the top eight in the final week. Perrysburg, falling from No. 8 to No. 9 in Region 2 of Division I, has never made the playoffs. And, no Division I teams from the area qualified.
Columbian (7-2) won 75-7 over Norwalk on Friday, but fell short because of gaining so few points with the win over a 1-9 team.
Upper Sandusky (6-3) moved from No. 10 to No. 8 in Region 10 of Division III with a win Friday. The Rams play top-ranked and No. 1 seed Sunbury Big Walnut (10-0). Also in Division III, Oak Harbor (7-3) of the Sandusky Bay Conference plays at sixth-ranked Medina Highland (10-0), and NOL champion Bellevue (8-2) travels to seventh-ranked St. Marys Memorial (9-1).
In Division IV, the four area qualifiers from Region 14 will face one another. A rematch of last year's first round has Suburban Lakes League champion Lake (8-2) hosting SBC co-champion Huron (8-2). Lake lost at Huron last year. Also, NWOAL runner-up Delta (9-1) travels to SBC co-champion Margaretta (9-1).
Lake and Huron actually tied for fourth, but Lake got home field by virtue of third-level points.
In Division V, Woodmore (8-2) not only missed an SLL title with its 30-12 loss to Lake Friday, the Wildcats also fell from No. 6 in Region 18 to No. 8. That set up a match-up with Marion Pleasant on Friday.
The other D-V game has a playoff fixture, NWOAL champion Liberty Center (10-0), hosting Ashland Crestview (10-0). The Tigers, 19-7 all-time in the postseason, won a state title in 1997, were runners-up in '93 and '98, and reached the semifinals in '92, '99 and last year.
Division VI has the most playoff teams from the area, with nine qualifying between Regions 21 and 22.
In Region 21, seventh-ranked Tiffin Calvert (8-2) of the Midland Athletic League hosts Southington Chalker (6-3), and Gibsonburg (7-3) of the SLL hosts Norwalk St. Paul (8-2).
In Region 22, besides the Northwood-McComb match-up, Pandora-Gilboa (7-3) of the Blanchard Valley Conference plays at MAL champion and third-ranked Mohawk (10-0), ninth-ranked Columbus Grove (8-2) plays at Antwerp (8-2), and MAL runner-up Carey (9-1) travels to BVC runner-up and eighth-ranked Hardin Northern (9-1).
HALL OF FAME GAME: The City League's annual Hall of Fame Game pits St. John's Jesuit (5-5, 4-2 CL) against Scott (4-5, 4-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Rogers.