Friday night's classic City League battle between St. John's Jesuit and Whitmer was so good it will get a replay Saturday night.
No, this isn't an installation of Instant Classics on the ESPN Classic network, but a real live rematch as the Titans (7-3) attempt to match their 34-27 victory over Whitmer (9-1) at Bowsher.
This time, however, St. John's must play on the Panthers' home turf in a first-round Ohio Division I playoff encounter as Whitmer closed the regular season as the No. 2-rated team in Region 2. The Titans climbed from ninth to No. 7 in week 10.
The top eight teams in each region of Ohio's six divisions earn playoff berths.
“That's the way it works,” Titan coach Doug Pearson said of the quick rematch. “We had an idea ahead of time that we were going to be playing them. For us to win again, it's going to take the same mind-set and same intensity level we had Friday.
“I'm sure they're going to come out even more fired up because, now, they have something to prove. It's going to be hard [for the teams] to duplicate Friday's game.”
“Hey, you've got to play who you've got to play,” Fought said. “I think you'd rather play somebody who doesn't know you so well. But, this is a chance for us to come back from that loss Friday, and I love the fact that this one's at home. Hopefully, we'll get the ball a few more times than we had Friday.”
Playing ball-control football behind its big offensive line, St. John's led in time of possession 29:35 to 18:25.
St. Francis de Sales (8-2), which utilized arch-rival St. John's win over Whitmer to slip into its third straight CL title, will travel to Brunswick (9-1) for its D-I opener Saturday.
The Knights, who graduated starters at 20 of 22 positions from last season, is up a division this year after winning the Division II state championship in 2001 and reaching the D-II semifinals last year.
Another team with a chance at revenge is Anthony Wayne (7-3), which was ultimately denied a Northern Lakes League title share by its 24-14 loss at NLL-champion Southview (10-0) on Sept. 26.
The third-ranked Cougars, led by standout quarterback Kelley Rowe, play host to AW at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“I'd rather not have to play AW again,” said Southview coach Jim Mayzes, whose Cougars are back in the playoffs for the first time since closing 1999 as D-II state runner-up. “But you do what you've got to do. I would imagine that they don't want to play us again either.
“Early in the year they were turning the ball over a lot, and that hurt them. They've improved on that, and they're a very good team with some very good players.”
Mayzes was right; AW coach Craig Smith would rather play some other team.
“They know us and we know them,” Smith said. “It's going to come down to who executes better. They are a very talented team. We have to protect the ball better [five turnovers Sept. 26], and we have to be able to keep Kelley Rowe and that offense off the field as much as possible.”
Rowe has completed 143 of 252 passes for 2,525 yards and 22 touchdowns, and has run for over 800 yards and 15 TDs. AW's Brad Verbosky led the NLL in rushing with 1,146 yards on 162 carries, and QB Jason Sadowski passed for more than 1,400 yards.
Elsewhere in D-II Friday, 8-2 Maumee of the NLL hosts Northern Ohio League tri-champ Tiffin Columbian (8-2), and Grafton Midview (7-3) plays at Western Buckeye League co-champ Defiance (8-2).
In Division III, Suburban Lakes League co-champion Eastwood (8-2) makes its second straight playoff appearance 7:30 p.m. Friday, but has moved up a division and drawn another imposing matchup.
The Eagles, who lost in the second round last year against eventual Division IV state champion Kenton, this time travels to Columbus to face defending D-III state champ Bishop Watterson (8-2). NOL tri-champion, Bellevue (9-1) hosts a D-III game Friday against Kenton (7-3), which graduated all-time national passing leader Ben Mauk.
Delta, which posted its third straight 9-1 regular season, represents the Northwest Ohio Athletic League in the playoffs for the fourth straight year, hosting Sandusky Bay Conference champion Huron (9-1) in a D-IV game Saturday.
NWOAL champion Patrick Henry (9-1) returns to the playoffs for the third time in four years (sixth overall) and hosts a Friday Division V game against playoff newcomer Liberty-Benton (8-2) of the Blanchard Valley Conference.
The Patriots - who won nine straight after a 30-28 season-opening loss against Leipsic - feature a 38-points-per-game offense with QB Trent Meyer (124 of 202, 2,215 yards, 19 TDs), receiver Marc Krauss (1,200-plus yards, 15 TDs) and back Chris Tietje (153 carries, 1,015 yards).
Elsewhere in D-V Friday, SLL co-champion Elmwood (7-3) travels to face Midland Athletic League tri-champion Mohawk (8-1), and Green Meadows Conference champion Tinora (8-2) hosts Lorain Clearview (7-3).
In Division VI Saturday, three-time defending Toledo Area Athletic Conference champion Northwood travels for a 7 p.m. contest at Edgerton (7-3); Carey (7-2) and Hopewell-Loudon (8-2) hold a rematch in Bascom, and heavy underdog Hicksville (8-2) makes its first playoff appearance at top-ranked Columbus Grove (10-0).
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