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Published: Friday, 10/29/2004

Another peerless peek at the playoffs

The furious number crunching and educated guesswork is complete for another year, and The Blade's annual week-10 predictions are in place for the Ohio high school football playoff field in this portion of the state.

Focusing on the six divisional regions that include teams from the northwest block, The Blade's predictions were pretty much on the money last year. We correctly picked 43 of the 48 teams that qualified.

We hit at least 7 of 8 in each region last year, including 8-for-8 in Division V, Region 18. Also, 21 of the 48 qualifiers were picked in their exact positions.

Enough with the gloating, and on to 2004. The regular season concludes with games tonight and tomorrow.

St. Francis de Sales (8-1) has wrapped up its fourth straight City League title, and has also locked up the No. 1 playoff spot in Division I, Region 2, regardless of how the Knights fare tonight at the Glass Bowl against CL rival Central Catholic (7-2).

The Irish, on the other hand, could actually earn the top spot in Division II, Region 6. To make that happen, Central would need to: A) Beat St. Francis and, B) have current No. 1 Avon Lake (9-0) - the defending state champion and top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll - lose in its Southwestern Conference championship showdown tonight against visiting Amherst Steele (9-0). Steele, currently fourth in Region 6, could vault to No. 1 by winning.

An unprecedented four CL schools could qualify for berths. The winner of tonight's St. John's (6-3) at Whitmer (6-3) contest will definitely get a berth in Region 2, and, if Clay (7-2) wins tonight at Bowsher (6-3), the Eagles may squeak into the D-II, R-6 field. Clay, which has never made the playoffs, could tie Springfield Shawnee for the eighth and final spot. But wins by Whitmer - or in the Northern Lakes League by either Northview over Anthony Wayne or Springfield over Rossford - would increase Clay's chances.

Also in the NLL, Maumee (8-1) has clinched a berth (in D-II, R-6) for the fourth straight season, and will likely earn a first-round home game. Probable NLL co-champion Southview (8-1) has not officially clinched in that region yet, but is a near lock even with a loss tonight. A third NLL team, Rossford, has a solid shot in Division IV, Region 14, but the 6-3 Bulldogs need to beat Springfield tonight.

Eastwood (8-1) has already clinched at least a share of the Suburban Lakes League title for the third straight season, but the high-powered Eagles are still waiting on pins and needles for their fate in Division III, Region 10. They need to beat Lake tonight, and have either Clyde (7-2) or Columbus Bexley (7-2) lose.

If Columbus Beechcroft gets additional week-10 help from defeated opponents, it would climb above Eastwood, which would then probably need Clyde and Bexley to lose.

Napoleon (9-0) can take an outright Greater Buckeye Conference title and clinch the top spot in D-III, R-10 tonight by beating Findlay.

Elsewhere in the SLL, Otsego (8-1) should get into the D-IV, R-14 field, even if the Knights are upset tonight by heavy underdog Lakota.

The Northwest Ohio Athletic League is well represented in Division V, Region 18, as three-time defending champion Patrick Henry (9-0) and its Henry County rival, Liberty Center (8-1), will end up at Nos. 1 and 2 with victories tonight. Delta (7-2), a state playoff semifinalist last year and the preseason NWOAL favorite this year, should qualify win a win over Montpelier tonight.

Despite a 4-5 overall record heading into tonight's game against Cardinal Stritch, Northwood can still both earn a share of its fourth straight Toledo Area Athletic Conference championship, and sneak into the playoffs in Division VI, Region 22. The Rangers must win, and likely have Edgerton (4-5) lose, to qualify.

- Steve Junga



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