Perhaps the best opening-round playoff game in the state will be Friday night at Genoa when two unbeaten juggernauts with striking similarities collide.
The Comets (10-0), the No. 3 ranked team in the Division IV state poll, host No. 2 Bryan (10-0).
There were 224 teams that qualified for the playoffs, but Genoa and Bryan are the only two undefeated teams squaring off in the opening round.
“It's the marquee game of the weekend, maybe in the state,” Genoa second-year coach Tim Spiess said. “It's a shame that only one of us will advance. It's not a favorable draw for either of us.”
Both won league championships for a second straight season, put up plenty of points, and have allowed very few.
“It will be a heck of game,” Bryan coach Kevin Kline said. “It's tough drawing Genoa in our first game and having to go there. But at some point we thought we'd have to play them. We would rather play them later. If we had a choice, we'd play them in the state final.”
Genoa has scored an incredible 63.2 points per game and is allowing 15.1 per contest. Bryan is averaging 48.5 and is giving up 12.8.
The Comets won a second straight title in the Northern Buckeye Conference with a 7-0 record. The Golden Bears went 8-0 to win the Northwest Ohio Athletic League.
Genoa has lost just once in its last 69 regular-season games with 20 straight wins. The Comets qualified for the playoffs for the seventh straight season after making it for the first time in 2007 when Spiess came in as an assistant under Mike Vicars. Genoa is 77-8 since then.
Both teams won one playoff game last season. Bryan captured the first postseason win in school history as the Golden Bears took out Columbus Bishop Watterson 41-24 before they lost to Napoleon 21-20.
The Comets beat Columbus Bishop Ready 42-21 before losing to Ottawa-Glandorf 41-12.
The coaches are friends and have tremendous respect for one another.
“Ever since Mike and Tim took over, they changed the culture and turned it around,” Kline said. “Tim knows a lot about football.”
The teams met in a preseason scrimmage in early August. Bryan scored the only touchdown.
“I've known Kevin for many years and he is a quality guy,” Spiess said. “He is a high character guy.”
Both lament the fact that the state's computer points system have matched them up so early. It had appeared that Bryan would enjoy the home-field advantage.
After Friday's games, Bryan sat in the fourth spot in Region 4 and Genoa was in fifth. The Comets defeated Waite 65-13 in the season opener and needed the Indians to beat Woodward on Saturday to earn crucial playoff points.
“We had people at that game watching and sending text updates,” Spiess said. “We knew it came down to that.”
Waite, a Division III team, knocked off the Polar Bears 41-6 and the win vaulted Genoa over Bryan for the fourth seed.
“It's crazy how the system works,” Kline said. “But that was outside of our control. At first I think we were a little disappointed. We asked the kids to do much and they did and then they feel like they're not rewarded for it.
"But our region is a very good region. I added it up and the [eight qualifying] teams in our region have a 74-6 record.”
Spiess said both teams will be prepared. He said the NBC and NWOAL are mirror images of each other.
“You can take the top three teams in the NWOAL and the NBC and it's about even,” Spiess said.
Kline said his team sees a lot of different offensive systems and good defenses in the NWOAL.
“There are a lot of good athletes in this league,” he said. “I don't know if we've seen a Genoa. But we feel like those teams prepare you. It benefits you down the road.”
While the teams' stats may mirror each other, the systems do not.
Bryan runs the spread and Genoa employs the Wing-T scheme.
Bryan senior quarterback Austin Schimmoeller has completed 120 of 185 passes for 1,968 yards and 26 TDs. He has rushed for 523 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Senior Daniel Pendergrast has rushed for a team-high 708 yards on 91 carries and 12 TDs. He is the team's leading receiver with 27 catches for 454 yards.
Schimmoeller spreads it around as five Golden Bears have at least 250 yards receiving.
Genoa senior running back David Nutter has 168 carries for 1,514 yards (9.0 per tote) and 20 touchdowns. Senior Casey Gose has rushed 52 times for 830 yards (16.0) and 14 scores.
Senior quarterback Logan Scott has connected on 51 of 90 passes for 1,204 and nine scores. His top target is Quentin Spiess, who has 21 catches for 627 yard and two TDs.
“This Friday night is two great offenses going against each other, but there also are two great defenses going at it,” Spiess said.
Genoa is led by defensive tackle Blake Traver, who has 75 tackles. Michael Deiter and Tyler Rozek each have 68 tackles.
Bryan senior linebacker Jake Jones has a team-high 57 solo tackles, while senior defensive back Brock Minor has 43. Minor also has four interceptions.
Spiess believes the outcome will come down to play in the trenches.
“I think we've developed into a pretty good, athletic offensive line,” Spiess said.
Deiter, a 6-foot-5 and 308-pound lineman, will play at Wisconsin.
“I know how good our team could be, Spiess said. "And [Bryan] is a team that could win it all.”
Kline said his team's first task is finding a way to slow Genoa's offense down.
“I don't know if you stop them,” he said. “Their numbers are gaudy. No other team has done what they have done in the state. You flip it over and the defense is giving up less than two touchdowns a game. They have Division I talent over there.”
Kline said the experience of winning a playoff game last year is significant.
“The reality of it is that someone will win and someone will lose. I think both teams deserve the right to move on,” he said.