The final Blade poll for the 2012 high school football season crowns Whitmer, Central Catholic, Napoleon, and Northwood as champions.
First-year coach Jerry Bell’s Whitmer Panthers (10-0) closed the regular season in style on the road last Friday with a 42-0 pounding of previously unbeaten Central for the Three Rivers Athletic Conference championship.
That win was the 28th in a row for Whitmer in regular-season action, and led the Panthers to a No. 3 ranking in the final Associated Press state poll.
Whitmer — which graduated six players who moved on to Division I college programs after leading a 13-1 Panthers team to a second straight state semifinal advancement — made the transition under Bell and brand new offensive and defensive coordinators.
The Panthers (7-0 in TRAC) take the Blade Poll trophy in Division I ahead of No. 2 Findlay (8-2, 5-2), the preseason favorite to win the TRAC. Whitmer hammered the Trojans 56-25 in their other crucial game of the season. They will host Avon Lake in a first-round playoff game Saturday night.
If Central Catholic (9-1, 6-1 TRAC) is to make a deep playoff run in Division II, coach Greg Dempsey’s Irish will have to first erase the memory of last Friday’s humbling defeat.
The Irish were Ohio’s top-ranked D-II team through nine weeks of the season, but dropped to No. 4 in the state poll after being blanked by Whitmer. Central did not drop from the top spot in the Division II Blade Poll, however, having already defeated No. 2 Perrysburg (8-2, 5-2), the Northern Lakes League runner-up in Week 3 by a 35-7 count at Perrysburg.
The team that nosed Perrysburg out for the NLL crown was Napoleon (9-0-1), which won not only the Blade’s combined Division III-IV poll title, but Ohio’s D-III poll championship as well.
Coach Tory Strock’s Wildcats collected their NLL title thanks to a defensive stop at home in overtime against Perrysburg in Week 8, knocking down a potential game-winning two-point conversion pass in the OT.
The tie on Napoleon’s record is simply a technicality. The Wildcats had traveled to D-III state power Kettering Alter for a Sept. 7 nonleague game and had begun play before stormy weather and lightning forced cancellation of that contest.
The game could not be made up the next day, so the Ohio High School Athletic Association declared the game as tie, so as not to penalize either team in computer playoff points.
Bryan (10-0, 8-0), the Northwest Ohio Athletic League champion, finished No. 2 in the Blade’s III-IV poll, and ranked No. 3 in the final AP state D-III poll. The Golden Bears were followed in the Blade’s III-VI rankings by the Northern Buckeye Conference champion, Genoa (10-0, 7-0 NBC), which completed its fourth 10-0 regular season in the last six years. The Comets were ranked No. 5 in the final Division IV state poll.
Northwood (10-0, 7-0), which won its eighth Toledo Area Athletic Conference championship in 12 years, beat out Blanchard Valley Conference champion McComb (10-0, 9-0) for the Blade’s combined Division V-VI poll title.
Veteran coach Ken James’ Rangers finished the regular season ranked No. 6 in the D-V state poll, while McComb closed the season ranked No. 2 in the Ohio D-VI poll.
Midland Athletic League champion Fremont St. Joe (9-1, 7-0) took the No. 5 spot in the Blade’s final V-VI poll, and was ranked No. 6 in the final D-VI state poll.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.