Fans of high school football in Ohio know that this weekend will have a different feel.
It's the first week of the playoffs, when teams begin their runs at what they hope will be state championships.
The intensity will be a little greater as a simple reality sinks in - it's the first week of a five-week, single-elimination tournament.
Win and you play again - lose and it's wait until August.
Steubenville Catholic Central, Steubenville Big Red, Indian Creek and Harrison Central all will represent our area in the Ohio playoffs. Central, 6-4, will visit Mogadore, 10-0, at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Division VI play; Harrison Central, 7-3, will visit St. Clairsville at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Division IV play; and, in Division III action, Indian Creek, 9-1, will visit Millersburg West Holmes, 9-1, at 7 p.m. Saturday and Big Red, 8-2, will host Zanesville Maysville, 9-1, at 7 p.m. Saturday at Harding Stadium.
To earn a spot in Ohio's annual post-season tournament is a difficult assignment. According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, 717 schools in the state fielded football teams each year, with only 32 teams in each of the state's six divisions advancing to the playoffs. That's only 192 teams, or about 27 percent. To put that number into greater perspective, the OHSAA reports that there are 96 schools playing football which have never made the playoffs.
That puts our teams in pretty elite company. Consider that Mogadore is making its 26th playoff appearance while Big Red is making its 25 appearance. At the other end of the list is Maysville, which has qualified for the first time. Catholic Central is making its 10th playoff appearance, Harrison Central its fifth and Indian Creek its third.
The tradition at Big Red and Mogadore runs so deep, in fact, that the schools are tied for fifth on the all-time playoff victory list with 46, and Big Red is ninth in playoff winning percentage at .687 (46-21.)
Playoff football carries a simple goal for each team: Big Red and Indian Creek are shooting for the Division III title game, which will be played at 11 a.m. Dec. 1 in Canton; Harrison Central for the Division IV title game, which will be played at 3 p.m. Nov. 30 in Canton; and Catholic Central for the Division VI title game, which will be played at 11 a.m. Nov. 30 in Massillon.
There will be plenty of support among area fans for this year's playoff teams, and we're sure Weirton Madonna will find similar backing when it begins play in West Virginia's Class A playoffs next weekend.
Congratulations, then, to our area playoff football games.
While we would never venture a guess as to how the games will turn out, we feel confident in predicting they each will have a great deal of support whenever and wherever they play.