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Football playoffs bring excitement

The start of the high school football playoffs always brings with it a little intensity and a greater sense of urgency.

Throw in a first for one of our area’s teams, and there’s even more to be interested in.

Ohio’s five-week, single-elimination drive to the state football championship games in Canton begins this weekend. There’s a lot on the line with each game — if you win, you play again. If you lose, you pack away the equipment until August.

Making the playoffs any year represents a great achievement. According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, 710 schools in the state fielded football teams this year, but only 224 — or 31.7 percent — earned a spot in post-season play. That field includes Steubenville Big Red, Indian Creek and Toronto.

The week is very special for Indian Creek. The Redskins, who are making their seventh trip to the playoffs, will carry a 9-1 record into their Division IV game against 6-4 Hubbard, and they will be looking to avenge last year’s 51-21 loss to the Eagles.

Saturday’s 7 p.m. contest will be the first time a playoff game has been played inside Robert F. Kettlewell Memorial Stadium, and will offer an opportunity for fans from around the region to see the recent renovation project at the facility, which included the installation of artificial turf and a new lighting system.

Also at 7 p.m. Saturday, Toronto (8-2), which also is making its seventh trip to the playoffs, will take on Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas (6-3) in a Division VII contest in Clarke Hinkle Stadium.

Area playoff action gets under way at 7 p.m. Friday, when Steubenville Big Red (6-3) travels to Aurora (10-0) in a Division III contest. Big Red has made the playoffs 32 times, including the last 19 seasons in a row.

While playoffs in Ohio open this weekend, the area’s West Virginia teams will have to wait until next week to begin their march toward Mountain State title games in Wheeling. Oak Glen, which completed a 10-0 regular season, has clinched a spot in the Class AA playoffs. Weir High and Weirton Madonna, meanwhile, must wait until the end of this weekend’s games to learn if they will get spots in Class AA and Class A, respectively.

We know it’s impossible to predict how this week’s games will turn out, but we are happy to congratulate Indian Creek, Toronto, Steubenvlle Big Red and Oak Glen for earning their spots in post-season play and wish them the best of luck as they take their first steps on the road toward a state title.

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