It is arguably the best time of the year. Fall is here, Halloween, a change of seasons and high school football playoffs are upon us. There may be some buzz in greater Cleveland about a couple Division I teams and their chances, but for east-siders, the representation runs wide and deep. We start with Mentor, last year's runner-up to the Division I title. The Cardinals are poised and appear to be peaking at the right time to settle in for a long playoff run, perhaps back to the title game. They face some immediate competition right in their own back yard. Painesville Riverside took it right down to the wire and a win over Madison in week 10 put them into the fray and they'll tangle with Mentor in round one.
The Euclid Panthers have reasserted themselves into the post season in a big way finishing the regular season 9-1 which included a thrilling 35-34 win over Mentor. Coach Mike Rezzolla has the big cats purring at a pace to go deep into the playoffs as well. D1 prospects Howard Drake and Devon Jennings have been the cornerstones of a talented offense that helped power Euclid back into the post season and a first round game at home against Boardman.
Solon will play host to North Royalton in a battle between east and west in the first round and Nordonia will be at home for game one taking on Perrysburg.
Division II continues the eastside trend as the Blue Streaks of Madison travel to Warren Howland for their first game. Running back Nick Yeager has been strong and consistent all season behind a great offensive line anchored by big Kevin Hendricks and company. Mayfield finds themselves at home taking on Padua and the Bruins have found some of their early season magic as of late but Wildcats have been very hot toward the end of the season.
Off to Division III where Aurora has been solid all season long finishing 9-1. The Greenmen play host to Cortland in what should be a very good battle. Lake Catholic got off to a great start this year dropping Euclid in their opener, but from then on the road had its ups and downs. The Cougars finished the regular season with a loss to arch rival Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin and lost their only solid offensive weapon in running back Randy Greenwood who is suspended for game 1 of the playoffs due to a game 10 ejection last week. It will take great coaching and an "all hands on deck" approach against Ravenna. One positive is they play at home for round one.
Division IV features one of the best quarterbacks in northeast Ohio. Perry junior Vinny Hokavar, while enduring a painful separated shoulder several weeks ago has led his team to a 9-1 record. "Air" Hokavar has been the key to the Pirates run into the postseason under new head coach Matt Rosati and they must hope he's healthy and keep him that way if they stand a chance against a bigger Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary team. The Irish did have a 17-0 lead over D-IV titan and reigning D-IV state champ Youngstown Mooney and got run late in the second half and lost that game 21-17.
The Kirtland Fighting Hornets have been a bright spot in D-V all season. They got off to a 4-0 start, stumbled losing the next two then rebounded to finish the season strong. Hard to stop Rossi Santo has been their best weapon on offense scoring 26 regular touchdowns out of the backfield. They face a tough task however in round one as they travel to take on South Range who finished 10-0.
Good luck to all of these teams, players and coaches alike. Play strong and hard. Listen to your coaches, play fair and play to win. Remember, D1 Football is watching you.