Four area high school football teams have qualified for the Ohio playoffs, with all but one playing in Division VII, Region 27, where Bridgeport, River and Shadyside are based. The only outsider is Division V, Region 17, where Harrison Central is located.
Half of those schools will host first-round playoff games Friday night while the other two go on road trips. None of the matchups have been previously contested.
All four games kick off at 7 a.m.
Division VII, Region 27
Corning Miller (3-7) at River (9-1)
HANNIBAL – This will be the Pilots’ 13th playoff appearance. They are 10-12 overall and reached the regional finals last season before falling 7 to Ohio rivals Shadyside.
River has qualified for the postseason in 1993, 1997, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021.
The Pilots are led by a balanced offense led by junior quarterback Kabel Isaly. He has passed for 1,547 yards and 20 touchdowns with an accuracy of 108 on 161 (67 percent). He’s also rushed for 286 stripes and a trio of TDs for 45 carries, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He was only picked up four times.
River’s ground game is driven by a two-headed junior monster in Kaden Johnson (58-499-7) and Finn Bowers (52-288-5), while Ty Long (37-292-6) and Brody Lollathin (16-169-4 ).
When Isaly blows up, he looks for River Thompson (36-503-7), Lolltahin (31-623-9), and Long (21-19-2).
The second-placed Pilots are averaging a whopping 45.2 points per game – helped by a 70-point breakout against Frontier last week – and giving up just 15.3, but 35 came in their lone loss to undefeated Barnesville.
Meanwhile, the Falcons will make their first trip to eastern Ohio and Martin Flannery Field of Perry County as the 15th seed. This will be their fourth postseason trip and first since 2020. They are yet to win a playoff contest.
Lancaster Fairfield Christian Academy (5-5)
At Bridgeport (5-5)
BROOKSIDE — The Bulldogs, No. 7 in the region, are back in the postseason for the first time since their magical 2010 season as they welcome the Knights to Bill Jobko Stadium at Perkins Field. It will be their fifth playoff appearance and they are 4-4 overall. Bridgeport also qualified in 1996, 2008 and 2009.
Senior quarterback CJ Jackson was Bridgeport’s offensive leader with more than 2,000 yards through the air and more than 20 touchdowns. He’s also rushed just over 300 yards and found the end zone 10 times.
Lamar Kendricks Jr. caught the team’s best 36 passes for 500 yards and seven TDs. Mason Aberts has 31 receptions for 518 yards and five scores, while Avery Jackson has 24 catches, one more than Jaki Threet.
Peyton Pyle is the Bulldogs’ second-best rusher and has also caught 10 passes.
Bridgeport averages 33.8 points per game and has surpassed 60 on two occasions and surpassed 50 in two other games. However, they give up 31.3 and have scored 40 or more in five contests.
The No. 10 Lancaster Fairfield Christian Academy will head into the postseason for the sixth time, but the Knights are still chasing their first playoff win. They also qualified in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2020 and 2021.
Shadyside (3-7) at Reedsville Eastern (8-2)
REEDSVILLE — The Tigers are back in the playoffs for their 24th and 18th consecutive season. The only non-playoff team since 2000 came in 2004. Shadyside is 38-23 and has appeared in two state championship games (2006 and 2010) – both lost – and been part of four state semifinals. They were also in the postseason in 1989 and 1991.
Shadyside, who sits at No. 13, won back-to-back season-ending wins and three of the last five after a 5-0 start. The Tigers post a 19-point clip but have given up a 32.6 average.
Junior quarterback Ben Wach has taken the lead with 1,405 passing yards and a dozen touchdowns on 114 of 237. He was intercepted ten times while scoring four more points.
Elijah Brock is his primary target with 45 catches for 614 yards and eight TDs. The running game has come alive with the return of Karl Tsoras.
Division V, Region 17
Harrison Central (6-4) at Norwayne (7-3)
CRESTON — The huskies will make the nearly two-hour drive to Wayne County to meet the No. 4 Bobcats.
Harrison Central has had a rollercoaster ride of a season. It started 3-0 before losing four of its next five. The Huskies ended the regular season on a two-game winning streak.
The Huskies are making their ninth trip into the postseason and third straight. They also qualified in 1991, 1996, 1997, 2009, 2012 and 2015.
Quarterback Hayden Cassidy has passed for 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has completed 84 of 154 attempts and thrown seven INTs. He also has three touchdowns on the ground.
Mykel Quito has rushed for 533 yards and eight touchdowns with 115 carries. Tre Rex is the leading receiver with 464 yards and eight TDs on 19 catches. Parker Hutton has the team’s best 28 receptions for 395 yards and three TDs.
Norwayne is making the playoffs for the 12th time, winning a state title in 2011. The Bobcats are 17-10 all-time in the postseason and have advanced to the state semifinals twice.