COLUMBUS The home of the Buckeyes will be the home of the best high school football teams in Ohio this weekend as the Ohio High School Athletic Association state championships get underway Thursday night when Athens plays Toledo Central Catholic at 7:30 p.m.
Athens is led by quarterback Joe Burrow, and Ohio State commitment who has thrown more than 50 touchdown passes with just one interception this year. Burrow will be playing at his future home, but the event will be returning to its old home.
Ohio Stadium hosted 47 OHSAA playoff games from 1972 through 1989, 37 of them state championship games. When natural grass was installed in Ohio Stadium in 1990, the OHSAA was asked to move the state finals to another location.
That site became Stark County, with Canton Fawcett Stadium and Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium sharing the state championship games for the last 24 years. When FieldTurf was installed in Ohio Stadium in 2008, the conversation began to have the games return to the “Horseshoe.”
The location of the finals after 2015 has not yet been determined.
Three of the 2014 state finalists previously played state championship games in Ohio Stadium, including Lakewood St. Edward, Canton Central Catholic and Minster.
Three defending state champions are back to defend their title this weekend, including Coldwater (Division V), Kirtland (Division VI) and Maria Stein Marion Local (Division VII).
Coldwater is playing in the state championship game for the sixth straight season (titles in 2012 and 2013). Kirtland (two titles in a three-year span) and Marion Local (three-time defending state champ) are playing in the state championship game for the fourth straight season. Marion Local has won 19 straight playoff games (the record is 23 by Cleveland St. Ignatius from 1991-96).
In Division II, Cincinnati LaSalle had never won a playoff game before this season. LaSalle joins Athens in Division III as schools that won their first regional championship this year and are in the state championship games for the first time.
All 14 finalists were ranked in the Top 10 of the final Associated Press regular-season poll. Four poll champs will try to win a state title on the field, including Kettering Archbishop Alter (Division IV), Canton Central Catholic (Division V), Kirtland (Division VI) and Marion Local (Division VII). There is one matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 ranked teams, that coming in Division V (Canton Central Catholic vs. Coldwater).
The 14 state finalists had the following seeds when the playoffs began: No. 1 (7), No. 2 (2), No. 3 (2), No. 4 (2) and No. 5 (1, Huber Heights Wayne). The Div. I state final is a rematch of the 2010 championship game, won by Lakewood St. Edward 35-28.
Seven state championship games are scheduled and temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s.Single-game and all-session tickets are available for $10 from the participating schools or from Ticketmaster for $12 (plus charges).
A $105 all-session ticket package includes a ticket to all seven games in a chair-back seat and access to the Huntington Club in the stadium between games. An $84 all-session ticket is available without a chair back or access between games.
Tim Stried is a spokesperson for the Ohio High School Athletics Association.
2014 State Championships Schedule
Home team listed first.
• Thursday, Dec. 4
7:30 p.m. — Division III, Athens (14-0) vs. Toledo Central Catholic (12-2)
• Friday, Dec. 5
10 a.m. — Division IV, Cleveland Benedictine (13-1) vs. Kettering Archbishop Alter (14-0)
3 p.m. — Division VI, Kirtland (14-0) vs. Minster (11-3)
8 p.m. — Division II, Macedeonia Nordonia (14-0) vs. Cincinnati LaSalle (13-1)
• Saturday, Dec. 6
10 a.m. — Division VII, Norwalk St. Paul (13-1) vs. Maria Stein Marion Local (14-0)
3 p.m. — Division I, Huber Heights Wayne (13-1) vs. Lakewood St. Edward (12-2)
8 p.m. — Division V, Canton Central Catholic (14-0) vs. Coldwater (12-1)