CHILLICOTHE – In 2007, the area saw two local teams breathe life into Week 12 of the high school football season.
Eight years ago — on its way to a Final Four appearance — Westfall topped Waverly 48-28 in Week 12 before falling to the eventual Division IV state champion Coldwater 56-14 two weeks later in a state semifinal contest.
Now, for the first time since the Mustangs and Tigers met way back when, two local teams have again survived the first week of the playoffs.
Paint Valley and Zane Trace will be in action this weekend in regional semifinal contests. If both managed to claim victory and move to Week 13, history would further be rewritten as it would mark the first ever such occurrence under the current Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament format.
Division V, Region 17 Regional Semifinals: No. 3 Alexander (10-1) vs. No. 2 Zane Trace (11-0), Friday at Waverly’s Raidiger Field at 7:30 p.m.
Both Zane Trace and Alexander are coming off their first playoff wins in program history last week — the Pioneers took down River Valley (34-0) while Alexander handled Ironton Rock Hill (37-7). Another similarity between the two is the presence of multiple seniors on their rosters as Zane Trace boasts 15 while the Spartans have a grand total of 21.
While those minor details may point to homogeneous characteristics, further historical data provides varying results.
Alexander head coach Alex Penrod — in his second year at the position — has revamped the Spartans after the team went 1-9 just two years ago. He’ll bring an overall record of 15-6 into Friday’s match-up after the school’s first 10 win season in history. The Spartans went 6-0 inside conference play to win a Tri-Valley Conference title — its fourth ever and first since 1996, when the school was a part of the smaller TVC-Hocking Division.
On the flip side, Pioneers’ head coach Dwane Hall is 29-4 during his tenure and has never lost a game inside Scioto Valley Conference play (21-0). The Pioneers’ 2015 SVC title marked the eighth crown in school history and first gold ball since 2009.
However, when it comes to Friday’s on-field action; history doesn’t matter.
Instead, Zane Trace will have the task of putting a stop to Alexander senior Mason Chapman. The 6-foot, 200 pound tailback has been the Spartans’ go-to guy on the ground with 202 carries for 1,213 yards and 22 touchdowns. Alexander likes to put Chapman in the wildcat formation, which explains his 25 pass completions for 396 yards and six touchdowns through the air.
After Chapman, seniors Taylor Kimbrough and Lukas Thompson will need to be stifled in the passing game. Kimbrough, who is the team’s regular quarterback, has completed 66-of-120 passes for 986 yards. However, his touchdown-interception ratio is not flattering at 6-6. On the receiving end of the duo is Thompson, whose hauled in 38 catches for 663 yards and five scores.
On the Spartans’ defense, senior linebacker Trent Bradbury leads the team in tackles with over 130. Bradbury, at just 5-foot-11, 185 pounds will have the pleasure of meeting Pioneers’ backs Truman Love (6-foot-1, 225), Austin Harris (5-foot-10, 170) and Joel Dunkle (5-foot-8, 165) in the holes. That trio has combined for 1,687 yards on 252 carries — an average rush of 6.7 — with a total of 28 touchdowns.
During last week’s win, Alexander gained 429 total yards, compared to Rock Hill’s mark of 129 — without a single yard passing. The Pioneers managed a mark of 247 total yards while holding River Valley to 205 and forcing four turnovers.
Zane Trace will enter Friday’s game averaging 39.2 points per game while Alexander brings in a mark of 31.5. The Pioneers are allowing just 7.7 per contest while the Spartans have bent a bit more on defense, allowing 12.5.
Division VI, Region 21 Regional Semifinals: No. 8 Fredericktown (9-2) vs. No. 4 Paint Valley (10-1), Friday at Hamilton Township High School at 7:00 p.m.
If you were in Bainbridge last weekend, you witnessed what Paint Valley coach Pete Hollon called ‘one of the best if not the best win in program history’ after his Bearcats took down No. 5 seeded Newark Catholic.
Elsewhere, No. 8 Fredericktown upset No. 1 Beverly Fort Frye 13-0 after the Freddies’ offense pounded out 287 yards on the ground while allowing just 255 total yards on the defensive side.
Fredericktown brings 12 seniors to the table with none more important than running back Brenden Reed, who has amassed 1,096 yards on the ground in 2015 with a total of 21 touchdowns. Reed shares the backfield with junior quarterback Dillon Smith who’s not so bad in his own right. Smith has completed 83-of-160 pass attempts for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 948 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Freddies’ biggest weapon in their passing game is explosive senior split end Kirk Manns who has put up big numbers this season. In 11 games, Manns has caught 23 passes for 435 yards and scored a total of eight times. His partner in crime on the opposite side is senior wide receiver Braxton McQueen, who’s added 30 catches for 423 yards to the team’s dynamic.
On defense, Fredericktown will rely on linebackers Braden Morey and Austin Geiger to stop the Bearcats’ duo of quarterback Anthony McFadden (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) and senior Teagan McFadden (5-foot-9, 205 pounds). Morey and Geiger have combined for 171 tackles and three sacks.
In the trenches, Paint Valley will be without starting lineman Josh Krech after a broken fibula he suffered against Newark Catholic. His replacement and company will try and manhandle defensive linemen Brian Singleton, Michael Cockrell and Milan Pozderac. Those three, all seniors, have posted a combined six sacks, 102 tackles and nine for a loss.
On the opposite side, the Freddies will deal with the McFaddens (37 combined scores, 18 through the air) as well as senior speedster Tony Hatfield who has caught 29 passes for 632 yards and six scores. Hatfield is the ‘Cats big play receiver while 5-foot-7 senior Gavin Mendenhall controls the middle of the field with 13 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Paint Valley will enter Saturday’s match-up averaging 32.1 points per game while Fredericktown averages 32.0. The Bearcats’ defense is giving up an average of 10.5 per contest as the Freddies surrender 16.8.
Fredericktown is in the midst of the school’s eighth playoff appearance — the second consecutive. The Freddies are 11-7 in their postseason history and have been state semifinalists twice (2010, 1989).
For live updates of this weekend’s regional semifinals, follow Derrick on Twitter at @dw1509 during the game. Then, remember to check the Gazette’s website for full coverage of both contests after they’ve ended.