Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
Trio of area teams move to a lower division in football
By Randy Bruns
Though the start of the high school football season is three and a half months away, some recent reshuffling by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) has changed the playoff landscape for a handful of area teams.
Every two years the OHSAA reassigns schools to divisions based on enrollment numbers submitted by the schools, and the new divisional alignments were released last week. The enrollment totals from grades 9 through 11 for the present school year were used to determine which division teams will play in for the 2009 and 2010 football seasons.
Three area teams will be making division changes, and in each case a drop in enrollment means the move will be to a smaller division. As far as competition for playoff spots goes, things should get easier for these three teams because it generally takes fewer computer points to qualify in a lower division than in a higher division.
The Bulldogs, who have competed in Division II seemingly forever, will drop down to Division III and have been placed in region 10.
They will compete with fellow Western Buckeye League mates St. Marys, Shawnee, Defiance, and Elida for one of eight playoff berths in the region.
Celina has have made the postseason five times in the school's history, and all five times have been in Division II with the last playoff appearance coming in 1998.
Though dropping down to Division III will certainly help Celina's chances at a postseason berth, the Bulldogs quite simply need to win more games to even start thinking about qualifying for the playoffs.
A look back at the past three years in region 10 shows that of the 24 teams that made the playoffs since 2006, 22 of them had records of 8-2 or better, one made it at 7-3, and one squeaked in at 6-4.
With the Bulldogs coming off three straight 2-8 seasons, some marked improvement will be necessary before postseason plans are made.
The Cavaliers will also be in unfamiliar territory when the 2009 football season begins, but they could have some familiar company if they advance to the postseason as they have in each of the last 12 years.
Coldwater has been classified in Division IV since 1998, but in 2009 it will drop down to Division V and compete in region 20 with fellow Midwest Athletic Conference teams Anna, Parkway, St. Henry, and Versailles.
Over the last 11 years in the Division IV playoffs, the Cavaliers have gone a combined 32-9 including state championships in 2005 and 2007.
Interestingly, Coldwater's historical performance in the Division V playoffs hasn't been as sparkling as it went a combined 2-2 in its two appearances in 1995 and 1997.
Given that Coldwater has not had much trouble making the Division IV playoffs in recent years, it stands to reason that things should get easier with the drop to Division V.
However, the addition of league foes to Coldwater's region will certainly make things more interesting and potentially more dangerous.
Consider the Cavaliers' annual regular-season battle with neighboring St. Henry: in prior years a loss to the Redskins would have meant fewer computer points for the Cavaliers, but now such a loss will also have the potential to vault the Redskins ahead in the quest for one of the eight playoffs spots that are up for grabs.
Another consideration is the possibility of a grueling playoff rematch with a league mate, which Coldwater has had to face only once in its playoff history. Coldwater fans will remember that such rematches don't always go so well, as the Cavaliers fell to Versailles in the 2004 state semi-finals after defeating the Tigers in the teams' regular-season matchup.
After a two-year stint in Division V, the Flyers will be back in their usual surroundings in 2009, as a drop in enrollment means a trip back to Division VI.
In bidding farewell to the league members listed above in region 20, the Flyers will get to reacquaint themselves with conference mates Fort Recovery, Minster, and New Bremen in region 24.
Marion had plenty of success in its brief foray into Division V, as it racked up an 8-1 playoff mark in the past two years, including a state championship in 2007.
The Flyers have also been stout in Division VI, going 26-6 in nine playoffs years including state titles in 2000, 2001, and 2006.
Over the past several years, the Flyers' main concern has been simply qualifying for the postseason. Though they have made the playoffs in nine of the past 10 years, many times they have had to sweat it out late in the season. Two of the Marion appearances came after finishing eighth in its region, once after finishing seventh, and once with a sixth place finish, so there hasn't been much margin for error.
The drop down in divisions should help in that regard, as the average points needed for qualification in region 20 was 13.8 over the past three years, while the average for region 24 was just 11.1. In addition, only four teams with 7-3 records made the playoffs over the past three years in region 20, while seven such teams qualified for the postseason in region 24 and two others made it in with 6-4 records.
Besides the three area teams that will be switching divisions this year, there are a few other schools with ties to local teams that will be in new surroundings:
• Western Buckeye League members Kenton and Van Wert will move from Division III to Division IV.
• Perennial state power Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, which lost in the state finals to Coldwater in 2005 and 2007, will move up from Division IV to Division III.
• Traditional Marion Local playoff opponent Mechanicsburg, which lost to the Flyers four times in the postseason since 2000, moves up from Division VI to Division V.
• Finally, Midwest Athletic Conference member Minster was two additional male students away from moving up a division. The Wildcats have 123 boys in grades 9 through 11 this year, and the cutoff for Division VI is 124.