Butler braces for defending champ LaSalle

Vandalia-Butler head football coach Greg Bush isn’t moaning about being matched against defending Division II state champ LaSalle in this week’s first round of the high school football playoffs.

The No. 8 seed in D-II, Region 6, Butler (7-3) will make its second playoff appearance in three seasons at top-seeded LaSalle (8-2) on Friday night.

“I don’t know if we have a great chance statistically but we got a lot better chance than any other team in our region who didn’t make it,” said Bush, only half kidding.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association released first-round pairings on Sunday afternoon. Area teams qualified in all seven divisions, including Fenwick (D-IV), Coldwater (D-V) and Marion Local (D-VI), all of which also should be crowned Associated Press poll champions on Monday.

The regular season ended following Saturday night’s games. Teams had until Sunday morning to challenge the OHSAA about records and results and its positioning in the final computer ratings.The higher seed hosts first-round games. The following week games shift to neutral sites.

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Divisions II, III, V and VII will play at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays throughout the playoffs. Divisions I, IV and VI will play at 7 p.m. on Saturdays. The state championships will be played at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Dec. 3-5. One of the designated Friday games will be played on Thursday, Dec. 3.

The top 16 teams in the two regions of D-I qualify for the playoffs. For Divisions II-VII, the top eight teams in each of those 24 regions qualify. Computer ratings are a cumulative numerical value based on wins and wins by a defeated opponent. A sliding scale is used: defeating a D-I team generates the most points and beating a D-VII team the least. Open dates and playing out-of-state teams also are accounted for.

Like Butler, Belmont (D-III), Badin (D-IV), Carlisle (D-V), Miami East (D-VI) and Fort Loramie (D-VII) all landed final qualifying spots and will play at No. 1 seeds.

Despite a 57-35 shootout loss to Trotwood-Madison last Friday, Butler benefitted from late-season meltdowns by Winton Woods (5-4) and Edgewood (7-3), both of which lost their final two games. Winton Woods finished a scant .051 behind Butler for the final No. 8 seed. Harrison (7-3) defeated Edgewood on Friday, 20-16, which also prevented Edgewood from overtaking Butler.

Harrison was playing catchup ever since a 31-29 loss to Oak Hills in Week 2. That was Oak Hills’ only win.

Until then, Butler appeared out of the playoff mix. Ironically, Butler also seemed to be sacked in the preseason when the Aviators were reclassified from D-III to D-II following a revision of the OHSAA’s student enrollment formula.

“We’re going to regroup and try to get some kind of game plan to slow (LaSalle),” said Bush.

Butler is one of six Greater Western Ohio Conference teams to make the playoffs.

• Belmont can scratch making the playoffs off its bucket list. The Bison lost only their first and final games but still made the postseason cut for the first time. Dunbar hung a decisive 38-6 defeat on Belmont late Saturday night at Welcome Stadium.

Dunbar’s win bounced Piqua up to a No. 7 seed and earned the Indians a visit to No. 2 seed Tippecanoe. That game also serves as a preview of what to expect next season when Tipp joins the realigned Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division with Piqua, Troy, Greenville, Butler and Sidney.

• Fort Loramie took the most unlikely playoff path. The Redskins were 0-4 in Whit Parks’ first season of succeeding Matt Burgbacher as head coach. But Loramie hasn’t lost since and takes a six-game win streak into a rematch against defending D-VI state champ Minster. Loramie lost 41-7 in the season opener at Minster.

• Trotwood-Madison and Coldwater are formidable No. 3 seeds. Trotwood played in four straight state title games from 2010-13 and reached the state semifinals last season. Low seeds are nothing new for the Rams. They were tagged with a No. 7 seed in 2013 and No. 6 seed in 2012.

Coldwater is a three-time defending D-V state champ and is on an 18-game win streak. But that’s better positioning than last season when the Cavs were a No. 4 seed.

• It’s a rarity, but great seasons aren’t always rewarded by playoff appearances. Logan (D-II), Akron Buchtel (D-III), Cleveland John Hay (D-III) and Zanesville Maysville (D-IV) all were 8-2 and missed the postseason cut.

It’s easy to pin that on easy schedules. More often it’s a reflection of down years by usually stable and winning opponents. Too many bunched in one season can doom a team’s playoff hopes.

• Although in different divisions, Butler, Belmont, Kenton Ridge and Milton-Union all shared the same Week 10 fate: They lost but still qualified for the postseason.

• How hard is it to go 10-0 for a D-I team? Plenty, because only Wayne and Stow-Munroe Falls (Region 1) did it. What does that mean? Among other things, the level of play is more balanced throughout the state than ever before.

• Presale tickets through the regional finals are $8 at participating schools and $9 at the gate. A percentage of presale proceeds are returned to the school. Parking fees vary depending on the site.

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