Mississinawa Valley coach Steve Trobridge has led the BlackHawks into the 2019 high school football playoffs. DALE BARGER / DAILY ADVOCATE
Photo: DALE
Photo: DALE

Coach pushes unlikely Mississinawa Valley into playoffs: “He’s not talkin’ crazy”

Steve Trobridge took the ultimate challenge as the next great hope for Mississinawa Valley High School football.

Those historic seasons when Curtis Enis ran roughshod over Cross County Conference teams and became Ohio’s Mr. Football in 1993? Just cherished memories and faded newspaper clippings. Long entrenched in losing, the BlackHawks were low on wins, players and Union City fan support.

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Better to play football at Union City Community High School across the Indiana state line that splits the Darke County village.

“When I took over there were talks of doing away with the program,” admitted Trobridge. “We only had 16 kids last year and we were able to have four wins. That was like, hey, Coach Trobridge, he’s not talkin’ crazy. He sees something here.”

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Of the many area teams that qualified for this week’s first round of the playoffs, none were more unlikely to make the postseason cut than Mississinawa Valley. The BlackHawks (7-3) won five games in which they trailed with six minutes left. That included a regular-season ending 22-12 Week 10 defeat of visiting Arcanum (7-3), the winner extending its season.

It’s also the best record at Miss Valley since Enis played there. Its roster now a robust 23 do-everything players, nothing has electrified Ohio’s side of Union City in the fall since those Enis glory days.

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Another grand challenge awaits Miss Valley on Saturday at perennial Midwest Athletic Conference small-school state power Marion Local (8-2) in the first-round quarterfinals of the Division VII, Region 28 playoffs. It’ll be the 22nd playoff appearance for the Flyers, who have won 10 state titles, all since 2000.

Miss Valley’s only other playoff appearance was one-and-done in 2004. The BlackHawks won just four games in the prior eight seasons before Trobridge was promoted to head coach in 2018.

»» RELATED: Final state football polls

“It’s been a magical ride,” he said. “My kids, they just keep fighting. I have a great group of seniors. Man, they love to give their coach a heart attack.”

A nearby Fort Recovery grad, Trobridge credits Indians head coach Brent Niekamp for his transition to coaching. Trobridge played collegiately at Bluffton and returned home following a neck injury. Niekamp insisted Trobridge take over as Recovery’s defensive line coach.

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That was back when Recovery, like Miss Valley, was a seasonal MAC pushover. Recovery won a D-VII state championship in 2015.

“He had that same challenge,” Trobridge said of Niekamp. “He preached that challenge to me. I have a lot of family members here in Union City and I believed that something good could happen here. I came in here with that belief and hard work and something good is happening.”

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It’ll be the first time for Mississinawa Valley, seeded No. 7, and second-seeded Marion Local to play. Miss Valley previously had series with MAC members New Bremen and Fort Recovery.

The playoffs begin on Friday with first-round games for Divisions I, II, III and VI. Divisions IV, V and VII will play on Saturday. All games kick off at 7 p.m.

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The top four seeds in each region host first-round games. The regional semifinals shift to neutral sites in Week 12, following the same Friday-Saturday format.

• There are seven divisions of Ohio high school football, comprised of 710 teams. Two hundred and twenty-four teams qualify for the playoffs, or about 32 percent. There are less schools (72) in D-I. The other six divisions average 108 teams.

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• Xenia (D-II, Region 8) is among five first-time qualifiers. Last year Springfield Northwestern was among two first-time qualifiers.

The flip side to that is Coldwater (D-VI, Region 23), which surpassed the previous state record of 22 consecutive postseason appearances by Cleveland St. Ignatius from 1988-2009. Alter (D-III, Region 12) is tied with Steubenville at No. 4 all-time with 19 straight playoff seasons. Newark Catholic (D-VII, Region 27) rejoins the playoff field for a record 36th time.

»» PHOTOS: Alter at CJ, Week 10 football

• No teams with losing records qualified, although five teams with 5-5 records did so.

• Brackets are set. The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce regional semifinal sites after each day’s games.

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