Like so many other great Alter quarterbacks before him, senior Connor Bazelak was labeled can’t-miss before he inherited the starting role. Always a high-profile position, it’s especially important at Alter, where Knights teams are expected to make deep playoff runs and contend for state championships.
And Bazelak, who will sign with the University of Missouri next month, has delivered. Alter (13-1) will play Chagrin Falls Kenston (13-1) for the Division III state championship at Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium at 3 p.m. Friday.
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“It’s great to finally get to Canton and the state finals,” said Bazelak, the younger brother of former Alter girls standouts Maddie (volleyball) and Libby Bazelak (basketball), both of whom are playing at Duquesne University. “It’s great to be one of those teams that is considered to be elite.”
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Joining Alter in the Week 15 state championships is two-time defending D-VI state champ Marion Local (13-1). The Flyers are paired against Kirtland (14-0) in a rematch of the 2017 title game at 10 a.m. Friday.
The first of seven state championships is Thursday when Massillon Washington (14-0) plays three-time defending state champ Akron Archbishop Hoban (14-0) for the D-II title at 7:30 p.m. There will be three games each on Friday and Saturday. All the games will be televised live on Spectrum (Channels 311 and 1311).
Bazelak (1,500-plus passing yards, 13 touchdowns, two interceptions) has directed an offense that scored 42 or more points six times in the regular season. The Knights’ defense has been even more impressive. Alter has allowed just seven or less points in 10 games. A 34-13 defeat of Norwalk in last week’s state semifinal win at Wapakoneta was the most points Alter had allowed since Week 5.
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That all adds up to a 13-game win streak for Alter, which recovered from its second straight season-opening loss at Fairmont.
“The kids didn’t let that destroy their season,” Alter coach Ed Domsitz said. “They came on strong. The defense has been outstanding. Offensively, sometimes we struggle, but overall, we find a way to get things done.”
It’ll be the first time for Alter and Kenston to play. Alter is making its 18th consecutive playoff appearance and has played for four state titles. Alter won D-IV championships in 2008-09 and lost to Steubenville in 2006 and Cleveland Benedictine in 2014.
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“We have that tradition,” Domsitz said. “Sometimes that can play against you. Certainly, it makes you a bigger target for opponents. Our kids embrace that. There is the expectation that we’re going to do well, that we are going to make the playoffs. Ultimately, one of our goals is to make it to a state championship game.”
Kenston was a state runner-up in 1995 and ’86 and missed the playoffs the last three seasons.
• The deep freeze that has gripped Ohio this week is expected to let up at Canton over the weekend. Friday’s projected high there is 44 degrees and 52 on Saturday. However, rain also is expected in Stark County both days.
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• Troy senior lineman Sam Jackson was named the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association D-II defensive player of the year on Tuesday. The Division II and III teams were announced by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Joining Jackson on the D-II first team was Trojans senior running back Jaydon Culp-Bishop. They helped lead Troy (10-2) into the playoffs for the third straight season.
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Five area senior players were chosen to the D-III All-Ohio first team. Fenwick running back Jack Fessler and Bellbrook lineman Ethan Knisley were selected for first team offense. On the first team defense were Chaminade Julienne lineman Shane Cokes, Franklin linebacker Matt Centers and Alter defensive back Antwann Martin.
The D-I All-Ohio teams and Mr. Football were scheduled to be announced on Wednesday. Divisions IV, V, VI and VII All-Ohio football teams were released earlier this week.
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Players were nominated by coaches and voted on by a statewide panel of media reps.
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