Northwestern High School’s Eli Berner runs past Kenton Ridge’s Drew Miller during their game at Taylor Field on Friday, Oct. 19. The Warriors won 21-14. MICHAEL COOPER/CONTRIBUTED

Former Troy standout leads Northwestern to first state playoff berth

An unusual source confirmed Northwestern qualified for the high school football playoffs for the first time.

“We got a film request about 2 in the morning (on Saturday) from a (Cincinnati) Wyoming coach,” said Northwestern coach Shane Carter. “I figured, heck, they’ve (qualified) enough times. They probably know who they’re playing.”

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Sure enough, Central Buckeye Conference rep Northwestern (7-3) is in for the first time as a No. 8 seed and is matched at top-seeded and unbeaten Wyoming (10-0) in Saturday’s Division IV, Region 16 playoff opener.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association was to announce playoff qualifiers and first-round pairings on Sunday, although most teams throughout the state already knew their postseason status after Friday’s regular season-ending Week 10 games.

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The playoffs will last five weeks, or half a regular season. Divisions I, II, III and VI will play on Fridays and Divisions IV, V and VII on Saturdays, all at 7 p.m. through the state semifinals. The seven state championship games will be held at Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium over three days, from Nov. 29 through Dec. 1.

Just 1.15 computer points separated a pack of six teams that Northwestern beat out for that final No. 8 seed. The Warriors swept their final two games and key losses by most of those teams was the difference.

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“All the things that had to fall into place, did,” said Carter, in his second season as head coach and a former Troy football and basketball standout. “Everything had to fall in the right order.”

Of the 224 teams throughout Ohio – of 717 – that qualified, Northwestern and Toledo Start are the only first-time participants.

It’s a long shot, but Northwestern has a chance to join an exclusive club. Only six teams since the playoffs began in 1972 have won state championships in their first season of qualifying. The most recent was Dublin Scioto in 1995.

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• Of the 29 area teams that advanced, there’s just one Week 10 rematch, Fairmont (7-3) at Springfield (8-2). Fairmont posted a 14-7 must-win to advance, while Springfield already had locked up a home game. The Greater Western Ohio Conference National East rivals joined GWOC members Northmont (9-1) and Wayne (7-3) in qualifying among D-I, Region 3 teams.

“We’re still alive,” Fairmont coach Dave Miller said. “We’re not putting our stuff away. I’m really excited.”

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Area teams to qualify:

D-I, Region 3: Fairmont, Northmont, Springfield, Wayne.

D-II, Region 8: Troy.

D-III, Region 11: Bellbrook.

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D-III, Region 12: Alter, Badin, Butler, Chaminade Julienne, Fenwick, Trotwood-Madison.

D-IV, Region 16: Clinton-Massie, Northwestern, Springfield Shawnee.

D-V, Region 18: Anna, Miami East.

D-V, Region 20: Greeneview, Madison.

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D-VI, Region 24: Coldwater, Covington, Marion Local, Mechanicsburg, St. Henry.

D-VII, Region 28: Ansonia, Fort Loramie, Lehman Catholic, Minster, New Miami.

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