Northmont’s Devin Kenerly scored on a 19-yard run. Northmont defeated visiting and previously unbeaten Centerville 21-14 in a Week 8 GWOC crossover high school football game on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

High School Football: 5 things to know about first-round of playoffs

This week marks the beginning of the second season for high school football. For the first time, the first round of the playoffs all will be bunched at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

At least two area teams go into the playoffs as state champion favorites, Trotwood-Madison (Division III) and Marion Local (D-VI). Both are 10-0 and were crowed Associated Press state poll champs earlier this week.

Here’s five things to know going into Week 11.

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The Greater Western Ohio Conference factor: The super conference is now four divisions of 20 teams, with seven advancing to the postseason. Even better, no GWOC members are matched in first-round games.

Most of that GWOC qualifying bunch is in the GWOC National East. Top-seeded Centerville (9-1) and Wayne (7-3) landed first-round D-I, Region 3 home games. Surprising Fairmont (7-3) ended Springfield’s postseason quest last week and has a tough challenge at Hilliard Bradley (10-0). Fairmont is one season removed from a 1-9 campaign.

Centerville and Wayne have maintained their status as the area’s best D-I programs, dating to the mid-1980s. Home games should provide an edge. Wayne has played — and lost — in D-I state titles games three times since 2010.

Northmont (8-2) is a D-I, Region 3 wildcard. This is the best team coach Tony Broering has had, losing a season-opening shootout at Winton Woods (9-1) and falling to Wayne in double overtime. Northmont also owns a 21-14 defeat of Centerville. Northmont is at Pickerington Central (9-1), which lost only to Trotwood-Madison 28-19 in Week 3.

Sidney (9-1) is must-see football for this Shelby County town. Senior running back Isaiah Bowser led the area with 2,389 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns and should be among the front-runners for Mr. Football. He’s a bruising reason why Sidney has gone bonkers over the Yellow Jackets, who are in the playoffs for only the second time (D-II, Region 8) and have their best team since the 30-0 run from 1968-70. However, hosting Belmont (9-0) will be a challenge.

Trotwood has been in beast mode all season. Coming off a D-III state runner-up campaign, the Rams tuned up for another long playoff run with a 14-7 defeat of rival Wayne last week. Its defense is at its shut-down best and super senior back Ra’veion Hargrove has always been heroic in the playoffs. First to take that challenge is visiting Elida (8-2) of the Western Buckeye League. Trotwood has played in seven straight state semifinals.

What’s wrong with Alter? That was the question after a stunning 13-12 season-opening loss to Fairmont, which was coming off that 1-9 season. Nine weeks later the answer is all is well with the Knights, almost. Alter (9-1) will take a nine-game win streak into an intriguing rematch against rival Chaminade Julienne (7-3) at Fairmont.

Last week Alter clinched an outright Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North title with a 34-6 pounding of host CJ. However, the Knights will again be without their All-World junior running back John Blevins (1,308 yards rushing, 16 TDs). He was lost for the season with a leg injury in Week 9.

The MAC factor: The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance initiative had a profound effect on divisional realignment this season, none more so than the Midwest Athletic Conference. Most noteworthy was Marion Local and Coldwater (7-3) being bunched in D-VI, Region 24. They were joined by MAC members Fort Recovery, St. Henry and Parkway.

The MAC still has great three-division playoff representation, which has been its recent norm. Anna (7-3) is at Madison (8-2) in a D-V, Region 20 opener. Marion Local will play Fort Recovery (6-4) at Wapakoneta after the Flyers’ grass field was deemed unplayable. Coldwater will host Bethel (9-1), which has its best team since coach Scott Clodfelter left Beavercreek. It’s the first meeting between the teams.

MAC teams Delphos St. John’s (6-4) and Minster (6-4) also landed D-VII, Region 28 home games. That makes six of the MAC’s 10 teams in the playoffs, a better percentage than the GWOC’s.

Dayton City League presence: That would be Belmont (D-II, Region 8) and Dunbar (D-III, Region 12) of the football only Southwest Ohio Public League, a merger between Dayton and Cincinnati urban schools. Belmont (9-0) is the ultimate playoff wildcard, having allowed nine points but playing a weak schedule that resulted in a road game at Sidney. Idle Week 10, the Bison have had two weeks to heal and prepare for the playoffs.

Dunbar (7-3) can salvage a disappointing regular season with a deep playoff run that begins at Goshen (9-1). Belmont defeated Dunbar 42-0 in a season opener.

Greeneview on the road? Like Belmont, the Rams (10-0) are among the state’s few unbeaten teams not to land a first-round home game. Only the top four of eight seeds in each region host. Greeneview was No. 6 in D-V, Region 20. Coming out of the Ohio Heritage Conference, Greeneview is at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (7-2).

Games will shift to neutral sites for the Week 12 regional semifinals. Brackets are set and the OHSAA will announce sites on Saturday.

»FACEBOOK: For more high school sports you should like Marc Pendleton

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