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MAC powers Coldwater, Marion Local brace for regional final

Midwest Athletic Conference titans Coldwater and Marion Local will square off in the high school football playoffs this week, and that’s the problem.

The multiple smaller-school state champions are once again lumped in Division VI, Region 24. And just like last season, they’ll meet in a regional championship at 7 p.m. Friday at Sidney Memorial Stadium.

“It’s definitely different with that competitive balance initiative,” said Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin, who has guided the Flyers to two straight D-VI state titles. “It’s unfortunate.”

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That’s one of four Week 13 area games this weekend. Alter (11-1) will play Wapakoneta (11-1) at Piqua also on Friday in a D-III, Region 12 regional final.

Coldwater QB Jake Hemmelgarn. Coldwater defeated visiting Minster 31-20 in a Week 4 high school football game on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Saturday’s area regional final matchups are Middletown Madison (12-0) vs. Wheelersburg (11-1) at Hilliard Darby (D-V, Region 20) and Fort Loramie (11-1) vs. Convoy Crestview (11-1) at Lima Senior Stadium (D-VII, Region 28).

The winners advance to the Week 14 state semifinals. The OHSAA will announce neutral sites for those games on Sunday.

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Coldwater (10-2) had a grip on the D-V football playoffs, playing for 10 state titles from 2005-16 and winning six. Marion Local (11-1) had similar success in Divisions VI and VII. The Flyers own a streak of seven straight state title appearances and have won six.

Minster and Fort Recovery of the MAC won state football titles in recent seasons, but Coldwater and Marion Local long ago separated themselves from the rest of the state’s small-school best. Competitive balance derailed that two-pronged MAC attack by lumping the Cavaliers and Flyers together last season. But it might not last.

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The OHSAA annually revises it competitive balance numerical formula for each school every spring. Of the 27 teams in D-VI, Region 24 football, Coldwater and Bethel have the most points (159). Only four teams have fewer points than Marion Local (120).

Coldwater’s Myles Blasingame (7) takes down Minster QB Jacob Niemeyer. Coldwater defeated visiting Minster 31-20 in a Week 4 high school football game on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Being at the extreme ends of D-VI, Region 24 means the rivals easily could be reassigned next spring. Coldwater initially was bumped down to D-VI because so many other smaller schools were bumped up to D-V.

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“That’s the way it goes,” Coldwater coach Chip Otten said. “It’s the same when you go to Division I in Cincinnati and those guys all have to play each other. It would have been nice if we were in a north (region) and (Marion Local) were in the south. We’ll just roll with the way it is.”

Marion Local couldn’t overcome four first-half turnovers and lost 26-20 in double-overtime at Coldwater in the Week 10 regular-season finale. That snapped the Flyers’ 36-game win streak that began following a Week 3 loss to Coldwater in 2016.

“We didn’t play our best,” Goodwin said. “We’re looking forward to getting another shot at them.”

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Coldwater snapped a rare two-game losing skid against Marion Local. The Cavaliers had already secured a 22nd consecutive playoff appearance, but “had we lost to Marion, I don’t know how we would have responded,” Otten said. “Confidence-wise, that was like getting our mojo back.”

Coldwater dodged St. Henry 20-19 last week. Marion Local defeated Coldwater 33-0 in last year’s regional final.

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• Minster’s 28-14 loss to Crestview last week ensures there will be no MAC rep in the D-VII state finals for the first time since the smallest division was added in 2013. Marion Local won D-VII state titles in 2013-14 and Fort Recovery in 2015. Minster fell in the 2016 title game and won last season.

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