Beavercreek’s Maurice Wilson (left) battles Fairmont’s Ryan Hall for a pass. Beavercreek defeated visiting Fairmont 14-3 in a GWOC National East high school football opener on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Photo: MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Photo: MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Regular-season schedule can make or break football playoff hopes

It’s not enough to post a great high school football season. To qualify for the playoffs, getting through a worthy regular-season schedule is a must.

That was never more evident than Tuesday’s release of the computer rankings by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. There was an abundance of teams with lesser records ranking higher than opponents they lost to. How can that happen? Strength of schedule.

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Centerville (Division I, Region 3), Trotwood-Madison (D-III, Region 12), Valley View (D-IV, Region 16), Anna (D-V, Region 20) and Marion Local (D-VI, Region 24) retained their No. 1 spots in their respective regions. That was a given, although Anna lost 32-7 in Week 6 at Marion Local.

The head-scratching begins in D-I, Region 3 where Fairmont (5-1) ranks No. 3. Beavercreek (5-1) is the only team to beat Fairmont, 14-3 in Week 5. However, the Beavers could do no better than No. 8 in Region 3.

Here’s why: Teams earn first-level points for wins and second-level points for wins by a defeated opponent. Fairmont’s five defeated opponents have a combined record of 17-13. That includes defeats of Alter (5-1) and Milford (5-1). Beavercreek’s five defeated foes are a combined 10-20. Xenia, Carroll, Fairborn and Lebanon — Beavercreek’s games through Week 4 — have less than two wins apiece.

Another great example of that is D-II, Region 8. Unbeaten Winton Woods stunned three-time defending state champ Cincinnati LaSalle 18-15 in Week 5. However, in the computer rankings, LaSalle (5-1) is No. 1 and Winton Woods (6-0) is No. 2. LaSalle’s beaten opponents are a combined 21-11; Winton Woods’ 18-18.

That’s also how unbeaten Greeneview (6-0) is just No. 4 in D-V, Region 20 and West Liberty-Salem (5-1) is buried at No. 9 in D-VI, Region 24. The contrast to that is Minster (3-3), which is No. 4 in D-VII, Region 28. The Wildcats’ good fortune is a combination of a weak region and just three quality wins despite having lost their last three games.

For most teams, the league portion of a schedule is made several years in advance. It’s the early non-league matchups that are a gamble for athletic directors and coaches. Schedule too tough an opponent and wins are elusive. Schedule too soft an opponent and risk earning minimum second-level computer points.

The top eight teams in each region following the regular season qualify for the playoffs. That’s why all cross their fingers when scheduling and become a beaten opponent’s greatest fan.

• It’s not panic playoff time with four games remaining, but at least four area teams are on the postseason bubble.

Alter (5-1) lost only to Fairmont in the opener but is stuck at No. 7 in D-III, Region 12. Dunbar (4-2), coming off a loss at Detroit Catholic Central, is No. 9. Both those teams will likely have to win out to secure a spot in the top eight.

Clinton-Massie (6-0) owns a defeat of mighty Coldwater, but the Falcons could do no better than the No. 5 ranking in D-IV, Region 16. Week 8-10 games — and wins — against Goshen (6-0), New Richmond (5-1) and Wilmington (4-2) would improve that ranking.

Coldwater (4-2) probably will have to win out to advance in D-VI, Region 24. Currently No. 7, the Cavaliers play Anna and Delphos St. John’s (4-2) in Weeks 9-10.

And for those teams all but assured a playoff spot, the next challenge is to place among the top four in the final rankings. That’s because those teams all will host financially lucrative first-round games, essentially a bonus opportunity for a good gate and concessions sales. Playoff games shift to neutral sites the following week.

• There are two Thursday football games: Belmont (6-0) vs. Ponitz (2-4) at Welcome Stadium and Tippecanoe (3-3) at Sidney (6-0). Both start at 7 p.m.

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