Three weeks into the high school football playoffs often separates contenders from champions. Teams that were supposed to be playing for regional championships mostly have taken their expected places.
And then there’s Chaminade Julienne.
The Eagles have surpassed all expectations by rebounding from a Week 10 regular-season finale blowout loss to Alter. First, CJ unloaded some blowout payback by stunning Alter 49-28 in a playoff opener rematch. CJ followed that with a 26-21 defeat of New Richmond last week that wasn't decided until quarterback Ryan Peltier's 5-yard touchdown run with 47 ticks remaining.
CJ entered both those playoff games as a decided underdog.
“It’s great,” senior defensive end Christopher Buchanan said. “Nobody expected us to be here but us. We’re just glad to seize the moment.”
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Now, the Eagles face their greatest moment. CJ (9-3) will play mighty Trotwood-Madison (12-0) in a Division III, Region 12 final at Stebbins on Friday night. The teams haven’t played since at least the early 1990s.
That's one of five games involving area teams Friday. The winners advance to next week's state semifinals. All state semifinal bracket pairings have been set except for D-III and D-VI. The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce those pairings and all neutral sites Saturday.
CJ hasn’t been this deep into the playoffs since losing to Clinton-Massie 21-20 on the last play of a 2011 D-IV regional final at Mason. Trotwood, last year’s D-III state runner-up, has won seven straight regional titles.
“No one ever thought we’d be here,” CJ coach Marcus Colvin said. “I’m not sure we thought we’d be here in this position. It’s pretty special and neat. Our kids have bought in and they’ve trusted us on what we’ve asked them to do.”
Trotwood has been everything as advertised. The Rams were especially impressive in a Week 10 playoff tune-up 14-7 defeat of Wayne. The state's No. 1 team in D-III since then has impressively whacked Elida and Dunbar.
It’ll take another gargantuan effort for CJ just to hang with Trotwood.
“It’s neat for the city of Dayton and the Miami Valley,” said Colvin, a former University of Dayton defensive back. “I’m proud and excited for our kids. I always tell our kids my favorite moment of coaching is when the lights are on and our guys are the center of attention. And we get to experience that.”
Here’s five things to know about the Week 13 regional finals:
MAC attack: What's all the Marion Local (12-0) vs. Coldwater (9-3) buzz about? This matchup is for champions, only. That it comes in a D-VI, Region 24 final at Sidney is our loss. Why? One of these state final regulars will not advance past the regional.
No league can match the success in the last decade of these Midwest Athletic Conference rivals. This is the first time since the addition of a seventh division Marion Local and Coldwater have been lumped together. That's significant, because the small-school powers have combined for 140 playoff wins and 15 state championships, including 11 since 2007.
»RELATED: Marion Local-Coldwater tale of the tape
The winner advances to a final four for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.
This game is a direct result of the OHSAA’s competitive balance initiative in play for the first time this fall. It’s a multi-tiered numerical formula directed at private schools and determines postseason divisions for teams. A public school, Coldwater was affected because so many lower division teams were bumped up to D-V. Coldwater dropped to D-VI, same as Marion Local.
Marion Local won the Week 3, regular-season MAC opener, 13-7 at Coldwater.
More MAC: The 10-team conference also is guaranteed a state semifinalist in D-VII. That's because Minster (8-4) and Delphos St. John's (8-4) will play in a Region 28 final at Wapakoneta. Minster took out top-seeded Convoy Crestview 35-32 last week and Delphos did the same to No. 2 seed Lehman Catholic, 14-7.
Minster won their Week 3 matchup in a MAC opener, 41-14. Minster was the D-VII state runner-up last season and won a D-VI state title in 2014.
Delphos and Minster also own impressive state stats: the two programs own a combined 81 playoff wins and eight state titles.
More Massie: Clinton-Massie overcame a depleted backfield to hand Valley View its only loss last week, 28-20. After losing its top three runners to injury in the first quarter, Massie used a makeshift backfield of defensive backs and linebackers who had combined for 17 carries entering that showdown.
Key for Massie (11-1) is if its backfield is intact against Cincinnati Wyoming (12-0) at Lakota West in a D-IV, Region 16 final.
SWBL glory: It's Middletown Madison and not Valley View as the last Southwestern Buckeye League team standing. Madison is making an impressive first-time playoff run, having toppled Anna and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. The Mohawks (10-2) are looking for more D-V, Region 20 postseason magic against West Jefferson (11-0) at Beavercreek.
West Jeff is one of four new teams in the Ohio Heritage Conference over the last two seasons. Of the state’s four teams that made their first playoff appearances, only Madison is still playing.
Fun facts: The OHSAA football playoffs began in 1972, but mythical state champs date back to 1895. The Associated Press began crowning poll champs in 1947.
»FACEBOOK: For more high school sports you should like Marc Pendleton
AREA PLAYOFF GAMES
All at 7:30 p.m. Friday
D-III, Region 12: Trotwood-Madison (12-0) vs. Chaminade Julienne (9-3) at Stebbins
D-IV, Region 16: Clinton-Massie (11-1) vs. Cin. Wyoming (12-0) at Lakota West
D-V, Region 20: Middletown Madison (10-2) vs. West Jefferson (12-0) at Beavercreek
D-VI, Region 24: Marion Local (12-0) vs. Coldwater (9-3) at Sidney
D-VII, Region 28: Minster (8-4) vs. Delphos St. John's (8-4) at Wapakoneta
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