Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
After putting together impressive performances in the first two rounds of the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Football Tournament, outscoring Moeller and Lakota East, 69-6, Elder will attempt to do something no other team has managed to this season – defeat unbeaten and No. 1 seed Colerain in the Division I, Region 4 final at 7 p.m. Friday at Mason High School’s Dwire Field at Atrium Stadium.
The OHSAA officially announced sites for the regional finals Sunday.
On the line is a regional championship and a subsequent berth in the DI state semifinals on Friday, November 23. Elder is vying for its first regional title since 2009, when the Panthers defeated Anderson, 28-21, in the final. Elder also won the regional crown the previous year, beating Colerain, 27-20, in overtime and advancing to the state final where they lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius. Colerain is looking for its second straight regional title and third in the last four years, also having won the region in 2015. That year, Colerain beat Elder, 41-11, to advance to the state semifinals.
Elder (8-4) – the region’s No. 3 seed – has won four straight games and is coming off perhaps its two best all-around games of the season. First, Elder avenged a regular-season loss by shutting out league rival Moeller, 35-0, in the first round of the state playoffs. Then, despite losing senior quarterback Michael Bittner to a leg injury on the first series of the game, the Panthers beat Lakota East, 34-6, in the reginal semifinals last Friday at Mason.
Junior Matthew Luebbe replaced Bittner and accounted for 258 total yards and three touchdowns for Elder, which has given up a combined 17 first downs and 328 total yards in the two playoff games. – also forcing six turnovers. Luebbe, a versatile offensive weapon for the Panthers, completed 9-of-13 passes for 98 yards and a TD, while finishing with a game-high 160 yards rushing on 18 attempts and two scores.
Colerain (12-0) has been the state’s top-ranked team all season. And with good reason. The Cardinals are averaging 37.2 points per game and, since a 14-12 win at St. Xavier in week two, Colerain has scored 42 or more points every game but one – including a 48-14 victory over Milford in the regional semis last Friday at St. Xavier’s Ballaban Field. The only other game the Cardinals did not reach 42 was the first round of the postseason, a 35-9 win over St. Xavier at home.
Only eight teams remain in the DI state playoffs, including defending champion Pickerington Central. Here is a look at the other regional finals, also set for 7 p.m. Friday at neutral sites. The DI state championship game will either be played Thursday, November 29 or Friday, November 30. The exact date and time for the final will be announced by the OHSAA at approximately 11 p.m. on November 23.
(at Euclid Community Field
No. 1 Mentor (11-1) vs. No. 7 Lakewood St. Edward (8-3)
(at New Albany Veterans Field at Eagle Stadium)
No. 4 Olentangy Liberty (8-4) vs. No. 2 Dublin Coffman (11-1)
(at Gahanna Lincoln Wilbur C. Strait Field)
No. 1 Hilliard Davidson (11-1) vs. No. 6 Pickerington Central (10-2)