YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Just before the halfway point of the season, 11 teams already know they will be playing in the postseason thanks to their computer points.
Three teams have already clinched in the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference (EOAC) in Valley Christian, Southern and United. Lowellville and Brookfield have clinched from the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference (MVAC), and Girard and South Range have in the Northeast 8 (NE8).
Two independents are in as Fitch and Canfield will play in Week 1. Then, one each from the EBC and Portage Trail are in so far, as West Branch and Warren JFK will be in Week 11 as well.
“We only get 10 chances at this,” said Austintown-Fitch head Coach T.J. Parker.
“Fortunately, we have gotten off to a great start, not guaranteed 11. Every game means something to these kids, our family, the community, so we do not look past any week.”
“Still an honor to get in, because some teams don’t, so still an honor to get in,” said South Range head Coach Dan Yeagley.
“Concentrate on one game at a time, because this week, it is Poland. We have to worry about Poland and not Week 11 or anything like that.”
Conference championships were always a big deal to programs. But in the past, more often than not, you needed to win a conference title to get into the playoffs. Now, with more teams getting in, is a conference title now a bigger achievement than the postseason?
“League titles are so important,” Yeagley said.
“Because those are things, you end on a great note, end on victory of winning a league title and having that plaque forever and bragging rights forever, so that is our point of emphasis right now.”
What about the teams who don’t play for a conference title like Fitch and Canfield? With the postseason locked up, does their focus shift toward a home playoff game?
“We are trying to win week by week and putting together day by day, and we understand that through the process, that it can be one of the outcomes that the community and the kids in this school deserve,” Parker said.
And what about the teams sitting on the outside looking in, like Springfield?
Sitting at 0-4, the Tigers wouldn’t have had much shot at a playoff berth in an eight-team format, but expanded to 16, a winning streak could propel the Tigers and teams like them into the playoffs, looking to play the upset roll in the playoffs.
“Each rep I can see that our kids have gotten better throughout the four weeks, and we have done some positive things,” said Springfield head Coach Sean Guerriero.
“If we can get this thing rolling and our kids playing with confidence, I think we can make a run. I believe in our kids, I believe in their work ethic, I believe in the seniors leading this football team.”