High school football: Regional championship games feature some familiar faces for local teams

Nov. 13—When teams get this far into postseason play in high school football, that usually means getting to see some new faces.

That's not the case for three of the four area teams that are still alive heading into the regional championship round next weekend.

Mentor, Chardon and Kirtland are all facing familiar foes in Week 14.

Mentor, the third seed in Division I, Region 1, will face top-seeded St. Edward on Nov. 18 at Euclid's Community Stadium. It's the eighth time the teams will play since 2017.

Chardon, the top seed in Division III, Region 9, will face second-seeded Canfield on Nov. 18 at Portage Community Bank Stadium in Ravenna. The Hilltoppers defeated the Cardinals in postseason play the last two years.

Kirtland, the top-seeded team in Division VI, Region 21, will face Mogadore on Nov. 19 at Boliantz Stadium in Nordonia. The Hornets ended the Wildcats' season with 2017 and 2018 playoff wins.

The only area team facing an unfamilar foe in Week 14 is Perry. The Pirates, ranked third in Division V, Region 17, face top-seeded South Range on Nov. 18 at Berkshire's Great Lakes Cheese Stadium. The teams have never played before.

Winners of next weekend's games advance to the state final four.

Mentor (9-3) is 4-3 against St. Edward since 2017, including two wins over the Eagles in 2019. But St. Edward won the last two meetings — 47-7 last year and 28-24 in 2020 — both in regular-season play.

"Two programs that have had a good amount of success in the regular season and postseason," Mentor coach Matt Gray said. "It's two programs that have a lot of respect for each other. St. Edward has an unbelievable amount of talent and have great coaches with Coach (Tom) Lombardo and their staff."

Mentor ousted second-seeded Medina, 42-21, on Nov. 11 to avenge an early-season loss to the Bees.

"We're playing with tremendous confidence right now and are playing for one another," Gray said. "That's when you see special things start to happen."

Chardon (11-1), winner of 15 postseason games in a row, plays a Canfield squad that has fallen victim in two of those 15 Chardon playoff wins, 27-14 in a 2021 regional semifinal and a 38-6 regional final in 2020.

"Obviously (revenge) is an angle they'll use," Chardon coach Mitch Hewitt said. "We'll have to overcome their emotional charge."

But Hewitt quickly pointed out his Hilltoppers, fresh off a 10-7 win over Kenston in a regional semifinal, aren't the same team they were the last two years.

"We play with six seniors — maybe," Hewitt said. "Everyone on the teams that ended Canfield's seasons the last two years aren't really on this team.

"It's a tough region. I think a lot of people probably predicted this Chardon-Canfield matchup early in the year, and they got their wish."

Kirtland (13-0) hasn't played Mogadore since the last time the Hornets were in Division VI, back in the 2017-2018 seasons. Kirtland bounced Mogadore in a 2017 regional semifinal, 34-28, then ousted the Wildcats, 20-14, in the 2018 regional title bout.

"They want to run the ball. We want to run the ball. Just like tonight's game," Coach Tiger LaVerde said after his team's 33-0 win over Dalton in a Nov. 12 regional semifinal. "It's going to be a great small-school football game."

Meanwhile, Perry (11-2) is going up against a foe it hasn't faced. The Pirates are new to Division V this year, while state-ranked South Range (13-0) is a mainstay. The Raiders' last two seasons came to an end at the hands of Kirtland, which is now in Division VI.

"Those guys are good. Really good," Perry coach Bob Gecewich said of Coach Dan Yeagley's squad. "There aren't many holes on that team."

Perry defeated previously undefeated Sugarcreek Garaway, 27-17, in its regional semifinal. They are facing an experienced South Range team that has more seniors (20) than Perry has juniors and seniors combined (19).

That being said, Gecewich likes where his team is.

"I try to stay away from cliches as much as possible, but we are a get-better-every-day team," he said. "That's our focus. What I know is we have improved every sinle week and every single day. Did we see this (playoff run) coming? Who knows, man? It's high school football."