Between Saturday’s matchup of No. 7 Bellevue (12-1) and No. 4 Dayton Thurgood Marshall (12-1), there are four state semifinal appearances combined. But two of those appearances will come Saturday when the Redmen and Cougars face each other.
In the other half of the bracket, No. 15 Dover (11-2) takes on No. 9 Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (11-2). Dover is making its first-ever semifinal appearance this season. And while ASVM is no stranger to the postseason, Saturday marks its first semifinal appearance since 2001.
However, this season is playoff appearance No. 17 for the Fighting Irish, who boast a sparkling 27-12 record entering Saturday’s game, including nine trips to the semifinals, four state championships and a runner-up.
The last ASVM championship came in 1988, meaning whoever wins the title next week is a new face with regards to hoisting the gold trophy over the past 25 years.
Teams like Benedictine, Columbus Watterson, Stuebenville and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney have dominated the Division III landscape for the past decade.
Bellevue reached the state semifinals in 1996 and 2001, falling to Cleveland Benedictine (28-12) and Mentor Lake Catholic (30-6). The Redmen are looking to become just the third Northern Ohio League team to play for a state championship with a win.
Norwalk (1974) and former NOL member Galion (1985) won state championships in their two title game appearances. Bellevue is in the playoffs this season for the 14th time since first qualifying in 1981, and take a 12-13 record into Saturday.
Dover isn’t a stranger to the November football either, as the Tornadoes are making their 16th appearance this season and take a 15-15 record into Saturday’s game. But prior to this season, Dover had not won a regional title.
Meanwhile, Thurgood Marshall has been a school for just six years, and has a 4-1 record in the playoffs, which have all come in the past two seasons. The Cougars are 40-5 over the past four seasons entering Saturday.
Dayton Roth and Colonel White consolidated to form Marshall in the 2008-09 school year.
Dayton Roth made just two trips to the playoffs before closing, losing in the first round in 1980 and 1981 despite having future Ohio State and Philadelphia Eagles standout Keith Byars.
Colonel White had just one appearance, falling in the first round in 2006.
With last week’s 60-21 pasting of Athens, Thurgood Marshall became the first-ever Dayton city league team to win a regional title.
In fact, past history has rarely been kind to city league teams in Ohio’s six major cities, which include Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo. There are more than 100 teams from that region, but only six have played for state championships.
Columbus Brookhaven (2004) and Akron Buchtel (1987-88) are the only two city league teams to win state titles from the major Ohio markets.
The two websites often followed in Ohio high school football circles list Marshall as a slight favorite to top the Redmen and advance to the championship game.
In terms of overall ratings, however, Akron SVSM is No. 1 according to Calpreps, with Bellevue No. 2, Dover third and Thurgood Marshall fourth.
Nationally, Bellevue is ranked No. 297 to Thurgood’s No. 423.
Saturday’s game will be played at Ohio Wesleyan s Selby Stadium, while the Dover-ASVM game will be played at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
The championship is slated for 11 a.m. Dec. 1 in the shadows of the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Fawcett Stadum in Canton.