Let’s Get Out the Crystal Ball by Tiger Don 8/19/01
Here’s a league-by-league blow of the teams in Region 2 as we search for those having the best chances to qualify for the playoffs.
Massillon and Canton McKinley, the two teams with the toughest schedules in the region, will use that asset to their advantage this year. With pre-season All-American Justin Zwick returning at quarterback, some quick backs and a solid defense against the run, look for the improved Tigers to finish 9-1 or 10-0 this year, depending on the outcome of the St. Ignatius game. McKinley will also be better and may just find themselves 6-0 going into the stretch. But that stretch includes the likes of St. Ignatius, Warren and Massillon. Look for the Pups to finish 7-3, which should be good enough to make it in based on their strength of schedule.
The Federal League
The hands down favorite to win the Federal this year is North Canton based on a wealth of skill position talent. Hoover will stumble against Buchtel, but should win the rest to finish 9-1. Jackson should go 8-2 or 9-1 depending on their game with GlenOak. Speaking of GlenOak, even though they should have a good ball club this year, they also must face McKinley, Buchtel, Hoover and Jackson. They will have to win one of these four to have a peak in the door. Two wins and they are in for sure. Perry is a long shot, with minimal talent to work with and the loss of their lone returning running back.
The Steel Valley Conference
The two top teams this year are Youngstown Ursuline and Warren Harding, leaving Boardman and Austintown Fitch to pick up the scraps. Both Boardman and Fitch play Youngstown Chaney, Jackson, and league rival Youngstown Mooney in addition to each other. Also, the Spartans play Ignatius and the Falcons have a road match at Massillon. Don’t look for either of these teams to be there at the end.
The Akron City Series
Akron Garfield will have another fine 8-2 season, but they will be home for the dance on account of their weak schedule. They are certainly deserving, however.
The Western Reserve South Conference
This conference will be more balanced than in many previous years, which means that the top teams will most likely beat each other up and in the process knock each other out of the playoffs. Perhaps the only team with an outside chance is Cuyahoga Falls, the defending league champs. But they must also play Jackson and Solon. 7-3 at best.
The Pioneer Conference
Brunswick is a perennial favorite to qualify for post-season play and this year should not be different. Although they will be out-shadowed by Strongsville, the rest of the schedule is ripe for the pickings. Just watch out for Berea, though. Look for Brunswick to finish 8-2, bettering last year’s mark of 5-5.
The Heartland Conference
Two teams will dominate this league, Mansfield and Marion Harding. Neither will find a lot of local competition, except against each other. In non-conference action, Mansfield will entertain Massillon while Marion will host a good Hilliard Davidson team. On the basis of home field advantage, the league championship game goes to Harding. Therefore, look for Mansfield to finish 8-2 and Harding to finish 9-1 or 10-0.
The two teams with the best chance of coming out of this area are Toledo St. John’s and Fremont Ross. St. John’s plays in the mediocre Toledo City league but finds enough competition early on to at least make it somewhat interesting. This year they play St. Ignatius, Detroit Jesuit, Grove City, and Lima in addition to Toledo St. Francis. However, it may be a bit too much for St. John’s. But give them an outside chance anyway.
Ross should be right in the thick of the battle with Toledo Whitmer, but both play difficult non-conference slates. Fremont will face St. Ignatius and Massillon while Whitmer will square off against Warren Harding and Lakewood St. Edward. Look for Ross to have a chance to qualify at 7-3.
Eight teams will fill the playoff bracket in Region 2 and once again there should be a local flavor, with four or five teams coming from Stark County alone. First-round home games should go to Massillon, North Canton, Mansfield and Marion Harding. Their opponents will come from a list that includes Jackson, McKinley, Brunswick, GlenOak, Fremont Ross, and Cuyahoga Falls.
But the season hasn’t yet begun so don’t get too excited about these predictions. But at least it gives the teams below something to shoot for. Massillon Tiger Sports will continue to look at the playoff structure as the season goes along. Have a great week.