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November 10, 2010
Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Once the calendar flips to November, a game between a pair of RivalsHigh 100 Top 25 teams from the same state is usually a signal that a state title game is being played.
In Ohio, it's just a second-round playoff game.
It is also the RivalsHigh Game of the Week.
The showdown between No. 22 Lakewood St. Edward and No. 24 Cleveland Glenville, set for Saturday evening, is yet another example of how good the Division I playoffs in Ohio are.
And the teams know it.
"This is the toughest region in all of Ohio," Tony Overton, the offensive coordinator at Glenville, said. "That is no disrespect to the other regions. Region 1 is incredible and Region 3 has the defending champ, but top to bottom this is the best."
That is hard to argue as the top-six teams in the bracket were all included in or considered for the RivalsHigh 100 this season.
But the story of the year in the Buckeye State may be the opponent set to line up against Glenville.
St. Edward came into the season with very low national expectations and an incredible schedule. All it has done is run the table and move to the top spot in one of the best states nationally.
The run wasn't predicted, but it wasn't a total surprise to its opponent this weekend.
"We scrimmaged them a few years ago on the JV level and they were good," Overton said. "You could see the talent was there and this is the start of it for them."
St. Edward's run started early in the season with three confidence-building wins over Mentor (Ohio) High, Pittsburgh (Pa.) Penn Hills and Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney.
The Eagles continued their march to the top of the state by bettering three Cincinnati teams from the vaunted GCL-South: Elder, Moeller and St. Xavier. Then they handed local-rival St. Ignatius a season-ending loss and beat Mentor again, this time in the first round of the playoffs.
"They like to control the line of scrimmage," Overton said of St. Edward. "They are physical, big boys, who use the run and the play action pass very well."
And while St. Edward does not have as many highly touted prospects as Glenville, according to Overton, that is what makes them more dangerous.
"They aren't the biggest kids, but they may be the toughest," he said. "That is what makes for a dangerous team."
It is one that he thinks his team will have a good test against.
"We will have to be ready to play," he said. "That is for sure."
Getting ready to play in playoff games has been something that has haunted the Tarblooders, who fell one point shy of a state title last season.
Usually one of the most talented teams in Ohio, Glenville has not been able to win the big one. It's a stigma that has stung the team, but it also fuels it.
"That one point last year is still with us," Overton said. "There were times last year we had to pick the kids up in practice and keep them focused, this year they have been up all year. It is making it easier to make adjustments that you want to make and actually coach when you aren't trying to hold the kids attention."
It is that newfound focus that Overton hopes carry the team over some of its mental lapses.
"People talk every year about how our conference schedule hurts us come playoff time," he said. "But there is only one state champion here. St. Ignatius, St. Xavier, St. Edward - a lot of teams played very tough schedules. Look who won last year. Davidson. You have to do the little things right in the playoffs. It is two totally different animals."
While second-season success has not altogether avoided Glenville, the costly mental mistakes have cost the team the riches it covets.
"A lot of our games in the regular season get played with a running clock," Overton said. "So sometimes our guys don't have to play four quarters. Most games they are done by halftime. That is the mental game."
A mental game that Overton thinks the team can overcome.
But it is still just one part. Execution on the field is another.
"Even if you keep your head in the game, you need to play the full 48," he said. "We can't go out and shank a punt and give a talented team good field position. We can't go out and think just because we showed up we are going to win."
Especially not if this team wants to be as special as Overton thinks it could be.
"I get asked every day, I get calls from guys from the '99 team," he said. "They all want to know which team was the best. The team that lost to McKinley was good. Our offense for the team that lost to St. Ed's was good. But last year we went to the state finals. And until someone wins it all, that will be my answer.
"But I think we have what it takes to win it all this year."
Getting out of the second round will be a large step to making that goal a reality.