By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — The day after the regular season finale, Tippecanoe football coach Joel Derge knew his Red Devils would definitely have to wait on one result to find out who they’d be playing in the first week of the playoffs.
No one could have predicted how that Saturday actually went, though.
“We’ve been doing this a while,” Derge said. “That Saturday after Week 10, you just never know. That Saturday, you can watch film start trying to fix the mistakes that you made in Week 10, but you can’t really start preparing for another opponent.”
And while Miami County’s other football teams didn’t have to go through as many opponents in one day before settling on a final one, storylines abound in this weekend’s regional quarterfinal round.
D-III, Region 12
at 1 Franklin
Coaches always talk about their teams controlling what they can control.
Tippecanoe, however, couldn’t help but sit Saturday and watch the insanity that was out of its control.
Sitting in the No. 6 spot in the Division III, Region 12 playoffs after Friday night’s Week 10 action, the Devils (7-3) had to wait on an out-of-state game Saturday featuring a team that Mount Healthy had played earlier in the year, which gave the Fighting Owls enough second-level points to jump past and knock the Devils to the seventh seed.
“After Friday, we had the No. 6 seed and were going to New Richmond,” Tippecanoe coach Joel Derge said. “We were researching them a little, but we also knew that Saturday a Canadian team, a common opponent for the seventh seed Mount Healthy, was playing a team from Maryland. So at 3 p.m., we found out that we’d dropped to the No. 7 seed and were playing Wapakoneta.”
Then the real craziness began.
“About mid-afternoon, word hit that Dunbar might have used an illegal player and might have to forfeit some games,” Derge said. “Saturday night, we were thinking we were not going to prepare for Wapakoneta, and Sunday, we found out we were going to Franklin.”
Tippecanoe will now face unbeaten No. 1 seed Franklin (10-0) Saturday night on the road in the first round of the playoffs, a team with a high-powered offense that revolves around Ryan Montgomery, who ran for more than 1,600 yards and threw for 397 more.
“They’re a good team,” Derge said. “We’re looking at a 10-0 team that beat Piqua 30-6, won their division of the Southwestern Buckeye League and has a kid that reminds us of a kid we had last year in Montgomery. He does a lot of things. He takes some snaps under center at times, plays halfback at times, receiver at times, he plays punt and kick returner and is even the punter. He makes people miss, he’s thrown the ball for about 400 yards — they use him in a variety of ways.
“We’re definitely going to have to run the ball effectively. Both of our wingbacks were over 500 yards and halfback Cole Barhorst was over 1,000 yards, so we’re going to have to utilize misdirection, be effective on first down, get to manageable third downs and make sure we convert, and we’ll throw the ball when it’s available.”
It’s also not the first time Tippecanoe’s playoff standing has changed the day after its finale.
“Last year, though we didn’t fall two spots,” Derge said. “Last year, we were sitting in the No. 2 spot looking at Belmont, but Belmont played Saturday and didn’t beat Dunbar, giving us Piqua. We didn’t know who we’d be playing until late Saturday night.”
D-V, Region 20
5 Aiken at
Last season, Milton-Union made its return to the playoffs, hosting a first-round game but losing by one point on a blocked extra point to Greeneview.
The Bulldogs knew there was a chance for a first-round rematch as Week 10’s matchups began rolling in this season, and they were a little anxious.
“I think anytime you want to avenge a loss … and to add to that, I’ve got some buddies that coach on Greeneview’s staff,” Milton-Union coach Mark Lane said. “But maybe that one will come later on down the road. Who knows?”
For now on Saturday, the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (7-3) will host No. 5 Cincinnati Aiken (7-3), a team that presents its own set of challenges.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” Lane said. “They’re extremely physical and very athletic. They bring a lot to the table. They’ve got a lot of team speed to worry about, and they’ve got big guys up front that can push you around.”
Even if it isn’t a direct rematch, though, the Bulldogs are still being driven by last year’s narrow postseason loss and looking to take the next step forward.
“As you know, not only me as a coach, but the entire program wants to get back after it,” Lane said. “This is where we want to be. We’re finally here, and we’re excited to play on Saturday.”
D-VI, Region 24
6 Miami East at
Miami East is not a complete stranger to Mechanicsburg.
In 2013, the Vikings won their first-round game in the playoffs, only to run into a Mechanicsburg team with a talented freshman quarterback in Kaleb Romero, falling 31-14.
Now, sixth-seeded Miami East (7-3) will travel to Mechanicsburg Friday night to face the 10-0 Indians in the first round of the Division VI, Region 24 playoffs.
“Nope, we know them. We played them in the second round back when our seniors were freshman, when their seniors were freshmen,” Miami East coach Max Current said. “We’re familiar with them from that.”
With a pair of 9-1 teams, Marion Local and Jefferson, occupying the top two spots, Miami East gets the chance to play spoiler against an undefeated team.
“Everyone is talking about how Mechanicsburg and Marion Local are headed for a massive showdown in the regional final,” Current said. “It’s been highly touted, and rightfully so. They’re a very talented team, and their quarterback has unbelievable yardage in his career. He’s a three-time state wrestling champ that’s going to Ohio State, so he’s a really great athlete. They’ve got a very good offensive line with good size that gets the job done up front, and a lot of those guys are on the defensive line that’s aggressive and does a lot of damage. They’ve only given up 56 points of year on defense, so they’re a nice team.”
The Vikings are no stranger to big first-round matchups, though — they took on that same Marion Local team last year to open the playoffs. East kept pace early on before the eventual state runner-up Flyers pulled away for a 48-23 win.
“The boys were up to the challenge,” Current said. “They didn’t back down, and they let them know that we were there to play a football game. That’s what you’ve got to do in any game, go in, compete and give a great effort.
“You tell the kids that you’ve got to play every down like your last, because it could be. Come playoff time, every down is important. You’ve got to have that mentality — you can’t worry about the last play, you’ve got to focus on the next one. Marion Local, Mechanicsburg, those perennial powers, they’ve got that — and that’s what we’re trying to get hold of ourselves.”
D-VII, Region 28
8 Hillcrest at
The Covington Buccaneers haven’t had much to worry about for the past three weeks.
After a Week 6 win over another playoff team, Division VI’s Miami East, the Buccs cruised to three easy wins with a combined win total the same as the Vikings’ en route to winning the Division VII state poll championship, finishing as the top-ranked team after the regular season.
Now the top-seeded Buccaneers will host No. 8 Hillcrest Academy Saturday to open the D-VII, Region 28 playoffs.
The Titans went 8-2 during the regular season but only faced a total of two teams with winning records all year — splitting those matchups. Hillcrest Academy lost to 6-4 Fayetteville in Week 5 before finishing the season with a five-game winning streak, including a win over 6-3 Miami Valley Christian Academy.
The Buccs, meanwhile, have three victories over playoff teams — St. Henry, Miami East and Troy Christian, which is seeded No. 2 in their region. Covington has lost two straight first-round playoff games to Lehman and is looking for its first playoff win since 2013.
6 Lehman at
Lehman’s first-round opponent, Minster, has a very deceptive 6-4 record.
The 2014 state champion Wildcats lost to eventual state champion Fort Recovery in the regional final last season and, after a 44-21 victory over the Cavaliers in Week 2, lost four straight to a collection of tough teams before finishing strong and earning the No. 3 seed.
Sixth-seeded Lehman (7-3), meanwhile, only lost to Fort Recovery and Minster to start the season before winning seven of its final eight games to earn a playoff spot, traveling to Minster to open the D-VII, Region 28 postseason on Saturday night.
Lehman will look to continue its regional quarterfinal winning streak, as the Cavs have won first-round games each of the past three seasons.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.