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December 2, 2009
Preview: Championship Weekend
It all comes down to this, championship weekend in both Ohio and Kentucky on the high school gridiron. After months of training, practices and 14 games, three local teams are just one win away from a state championship.
In Kentucky, Highlands looks to grab their third state championship and 19th overall. Meanwhile, in Ohio Winton Woods attempts to get to bring home the hardware for the first time in school history and Alter hopes to defend their state championship in Division IV.
We take a look at each game in the final edition of our Weekend Watch:
HIGLANDS (14-0) vs. JOHN HARDIN (14-0)
Kentucky Class 5A State Championship
Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium - Bowling Green
Friday - 8:00 p.m. Eastern
The Highland Bluebirds are just one win away from capturing their 19th state championship and third straight title. They have breezed through the playoffs, outscoring their opponents by an average margin of 51-12. Highlands in ranked in nearly every national poll out there, including their No. 10 spot in the latest RivalsHIGH 100.
The John Hardin Bulldogs are seeking their first-ever football state championship, but playoff football is nothing new for them. They just missed making the state finals last year. Both teams are led by strong senior classes and that should translate into a great football game.
Highlands is stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. Running back Austin Collinsworth is one of the state's most prolific playmakers. Fellow seniors Tyler Fennell and Will Bardo, who started the year at quarterback before injuring his throwing arm, are both also very capable runners. John Hardin is led by junior standout running back Landon Savoy has tallied 1,203 yards on the ground. He's complimented in the Bulldogs' backfield by senior Michael Wright, who's contributed with 934 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing nearly three games due to injuries.
After breezing through 14 games it appears as if the biggest thing that can beat Highlands is itself. The Bluebirds have had few bumps during their tough schedule, but they have played sloppy at times. Taking care of the football will be important against an opportunistic Bulldogs' bunch. Highlands' road to victory lies in their defense. If they can contain John Hardin's powerful running attack and make their offense one-dimensional, they will be crowned champions once again when the clock hits zero.
WINTON WOODS (12-2) vs. MAPLE HEIGHTS (12-2)
Ohio Division II State Championship
Paul Brown Tiger Stadium - Massillon
Friday - 7:00 p.m. Eastern
It is the first time that either one of these schools have made it to the state finals. Both schools are mirror images of each other in that they both have exceptional athletes who can make big time plays from anywhere on the field. This contest promises to be a high-scoring, entertaining affair.
Patience and balance on offense will keep Maple Heights in the game. The Mustangs must not panic if they get down early they have the weapons to put up quick scores. Playing error-free football is a must. Turnovers and the points they allow off of them will be a difficult task to overcome.
Winton Woods is outscoring their post-season opponents by a 49-14 margin. The team has scored at least 33 points in the first half in three of their four playoff tilts. Warriors' quarterback Dominique Brown, who was named the Division II Co-Offensive Player of the Year will set the tone running the ball. Classmate Jeremiah Goins is just 11 yards away from 2,000 on the year.
The Mustangs will be hard-pressed to stop the Winton Woods' ground attack. If the Warriors get the chance to unleash their linebackers because they have a big lead early it could be a long day for Maple Heights. They will have to prove they have the horses on defense to keep Brown and company off the field. That is a large task to tackle.
ALTER (14-0) vs. CHAGRIN FALLS (14-0)
Ohio Division IV State Championship
Fawcett Stadium - Canton
Saturday - 11:00 a.m. Eastern
The Alter Knights, winners of 27 in a row are looking for their second consecutive state title, but undefeated Chagrin Falls has dreams of their own as they try to capture the school's first championship.
The Tigers will have to establish the run to set up the pass. That is not an easy task against and Alter defense that gives up just 64 rushing yards per contest. The Knights have proven in this post-season that they can bring big time rushing attacks to a screeching halt.
Alter comes into this game averaging a robust 302 yards a game rushing. Their success is due in part to their four-head backfield monster of Zane Pitzer, Cody Taulbee, Nolan Wilson and Justin Winters. This group has combined for 3,464 yards and 51 touchdowns on the ground.
Chagrin Falls will look to linebacker and Division IV Co-Defensive Player of the Year Bobby Winkleman to guide a senior-laden Tigers' defense to keep the Knights from moving the chains.
Alter's Cody Byers shares that award with Winkleman, but it is the other seven seniors that join him defense that make the Knights so special. This team has given up just 13 points in four post-season tilts. Their experience and toughness on this side of the ball will pay big dividends in this contest for a school that is in the middle of quite a run.
**Stay tuned to QueenCityHigh.com for LIVE game coverage of all three games with our live blogs and all of your postgame recaps, highlights, and photos.**