From the moment the first weights were removed from the rack during the Mentor Football Team’s conditioning program last winter, the goal was to atone for an inferior, albeit injury-ravaged 2021 season.
The first step in that journey came with the Cardinals going 6-3 in the regular season this fall. The next stage begins on October 28 when coach Matt Gray’s team embarks on what they hope will be a long-term Division I, Region 1 playoff schedule.
Mentor, the third seed in Region 1, opens the playoffs Oct. 28 against 14th seed Brunswick. It’s a rematch of a Week 6 match won by Mentor, 35-14.
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at Jerome T. Osborne Stadium in Mentor.
“The kids were awesome. I really like where we are right now,” coach Matt Gray said. “Since our debut in December, it was different (from last year, when Mentor was 5-6 with a first-round playoff loss). “It was a connected feeling. Now they see what the benefits of consistent work are.”
Mentor is one of 16 News-Herald area teams heading to the playoffs. All matches in the first and second rounds will be played on Friday nights, with the highest seeds hosting the first two rounds.
Beginning in Week 3 of the playoffs, Divisions I, II, III and V will play on Friday nights, with Divisions IV, VI and VII playing on Saturday. These games will be played on neutral sites to be determined.
Regional championship games will be played the weekend of November 18-19, the state semifinals will be played the weekend of November 25-26, and the state championship games will be played the weekend of December 1-3 at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Guangzhou.
Apart from Mentor, the zonal pairings for the first round of the football playoffs are as follows per division:
Section II, Region 5
• Second-seeded Riverside (9-1) will host 15th-seeded Lakeside (6-4).
• Mayfield, seeded thirteenth (6-4), will travel to Austintown-Fitch, seeded fourth (9-1).
• Sixteenth seed South (4-6) will move to top seed Akron Hoban (9-1).
Section III, Region 9
• Chardon, seeded number 1 (8-1), will host Akron East, seeded 16th (6-4).
• University, seeded fourth (8-1), will face Kenston, seeded 13th (7-3), at Euclid Community Stadium.
• Gilmour (8-1), seeded eighth, will host Geneva, seeded ninth (7-3).
• Fourteenth-seeded Hawken travel to third-seeded Youngstown Ursuline (8-2).
• Eleventh-seeded VASJ (8-2) will play sixth-seeded Tallmadge (8-2).
Division V, Region 17
• Perry, seeded third (8-2), will host Wooster Triway, seeded 14th (4-6).
• Seventh-seeded Berkshire (7-3) will host 10th-seeded West Lafayette Ridgewood (7-3).
Section VI, Region 21
• First-seeded Kirtland will host 16th-seeded Independence (4-6).
• Cardinal, seeded eleventh (5-5), will travel to Cuyahoga Heights, seeded sixth (7-2).
Section VII, Region 25
• Fairport (4-6), seeded sixteenth, will move to seeded Warren JFK.
Coaches are reminded to send in their updated season stats by 6 p.m. Monday this week. Additionally, coaches are being asked to submit their post-season All-Star Nomination Forms by the end of this week as the Northeast Lakes All-District Football Meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2. This meeting and selection process is the first step in the process that leads to All-Ohio honors. Send nominations and statistics to [email protected]