Indians will be on familiar turf

Div. VI, Region 21 playoff football was always going to be a tough task for the Southern Local Indians, but the team was happy when it got paired with Creston Norwayne when the bracket was announced on Sunday.

The Indians, co-champions of the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference, will take on the Wayne County Athletic League champion Bobcats at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Bobcats’ field.

“They just had turf put in this season, so that fits us well,” Southern Local coach Rich Wright.

Like the Bobcats (9-1), the Indians (9-1) also play their football home games on turf so their will not be any significant advantage from that point.

However, when it comes to playoff experience, the advantage is clear. Norwayne has been to the playoffs eight times since making its first appearance in 2008. The Bobcats even have the 2011 Div. IV state championship to their name.

Southern, on the other hand, has been to the playoffs only once before in 2010 and lasted one game.

“They have a great history,” Wright said. “They have a state title and have been to the playoffs many times.”

Playoff meetings between the old Inter-Tri County League/new Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference teams from Columbiana County and the Wayne County Athletic League have been rare over the past 10 years. Crestview had a win over Waynedale in 2008, but lost to Norwayne in 2010. That’s been it.

Norwayne has bounced between divisions IV, V and VI over the past 10 years and is the second largest school in Div. VI this time around (only state power Coldwater has more).

Southern is closer to the bottom of Div. VI in terms of enrollment.

Wright understands the situation Southern is in but is welcome to the challenge. After all he’s one of the rare high school football coaches in the state of Ohio who has led three separate schools to the playoffs.

“No matter what school you’re at you’re always trying for Week 11,” Wright said.

Previously he had led Beaver Local to six playoff appearances and Wellsville two.

In addition to that unique feat, Wright also won his first traditional league championship since starting as a head coach in 1998.

“We won the OVAC with Beaver Local, but that’s a little bit different because you don’t play all the teams in your conference,” Wright said.

Bobcat notes

• The Bobcats enter the contest scoring 40.8 points per game, while giving up just 14.1. The team has outgained opponents by an average of 214 yards per game.

• In the first half this season, Norwayne has outscored opponents 259-53.

• The Bobcats’ top rusher is Logan Moyer who has rushed 153 times for 1,061 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s aided by Ameer Cunningham with 612 yards on 93 attempts with nine touchdowns.

• The passing game is split between two quarterbacks, Nate Bitskay and Clay Harvey. Both have totaled around 900 yards passing in seven games each.