Anytime a high school football team is heading toward Thanksgiving week and still plotting out practice schedules, you know they should be proud.
Once again this year, the Mahoning Valley is being well represented in the Ohio High School Athletic Association football playoffs, now in its fourth week.
Ursuline, Struthers and South Range all will play this evening in regional title games. Victory will mean a trip to the state semifinals.
Ursuline (13-0) will face Chardon (10-3) at Portage Community Bank Stadium in Ravenna.
South Range (12-1) will face the Perry Pirates (13-0) in Twinsburg.
And Struthers (10-3) will face Canton South (13-0) in the Division IV, Region 13 final at Larry Bagnoli Stadium in Tallmadge. It will be the first regional championship game for Struthers since 1987.
It’s no less than incredible that after beginning strength and conditioning training in the broiling July heat, fans still today are rooting for the teams that continue on this long road.
Each of the three teams are to be commended for this amazing journey.
To reach this point in the season, the players on each of these organizations truly exemplify the meaning of the word “team.” Indeed, team sports are dependent on the strength of every player’s skills and hard work. That hard work, evidenced by the blood and sweat of each player, coupled with the time and knowledge of each coach, has propelled them to this level of success.
But success as an excellent, well-prepared football team is only part of the equation.
The rest of it comes with dedication, commitment and heart. The Irish, the Raiders and the Wildcats certainly have proven each of these qualities.
It also comes with the love and support of family and friends who realize the importance of the sacrifices each player has made throughout the season and, truly, for many years leading up to this point.
We wish all the best to each of these teams. Of course, we especially hope for success for the seniors who soon will be bidding farewell to high school. We can only hope their memories will include a senior year varsity football state championship.
We have high hopes for success, especially considering the fact that our Mahoning Valley has produced at least one regional champion every year since 2015. It also has been represented at the high school football state finals every year since 2018.
But if it’s not meant to be, the excitement and memories of this season and long playoff run should leave them proud.
Win or lose, congratulations to the Ursuline Irish, the South Range Raiders and the Struthers Wildcats.