OHIO — Seven schools are ending the 2023 season the same way as in 2022: in an Ohio High School Athletic Association football state championship game in Canton.

What You Need To Know

  • The OHSAA state championships are Thursday through Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton

  • All seven games can be seen on Spectrum News 1 and the Spectrum News App
  • Four schools look to repeat as state champs, with St. Edward (Division I) and Marion Local (Division III) going for three straight

Four of them did so happily, as St. Edward (Division I), Toledo Central Catholic (Division II), Glenville (Division IV) and Marion Local (Division VI) captured state titles, while Springfield (Division I), Hoban (Division II) and Kirtland (Division VI) were not as fortunate. 

Three of them began the 2023 campaign at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, too, as St. Edward, Hoban and Glenville were all victorious in the Northeast Ohio vs. America Showcase on Aug. 19, pitting top teams from the area against powers from out-of-state. Massillon also participated in the event defeating Valdosta, Georgia, at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, down the road in Massillon.

Nearly four months later, seven new state champions will be crowned, history will be made, and legends born. 

Division II

Division II sees Hoban (13-1) face off against Massillon (15-0) Thursday night at 7 p.m., watch here

The action begins with arguably the most anticipated of the seven matchups. Massillon and Hoban finished first and third, respectively, in the final Associated Press Division II poll of the season. 

Combined, these two have made seven of the last ten appearances in the Division II championship game, including two head-to-head meetings. The Knights claimed victory in both, winning 42-28 in the 2018, and again by a 35-7 score in 2020, a game played on the Tigers’ home field. 

This marks the fifth time in six years their paths collide in the postseason. A year ago, Hoban won in the state semifinal (41-20), while the Tigers earned a Region 5 championship in 2019 (17-14). All-time, the series is 3-2 in favor of the Knights (Massillon won in the 2011 regular season). 

Hoban—despite reaching the state championship game each of the last nine years (except for 2019)—is in search of its first title since 2020. The Knights won four straight from 2015 to 2018. 

Massillon—as has been well documented—is seeking its first-ever OHSAA football state championship since the playoff format was instituted in 1972. The Tigers proudly claim 24 state titles during the poll era. 

These teams share a common opponent this season in two-time defending Division I state champion St. Edward. The Knights’ lone loss came at the hands of the Eagles in week 10 (14-7), while Massillon’s 15-13 triumph in week five was St. Edward’s only defeat of 2023. 

There’s plenty of talent on both squads, too. Tigers’ defensive lineman Chase Bond (North Carolina State) and Dorian Pringle (Bowling Green) are headed to the next level. Pringle has missed the last couple of games with injury, however, and is unlikely to play Thursday. 

Hoban is sending offensive lineman William Satterwhite to Tennessee, linebacker Rickey Williams to West Virginia and safety Tysen Campbell to Central Michigan among seven seniors committed to play in college. Junior linebacker Eli Lee has already pledged to Ohio State and offensive lineman Sam Greer and cornerback Elbert Hill are also attracting lots of attention as sophomores. 

For the first time in head coach Tim Tyrell’s tenure, the Knights don’t have a 2,000-yard rusher, instead relying on a committee approach. Caleb Jones (1,069 yards) Brayton Feister (867 yards), quarterback Tylan Boykin (465 yards) and Xavier Williams (358 yards) keep the chains moving behind a massive, talented offensive line. 

Massillon has relied on its defense all year, as 11 of 15 opponents have been held to seven or fewer points, including the last six straight.

Interestingly, both quarterbacks average over nine yards a carry. Boykin is at 9.3, while the Tigers’ DaOne Owens (the school’s first-ever 1,000-yard rushing quarterback) is at 9.9.

With a win, Massillon would complete its first undefeated, untied season since 1970. 

Division VI

Division VI's faceoff is Versailles (13-2) against Kirtland (14-1) Friday at 10:30 a.m., watch here.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone in the towns of Versailles or Kirtland that doesn’t remember what happened on Dec. 4, 2021. The Tigers edged the Hornets, 20-16, for the Division VI state title, and also ended Kirtland’s 55-game winning streak. 

Ironically, in the state semifinal that year, the Hornets’ victory passed Versailles (1993-97) for the second longest winning streak in OHSAA football history.

Both schools are accustomed to playoff success, combining for 13 state titles, 23 appearances in the championship game, and 123 playoff wins. 

Kirtland has six of those state championships, with the most recent in 2020. This marks the 12th time in 13 years the Hornets have made it to the title game. Ironically, those five losses have all been to Midwest Athletic Conference schools (Marion Local in 2022 & 2017, Versailles in 2021, Minster in 2014 and Coldwater in 2012). 

The MAC’s might is on display regularly in the state championships, and two schools are here again this year. Marion Local and its 47-game winning streak are in the Division VI final. If either the Flyers or Tigers win, it will be the 26th time in the last 30 years at least one MAC school wins a football state title. 

Versailles lost to Marion Local (14-13) in the regular season, while Kirtland’s only loss was to Division V finalist Perry, 24-6. The Hornets beat the other Division VII finalist (Dalton) 14-7 in the season opener.

The Tigers rely on a strong defense, which opened the season with three straight shutouts, and have held eight opponents to eight points or fewer. On offense, quarterback Michael Osbourne can beat you with his arm (1,661 yards and 17 touchdowns passing) or his legs (1,070 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing). Running Back Joel Gehret adds 1,125 yards rushing and 26 total scores. 

The Hornets also swarm to the ball, posting seven shutouts, including a four-game streak without a point allowed in the regular season, and each of the last two playoff games. 

As usual, a ball-control offense is Kirtland’s calling card. Nearly 4,000 team rushing yards are impressive enough but consider the Hornets’ starting offensive line averages 5’10” and 218 pounds. 

Division III

Division III's game pits Watterson (14-1) against Toledo Central Catholic (15-0) Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., watch here.

Toledo Central Catholic returns to Canton as a defending state champion, but the Fighting Irish were winners in Division II in 2022, before sliding down. In doing so, Central Catholic became just the eighth team to return to the state championship game after changing divisions. 

The Irish have a 30-game winning streak, going to back a loss to St. Edward in week one of the 2022 regular season, and will play for the school’s fifth state title (2014, 2012 and 2005), all under current head coach Greg Dempsey. 

Central Catholic has only had one game this year decided by fewer than 14 points, a 28-23 win over Warren De La Salle, Michigan. The Irish have outscored their opponents 579-159, and the average margin of victory in five playoff games is 28.8 points per game. 

Both Marquan Braswell (1,733) and Tyler Morgan (1,011) are over the thousand-yard rushing mark this season, behind an offensive line that returned all five starters from a year ago. The headliner is Marc Nave, a Kentucky commit. 

Bishop Watterson, out of Columbus, has its own championship pedigree, winning it all in 2010 and 2002. 

Linebacker Dominic Purcell was the only defensive player selected as one of eight finalists for Ohio’s “Mr. Football” Award, and for good reason. He has 181 tackles, 40 for loss, to go with seven sacks, five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), nine passes defended, three forced fumbles and two recovered. 

On offense, quarterback A.J. McAninch (headed to Marshall to play baseball) has thrown for 3,246 yards and 38 touchdowns. 

Brothers Jake (junior wide receiver) and Ben (freshman running back) Uhlenhake hope to follow in their father’s footsteps and win a state title. Before Jeff Uhlenhake was a four-year starter on Ohio State’s offensive line, he won a championship with Newark Catholic in 1982. 

Division I

Division I's game features St. Edward (13-1) against Springfield (10-5) Friday at 7:30 p.m., watch here.

St. Edward and Springfield won’t need any directions to Canton, how to find the locker rooms, or the doors to the field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. They meet for the third straight year in the Division I championship game, with the Eagles winners in 2022 (23-13) and 2021 (28-14).

They join Coldwater and Canton Central Catholic as the only schools to meet three straight years in the same division’s championship game (Division V from 2014 to 2016). It’s only the 14th time the same teams met in consecutive finals in the same division. 

It’s a remarkable turnaround for the Wildcats, who began this season 1-3, and were also 3-5 before winning seven straight games to get back to the state championship. Springfield was the 12th seed in Region 2, matching Lake Catholic in 2020 as the lowest seeds ever to reach the championship game. Springfield would be the lowest to win it all if it can capture the school’s first-ever state football championship. 

Ohio State commit Aaron Scott is a player to watch for the Wildcats. A cornerback by trade, he often takes snaps under center, as well, running for 223 yards and seven touchdowns, while also completing 11 of 22 passes for 155 yards and three scores. Senior running back Jayvin Norman has 1,294 yards on the ground, and 17 total touchdowns. 

The Eagles are as complete of a team as you’ll find on the high school level. The defense has held eight of 15 opponents to single digits, while the offense has nine games with 30 or more points, six of which were over 40 points. 

Sophomore running back Brandon White has emerged as a star, rushing for 1,684 yards and 20 touchdowns, and has topped 240 yards in each of the last two wins. He runs behind a massive offensive line that is the size of most Division I college programs. Tackle Ben Roebuck is committed to play at Michigan, while twins Devontae and Deontae Armstrong are Ohio State pledges. 

Quarterback Casey Bullock is the steadying presence. He missed the Eagles' only loss with an injury, a 15-13 decision at Massillon in week five. He’s completed nearly 60% of his passes for 1,295 yards and 11 touchdowns on the campaign.

St. Edward is in search of its seventh state title, all since 2010. Five of the previous six have come against schools from the Greater Western Ohio Conference (Wayne in 2010, 2014 and 2015; Springfield in 2021 and 2022). 

The Eagles come into the contest with a 17-game playoff winning streak, tied with Marion Local for most active, and sixth longest in OHSAA history (record is 24 by Coldwater from 2012 to 2016, and Marion Local from 2011 to 2015).

Division VII

Division VII's Dalton (13-1) faces off against Marion Local (15-0) on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., watch here.

Dalton and Perry (Division V) are the only schools to be making first-ever appearances in a state championship game. While the Bulldogs are in their 17th all-time playoff appearance, 2023 marked the school’s first regional title as well. 

The only blemish on the record was a 14-7 loss in week one to Division VI finalist Kirtland. Since then, Dalton has 13 consecutive wins, scoring at least 31 points in all of them. Meanwhile, eight of 14 opponents scored eight points or fewer. 

Greyson Siders leads the way on offense, rushing for 1,875 yards and combining for 33 touchdowns. Sammy Tomlinson adds another 934 on the ground and 20 total touchdowns. 

The Bulldogs hope to become the fourth school from Wayne County (Orrville in 2018 & 1998, Norwayne in 2011) to win a state football championship.

It won’t be an easy path, however, as Marion Local stands in the way. The Flyers have won 17 straight playoff games, including two straight (Division VI in 2022 and Division VII in 2021) state titles. 

Those championships boosted Marion Local’s state record to 13 in football, two more than St. Ignatius. Remarkably, all those titles have come since 2000. The Flyers’ 101 all-time postseason wins are also an OHSAA record.

Head coach Tim Goodwin (also the school’s principal) has been at the helm for all of this success. His career record is a mind-boggling 308-48 in 24 years. Only once (2004) has his team failed to make the playoffs. 

Overall, Marion Local has a 47-game winning streak, with the most recent loss in 2020 to New Bremen in a regional final. Impressive wins in 2023 include a 14-13 decision over Division VI finalist Versailles in week 6, and back-to-back season opening wins over Division III teams Wapakoneta (29-26) and Franklin (63-7). Pretty good for a school with just 109 boys enrolled, 66 of whom are on the roster. 

Only three of the Flyers’ 15 opponents scored more than eight points, as the defense posted six shutouts. The five playoff games have seen a combined score of 250-7 in Marion Local’s favor, with four goose eggs by the opposition. 

The Flyers are a well-balanced attack, with four rushers over 500 yards in the season. Quarterback Justin Knouff is a threat, too, completing 125 of 191 passes for 1,992 yards and 25 touchdowns. 

As mentioned earlier, if Marion Local or Versailles (Division VI) wins this weekend, it will be the 26th time in 30 years at least one Midwest Athletic Conference school wins an OHSAA football state title. The MAC has combined for 41 of them since 1989.

Division V

Division V pits Liberty Center (15-0) against Perry (15-0) on Saturday at 3 p.m., watch here.

The top two teams in the final A.P. Poll in Division V meet in the title game. Perry finished number one, one spot ahead of Liberty Center. This game also features the only battle of undefeated schools. 

It’s been a bit of a natural progression for the Tiger in trying to capture the school’s second state championship (1997). Liberty Center reached the Region 22 (Division VI) final in 2021, falling to Carey, 31-7. Last year, it was a Region 18 title, before losing to eventual state champion South Range in the state semis.

Now, a third straight year with one step further, but the Tigers’ sights are set a little higher. It’s been an impressive season, bolstered by their defense, which has allowed seven or fewer points in two-thirds (10 of 15) games.

That unit is on “Kruse control” with four Kruse brothers starting. Triplets Colton, Landen and Trenton start on both sides of the ball, while their younger brother, freshman Garrison, recently slotted in a as starting linebacker. 

On offense, the triplets have combined for 55 total touchdowns, while all four of Kruse boys have been credited with 247 tackles on defense.

Despite just seven seniors on the roster, Perry has had a dominant season. The 22-8 win over Harvest Prep in the state semifinal was the closest game the Pirates had all year. Only three of their 15 games were decided by less than 20 points. 

One of those games was a 24-6 win over Division VI finalist Kirtland, snapping the Hornets’ 57-game regular season winning streak going back to 2016. 

Junior Owen McKoon is the grandson of former Perry head coach Bob Ritley, who is credited with establishing the winning tradition at the school. A former player at Michigan under Bo Schembechler, Ritley had 189 wins from 1977 to 2001. 

On offense, Kent State commit Jayden Studio has 1,276 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Senior Brayden Richards, who will run track at Air Force, won the Adidas national decathlon championship in the spring. He has 1,159 combined rushing and receiving yards on 113 touches, 14 of which went for touchdowns.

This is the school’s first-ever state championship game appearance, after winning a regional for just the second time (2016).

Division IV

Division IV's game features Alter (12-3) versus Glenville (12-2) Saturday at 7:30 p.m., watch here.

Two legendary head coaches headline the Division IV championship game. Ed Domsitz (379-173) and Ted Ginn. Sr. (247-62) have combined for 626 wins and three state championships, the most recent of which was Glenville last year. 

The Tarblooders offense is the key, as the team has scored 34 or more points in the 12 wins, while only hitting 16, 6 and 16 again in the three losses (the loss to IMG Academy in Florida doesn’t count in the OHSAA computer points). 

Running back and sometime quarterback D’Shawntae Jones has had over 250 yards in each of the past two games and has 1,509 yards on 131 carries. Only Avon held him under 100 yards this year. 

Two Glenville players will be Buckeyes next year, although cornerback Bryce West isn’t expected to play with an injury. Damarion Witten lines up at wide receiver, but projects to be a tight end at the next level. Tackle Fred Johnson, Jr. is committed to play at Louisville. 

Alter has had an impressive run in the playoffs, allowing just nine total points in five postseason games. The Knights also beat in consecutive weeks Clinton-Massie, Wyoming and Steubenville, who have combined for five Division IV state championship game appearances (with two titles) since 2017. 

Domsitz is believed to have the fourth-most wins of any head coach in Ohio high school football history:

426 – Reno Saccoccia (Steubenville)

401 – Jim France (Akron Manchester, Coventry)

381 – Bob Lutz (Ironton, Ironton St. Joseph)

379 – Ed Domsitz (Alter, Trotwood, Northridge) 

Ironically, it was Saccoccia’s Big Red that Alter beat to reach the championship game, and those two split a pair of championship matchups, with Steubenville beating the Knights in 2006, while Alter returned the favor two years later. That was part of back-to-back titles (2008-09), and Alter is playing in a sixth state championship game, all under Domsitz. 

The offense is powered by three sophomore running backs (Noah Jones, Rod Owens and Mike Rose) who have combined for 2,003 yards and 30 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Gavin Conner, already the school’s all-time leading passer, adds 502 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. 

OHSAA Championship Gameday coverage begins 15 minutes before each game and returns afterwards for analysis and post-game reaction. It’s all on Spectrum News 1, and the Spectrum News App.