OHIO — He’s an “under the radar” quarterback, from a Division III school in Southern Ohio that has thrown for over 11,000 yards and 100 touchdowns in his career.
Your mind went to Joe Burrow, didn’t it? The current Bengals signal caller fits that description, leading Athens High School to the Division III championship game in 2014 (named Ohio’s “Mr. Football” in the process), before falling to Toledo Central.
While he went on to Ohio State, before transferring to Louisiana State and winning a national title and the Heisman Trophy in 2019, it remains to be seen if Drew Novak can follow a similar path.
The Western Brown quarterback enters Friday’s game against Clinton-Massie sitting at 11,861 yards passing and 114 touchdowns, which are fourth and 13th all-time in the Ohio High School Athletic Association record books, based on available data.
Maty Mauk (18,932 yards and 219 touchdowns) from Kenton is the all-time leader in both categories. Novak, at his current pace, could finish his career third in passing yards (needs 144) and seventh in touchdowns.
Novak could climb higher on the touchdown chart depending on the number of games he has left. A deep playoff run could propel him to fourth all-time, right behind Burrow, who is third with 156.
The Broncos have high expectations, entering Friday’s OHSAA Game of the Week on Spectrum News 1 (and the Spectrum News App) in southern and central Ohio. Western Brown is 5-1 on the season, ranked sixth in this week’s Associated Press Ohio high school football poll in Division III. The Broncos sit second in this week’s computer rankings in Region 12, their lone loss in week four to Jackson.
Behind Novak, Western Brown completed an 11-3 campaign in 2021, reaching the Region 11 final before losing to Granville. One of the regular season losses was at the hands of this week’s opponent, Clinton-Massie.
The Falcons went 14-1 a year ago, capturing the Division IV state title, with a 29-28 win over Ursuline. It was a third state championship since 2012, and the 20th straight season Dan McSurley coached Clinton-Massie to the post-season, the sixth-longest streak in OHSAA history, and the fifth-longest current streak (both trailing Coldwater’s 25).
However, a slow start in 2022 has the Falcons (2-4) currently 18th in Region 12, on the outside looking in for a 21st straight playoff appearance.
There is still plenty of time to get above that line, though. Clinton-Massie’s four losses to start the season were by a combined 35 points to teams with a cumulative 16-7 current record. Wins over Harrison and Goshen have built some momentum, and this week’s game (as well as Oct. 14 against 5-1 New Richmond) provides an opportunity for critical playoff points.
Since 2003, these programs have met seven times, with the Falcons coming out on top each instance. Clinton-Massie has lit up the scoreboard in recent meetings, scoring 42, 86, 49, 70 and 79 points the last five years.
In northeast Ohio, the focus in Division I, Region 1, is on defending state champion St. Edward (first in the region) and St. Ignatius (third), who square off Saturday at Byers Field in Parma.
However, sandwiched between those rivals in the computer points is undefeated Cleveland Heights (6-0), which comes in at eighth the Division I AP poll. The Tigers are one of just four remaining undefeated schools in Division I (Dublin Jerome, Moeller and Lakota West), and 52 statewide.
Cleveland Heights has overwhelmed its opponents, averaging just under 50 points a game, while giving up only 19.
While the Tigers are most likely in great shape to host a first-round playoff game, the rest of its schedule is against schools from Divisions II and III, which limits opportunities to gain additional computer points.
That includes Bedford, which hosts the OSHAA Game of the Week. The Bearcats (2-4) find themselves 20th in Region 9, with wins over Lorain and Shaw.
Cleveland Heights has won 11 of the last 19 meetings in the series, dating back to 1999. However, last year’s game was canceled because of COVID-19 issues.
The Tigers were 49-23 winners in 2020, with the most recent Bedford victory back in 2017 (48-42).
Other big games on the schedule this weekend include: Mentor (3-2) vs. Medina (5-1), Perry (5-1) vs. Kirtland (6-0), Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (4-1) vs. Ursuline (5-01), New Albany (5-1) vs. Gahanna (5-1), Elder (5-1) vs. Moeller (6-0), Winton Woods (6-0) vs. Kings (6-0) and Springboro (5-1) vs. Springfield (4-1).
Coverage for both OHSAA Games of the Week begins at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News 1 and the Spectrum News App.