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“Growing up in my family, it was always a huge deal. We would come and watch Edgewood play on Fridays, and it was always really exciting to be around.”
The Cougars have been in the playoffs as recently as 2016, but they’ve lost their last five postseason contests. The last victory was a 35-12 decision over Trotwood-Madison in 2006.
“You’re happy you’re here, but you can’t be satisfied. Now you’ve got to take that next step,” Edgewood coach Scott Clemmons said. “Like I tell the young men, their hard work and dedication has gotten them to this point. It’s been 11 years since we’ve had this opportunity to play at home. It’s back to square one.”
If this seems like a familiar matchup, that’s because it is. The Cougars beat Little Miami 20-0 at EHS in Week 9. Edgewood (8-2) shared the Southwest Ohio Conference title with Harrison, while the Panthers (8-2) were third.
Little Miami coach Nate Mahon believes his team is capable of making a turnaround in this game, even though it’s a difficult task.
“I think it’s going to benefit us having an opponent that we’ve played before. I think we’d rather have somebody we know rather than a stranger,” Mahon said. “We’ve got to play better on offense, no question. I feel like our special teams and defense played really well the last time, but we’ve got to figure out ways to score.”
Postseason berths are big everywhere, but this is particularly significant for the Panthers. They’ve been to the playoffs once before, going 1-1 in 1992.
Edgewood senior Andrew McDonell
Edgewood senior Andrew McDonell
Mahon said he generally tells his players they can celebrate a victory for 24 hours. After knocking off Western Hills to clinch a playoff spot last weekend, he bumped that total up to 48 hours.
“I told the guys to have fun and enjoy themselves over the weekend because that’s why you’re doing it,” Mahon said. “I want the kids to forget about what happened in the past and what may happen in the future and just live in the moment right now.
“I would assume it’s going to be a fantastic crowd Friday, and hopefully we feed off that energy. I think it’s pretty straightforward. We’re excited to be where we’re at, but we’re not done yet.”
The last matchup was a 6-0 game in the fourth quarter before Edgewood pulled away. Certainly both teams will stick with what got them here, but with a few tweaks.
The Cougars were held to 181 rushing yards, a pedestrian number for them, two weeks ago. But senior quarterback Corbin Craft converted 5-of-8 passes for 106 yards.
“They’re one of the quickest, most fundamentally sound defenses we’ve played this year,” Clemmons said. “That was one of those times we had to throw the ball, and Corbin made those passes. He does a good job of not forcing things, and when he sees it, he throws a nice ball.”
Edgewood has the SWOC’s leading rushers in seniors Wade Phillips (147 carries, 1,232 yards, 15 TDs) and Elijah Williams (174 carries, 1,217 yards, 15 TDs). The line in front of them includes senior tackles McDonell and Jacob Sousa, senior guard Andy Weaver, junior guard Isaac Hamilton and senior center Jordan Pitts.
“It’s tough to be a lineman, but I think we’ve got a pretty solid line,” McDonell said. “We fire out and pack a lot of power behind us. I think we’re really prepared.”
Seniors Trent Dawson (153 carries, 967 yards, 10 TDs) and Lucas Patten (85 carries, 567 yards, six TDs) and junior quarterback Brody Reder (65 carries, 371 yards, nine TDs) lead Little Miami on the ground. Reder has completed 47-of-105 passes for 1,015 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“We’re back at full strength and ready to rock,” Mahon said. “The blueprint’s there to be able to beat Edgewood. We were in that game, and in the fourth quarter, I think our kids believed we could play with Edgewood. So we’re going to come out and do what we do.”
What: Division II, Region 8 football quarterfinal, No. 5 seed Little Miami (8-2) at No. 4 seed Edgewood (8-2), 7 p.m.
Where: Kumler Field, 5005 State Route 73, St. Clair Township
Series: Edgewood leads 7-0 and won 20-0 in Week 9 this season
Next: Winner plays either Winton Woods or Lewis Center Olentangy on Nov. 9 at a neutral site at 7 p.m.