All Hall of Famers come home to Ohio

Originally Published: August 25, 2008
ESPNRISE.com

Which state annually produces the best high school football? ESPN Rise's editors have pared the field down to eight states. It's up to you to decide which is the last state standing.

 

Great State Debate

The Great State Debate poses a simple question: What state has the best high school football? We've edited the field down to eight. Check out our picks:

No. 1 seed Texas
No. 2 seed Florida
No. 3 seed California
No. 4 seed Ohio
No. 5 seed Pennsylvania
No. 6 seed Georgia
No. 7 seed Louisiana
No. 8 seed Virginia

Agree? Disagree? Join the debate.

No. 4 seed Ohio

Population: 11.5 million

Number of high schools playing football: 715

Pro Football Hall of Famers: 24 players and coaches, including OL Jim Parker, OL Dan Dierdorf, WR Paul Warfield, HC Paul Brown, QB Len Dawson, WR Cris Carter, DL Alan Page.

Heisman Trophy winners: 11, most recent Troy Smith, Charles Woodson, Archie Griffin and Roger Staubach.

Top current NFL alums: QB Ben Roethlisberger, OL Orlando Pace, LB Mike Vrabel, OL Matt Light, WR-KR Ted Ginn Jr.

Great schools: Cleveland St. Ignatius (Wildcats have won record nine state playoff championships and were perhaps nation's best program during 1990s); Massillon Washington (Tigers' home stadium named for Hall of Fame coach and alum Paul Brown); Canton McKinley (Bulldogs play home games at Fawcett Stadium); Cincinnati Moeller (Crusaders have won seven state titles and were perhaps nation's best program during 1970s); Cleveland Glenville (Tarblooders are recruiting pipeline for Ohio State, including six on 2008 roster); Cincinnati St. Xavier (Defending state Division 1 champion seeking third crown in four years).

Points of greatness:
• The Buckeye State is all about football from grass roots and high schools all the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, where 24 home-grown products have been inducted. One of the state's top football programs, McKinley High, plays its home games at Fawcett Stadium adjacent to the Hall of Fame. And the venue, along with nearby Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in famed Massillon, are used for the state high school championship games.

• High school football has a rabid fan base in Ohio that packs local stadiums, mostly on Friday nights. Crowds of 20,000 or more are not uncommon for games in Canton, Massillon and Cincinnati. Games in Cleveland in the 1940s and 1950s attracted crowds of over 50,000, including a state record 70,955 in 1946.

• Ohio has perhaps the best state championship playoff system in football for more than 700 schools competing in six enrollment divisions. A five-week playoff starts with 32 teams -- four from eight regions determined by a computer format with most games played at neutral sites. Some state playoff formats around the country have been watered down in recent years with too many divisions. Not so in Ohio where the best teams actually play the best teams.

• The Buckeye State has produced numerous top-flight coaches including Paul Brown, Chuck Noll, Don Shula, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Lou Holtz, Don Coryell, Ara Parseghian, Don Nehlen and many more.

• The state is a fertile recruiting area for many NCAA Division 1 programs and is the primary source for Ohio State prospects with the current Buckeye roster showing 73 in-state players. Of the 10 Ohio-bred Heisman Trophy winners, five played for the Buckeyes, including Archie Griffin, the only two-time honoree. The nation's top non-Division 1 college program, Mount Union, is stocked with in-state talent.

• The Kirk Herbstreit Challenge is based in Ohio and features Ohio teams taking on top teams from other states. It has become one of the premier high school athletic events in the nation.