No. 2 St. Xavier guns for undefeated season
CANTON, Ohio -- All the signs and billboards adjacent to Interstate 77 in Canton let you know you're on football holy ground.
The overpass as you enter the Stark County limits is not just any other bridge, the images and logo remind travelers that this town of 80,000 is not just another Ohio city.
For 363 days of the year, those outside of the state know Canton as home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but for the next two days, high school fans from across the Buckeye State will converge on Canton and nearby Massillon for the Ohio state football championships.
And, for the second time in three years, the Bombers will look to bring a championship home to Cincinnati. St. Xavier defeated Massillon Washington 24-17 to win their first state championship in 2005.
St. Xavier (14-0) will face Mentor on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at historic Fawcett Stadium in Canton for the Ohio Division I title. Mentor finished the regular season ranked No. 12 in the Ohio Associated Press Division I state poll.
For St. Xavier, their quest to complete an undefeated season was no easy chore. After going through the regular season by defeating their opponents by an average of more than 21 points, the Bombers struggled against Dublin Coffman in the state regional finals, squeaking out a 10-7 win to advance to the championship.
St. Xavier is led by head coach Steve Specht, a 1986 graduate of St. Xavier. A 14-year assistant coach for St. Xavier, Specht is in his fourth season at the helm of the Bomber program, having compiled a 50-3 career record thus far. Specht earned Greater Catholic League Division I coach of the year honors this season.
At 11-2, Mentor cruised into the championship game after defeating previously unbeaten Brunswick 39-14 in the regional final. Under the leadership of head coach Steve Trivisonno, Mentor will be playing in its second consecutive state championship game, having lost in overtime to Hilliard Davidson, 36-35, last season.
Division IV: Cardinal Mooney vs. Coldwell
Ohio is home to another top-25 team in Cardinal Mooney (Youngstown). Cardinal Mooney (14-0), ranked No. 11 in the ESPN HIGH Elite 25, will face Coldwater (13-1) Saturday at 3 p.m. ET in the Division IV championship game at Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The Cardinal have won two of the last three Division IV state titles and bring a 28-game winning streak into the title game. It would have been three consecutive championships had it not been for a familiar foe -- Coldwater. The Cardinals defeated Cardinal Mooney 33-9 in the 2005 state championship game.
While the Cardinal boasts an impressive win streak, Coldwater is an equally, if not more impressive 75-5 over the past six seasons and is averaging 55 points per game in the playoffs. For a Cardinal Mooney defense that as not given up more than 20 points in a game this season, fans should expect this matchup to be one of the best of the weekend.
Division II final
Cincinnati Anderson (12-2) vs. Louisville (12-2) -- Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Friday, 7 p.m. ET.
In his first year as head coach, Jeff Giesting has led Anderson to its first state title game in school history. Also looking for their first state title, Louisville, a short 15-minute ride from Canton, will be a hometown favorite.
Division III final
Sunbury Big Walnut (13-1) vs. Newark Licking Valley (13-1) -- Canton Fawcett Stadium, Friday, 3 p.m. ET.
The Golden Eagles of Big Walnut is the first school from Delaware County to make an appearance in the state finals. One of two representatives for Licking County (Newark Catholic is the other), Licking Valley is making its first appearance in the state finals since 2001.
Division V final
Maria Stein Marion Local (14-0) vs. Youngstown Ursuline (12-1) -- Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Friday 3 p.m. ET.
The defending Division VI state champions, Maria Stein Marion Local has moved down to Division V and brings a 26-game winning streak into the contest. A state champion in 2000, Youngstown Ursuline is led by dual passing and running threat Lamar McQueen, the Division V co-offensive player of the year.
Division VI final
Bascom Hopewell-Loudon (14-0) vs. Newark Catholic (12-2) -- Canton Fawcett Stadium, Saturday, 11 a.m. ET.
Hopewell-Loudon is looking to complete its third perfect season in school history. Newark Catholic is making its first state championship appearance since 1993.
Jamar Hudson is a recruiting editor for ESPN.com.
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