While it's still probably too early to start singing Christmas Carols, the prep football is about to enter "the most wonderful time of the year."
Tonight 96 teams will begin the quest toward Stark County and the coveted state championship games, which will once again be split between Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium and Canton's Fawcett Stadium.
The remaining 96 teams, which compete in Divisions I, IV and VI, will kickoff their playoff seasons on Saturday evening.
The five area teams - Beallsville, Martins Ferry, Monroe Central, Shadyside and St. Clairsville - were all featured and previewed in Thursday's edition of The Times Leader.
As I was checking out the brackets and pairings, several interesting tidbits jumped out at me. There are only 36 undefeated teams remaining in the entire state.
Of those 36, only three are alive in Division I, which continues to secure the thought of how wide open the big-school title chase is. The largest number of undefeated teams is in Division V where 11 squads finished 10-0. In Division III, there were 10 perfect regular seasons posted.
Division V is interesting because the three-time defending champion Irish of Youngstown Ursuline are beginning basketball practice today. The defending Division III champ - Columbus Bishop Watterson - is also home for the month of November.
The other four defending champions - Lakewood St. Edward (Division I), Maple Heights (Division II), Columbus Bishop Hartley (Division IV) and Delphos St. John (Division VI) - are all back to try and repeat.
One of the most interesting things I take a look at when the brackets are released is how those 10-0 teams got to where they are. By that, I like to look at how many teams with unblemished marks go on the road in the opening round.
This year, there are six 10-0 teams venturing away from their home fields this weekend. Those include: Warren Howland, Ravenna Southeast, Oberlin Firelands, Kettering Alter, Jackson and Ashland Crestview.
According to notes supplied by the OHSAA, there are eight schools in the postseason for the first time in their school's history. There are 21 schools with at least 30 OHSAA tourney wins. That list includes Steubenville, which has 45.
Here's a stat that will blow your mind if you ever dreamt winning a football state title was easy. Only 96 schools of the 717 football-playing members have ever won a state title. Nine of those schools have won at least four crowns. Breaking that down a step further, that means only 13 percent of the football members in the OHSAA have hoisted the gold trophy.
Former Bellaire High head coach John Magistro has led his Westerville Central Warhawks to the Division I field for the first time in his three years at the helm. Magistro, who won six regional titles at Bellaire and finished as state runnerup twice, will open his first Division I frey at home against Gahanna Lincoln.
Former Steubenville Big Red all-stater Todd Filtz has his defending champion Maple Heights' Mustangs back in the Division II field. The Mustangs are 8-1 and will take on East Cleveland Shaw this evening.
The top seed in Division I, Region 3, is Hilliard Davidson. The Wildcats, who own two state titles, feature Chase DeLande as one of their top defensive players. DeLande's parents - Dave and Stephanie (Miller) - are St. Clairsville and Shadyside natives, respectively. Chase is also a defending state wrestling champion.
Defending D-IV champion Columbus Bishop Hartley features Jacob Matuska, whose parents, Jimmy and Beth (Bierkortte) are St. John Central graduates. Matuska stands 6-ft-5 and is drawing all sorts of Division I interest. He was a guest at Notre Dame earlier this season.
Cincinnati Moeller quarterback Spencer Iacovone has been brilliant in leading the Crusaders to a 7-3 record in the ultra-tough Division I, Region 4. They're seeded fourth and will host Cincinnati Sycamore. His family is also from the Ohio Valley, more specifically, Harrison County.
My six picks for OHSAA State Football Champions are as follows:
Division I - Toledo Whitmer; Division II - Trotwood Madison; Division III - Steubenville; Division IV - Kenton; Division V - Lima Central Catholic; Division VI - Delphos St. John.
Judging by the season I've had in the weekly Pick Parade, these six schools had better be awfully concerned if I picked them. And the other 31 teams in each division still have life.
Enjoy the games and this time of the year because there's no better time than the football tournament.
OVAC GOES HIGH TECH
The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference has joined the world of technology. As the conference continues to rely more and more on the Internet, the OVAC has gone a step further.
The OVAC has unleashed both a Twitter and Facebook account. Twitter users should begin to follow the conference for news and events about the conference and members. The Facebook page already features pictures from this past summer's Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic.
Be sure to "Like" the OVAC on Facebook, so you can keep up with all of the conference happenings.
FORMER ST. Clairsville standout Jamie Perzanowski has enjoyed a brilliant freshman cross country season at the University of Central Florida.
Perzanowski has been the Lady Knights' top runner all season and she notched another feather in her cap earlier this week when she finished 20th in the Conference USA Championship held on the University of Houston campus.
Perzanowski, who was a two-time all-Ohioan in track and field for the Lady Red Devils, finished the 5000M race in a time of 18:01.7. Perzanowski's finish is the best by a UCF individual in 10 years.
The next meet Perzanowski will take part in is the NCAA South Regional Championship on the campus of the University of Alabama on Nov. 12.
ANOTHER ST. Clairsville product Kelly Perzanowski is enjoying a strong season season at Division I Florida Gulf Coast University.
The elder of the two Perzanowski sisters, who are currently competing in the Sunshine State, finished 30th overall in the Atlantic Sun Championship Meet in a time of 19:05.50.
THE KENT State Women's soccer team wrapped up its season last week when it fell, 2-1, in the Mid-American Conference Tournament to Buffalo.
It also completed the first season in Blue and Gold for St. Clairsville High graduate Jaclyn Dutton. Dutton, who was a standout as a true freshman at the University of Clemson, transferred back to the Buckeye State in the summer and wasted little time in making an impact.
Dutton started all 19 games for the Lady Golden Flashes. She was second in the team with 18 points. She led the team with 55 shots.
THE WEST Virginia University wrestling season gets under way this weekend at the University of Maryland Duals. Former St. Clairsville standout Dominic Prezzia is expected to be a starter for the Mountaineers at 157 pounds.
Speaking of wrestling, former Shadyside High standout Aaron Silverio, who won the OVAC in January and then finished fourth in the OHSAA Division III state meet, is being redshirted by the West Liberty University mat program.
Former Wheeling Park standout Kyle Bauer is on the Kent State University wrestling squad. He, too, could be looking at a redshirt from the Golden Flashes this season.
BASKETBALL PRACTICE for boys was officially allowed to begin today. St. Clairsville High School and veteran head coach Kim Clifford got a jump on things when they held a "Midnight Madness" workout. While many of the Red Devils' players are still involved with football, the players who aren't in a fall sport got under way with a two-hour workout in the wee hours of the morning.