SOCCER

High school football countdown 2022: The 10 best games to watch this season

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — High school football season begins in less than a month.

Kick-off for the first Friday night of the 2022 season is August 19. To prepare, cleveland.com is counting down with previews for next month. The preseason top 10 for each Ohio division will follow next week ahead of daily camp tours, individual player watch lists and team breakdowns with standings through Week 1.

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Click here for a full regular season schedule with a week-by-week overview.

Want to mark your calendar for some of the best games? Read below:

When: Week 1 — Friday, August 19

What to see: Can the Tarblooders make a run at the OHSAA Division IV state title? Their trip to Akron in Week 1 could establish that against St. Vincent-St. Mary, who moved to Division II due to competitive balance and has a new coach in Terry Cistone. Glenville will feature a talented team with Ohio State targets Bryce West at cornerback, linebacker Arvell Reese and wide receiver Damarion Witten. The STVM will see the return of Santino Harper after missing most of last season due to injury. The dynamic running back and cornerback spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at Gilmour, but that’s not all for the Fighting Irish roster. The line remains solid with Bryson Getz, Riley Defibaugh and tackle Elijah Harkness.

When: Week 1 — Friday, August 19

What to see: Chardon, a two-time defending state champion, has nearly made it to Division II, where Olmsted Falls resides. Instead, Chardon remains in Division III as the third-largest school in the state in that classification. The Hilltoppers will have bigger games, especially in the Western Reserve Conference at Riverside (September 9) to open the conference schedule in Week 4, at Kenston (September 23) and against Willoughby South (October 14). However, it should provide important playoff points for the winner that will make the difference by the end of the season. Both programs have well-established identities in the running game, including the Bulldogs with Rutgers signing Dominic Rivera at blocking tackles for Southwest Conference MVP Rocco Conti.

When: Week 2 — Friday, August 26

What to see: The Browns’ home will see a big Division I, Region 1 game, which is a rematch of last year’s playoff opener. Mentor’s hopes for a rebounding season will be tested by the Wildcats, who handed them a 35-32 loss at Byers Field in Parma. The Cardinals finished 5-6, their first losing season since 1997. Injuries played a critical role in a promising season, including an early 28-26 win over the Wildcats in the regular season. Senior quarterback Jacob Snow is back after missing games with an injury against St. Edward — who isn’t on the schedule this year — and Notre Dame rookie Brenan Vernon is back on defense to bolster Mentor’s chances for a rebound season.

When: Week 3 — Saturday, September 3

What to see: This will be Cleveland Heights’ last year in the Lake Erie League, but the Tigers have a handful of big non-league Tests with Brunswick (August 19), a trip to Strongsville (September 23) and a visit to St. Vincent-St . Mary (October 14). However, bragging rights around Cleveland’s east side will be up for grabs on the first Saturday in September at Euclid. Benedictine has big aspirations with his move to Division III, while the Tigers are set for a fourth straight Division I appearance under coach Mac Stephens.

Some of the region’s brightest underclassmen at the defensive end will be in this one, including Cleveland Heights sophomore Brandon Caesar (already with a Penn State offer) and Benedictine junior Kareem Jennings. Both teams also have strong offensive lines to fight bullish battles at the line of scrimmage.

When: Week 8 — Friday, October 7

What to see: This might be the last time Hoban and STVM meet on a football pitch for quite some time, as they are currently not scheduled to play next year. Akron’s “holy war” has been controlled by Hoban for the past seven years, with the Knights winning nine straight. The series had been held at the University of Akron’s InfoCision Stadium until 2019, but has since been played in schools.

When: Week 7 — Friday, September 30

What to see: Avon is sure to face challenges again in the Southwest Conference from rival Avon Lake and Olmsted Falls, which it beat twice last year, including the Division II regional finals after the big Jakorion Caffey’s game in a 41-29 regular season win. Now a junior, Caffey rushed for a career-high 175 yards and four touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Caffey already holds an offer from Maryland and several programs from the Mid-American Conference.

Two of the area’s top running backs, including Olmsted Falls’ Rocco Conti, and tackles (Rutgers-bound Dominic Rivera of Falls and Avon’s Luke Hamilton junior) will be on display.

When: Week 10 — Friday, October 21

What to see: Neighboring rivals Stow and Hudson usually play for the Suburban League National Conference Championship. That’s what happened last year with Stow’s 22-21 win. The Bulldogs have a new coach in Martin Poder, who previously served as offensive coordinator for some of their top teams before leading Brecksville-Broadview Heights for the past four years. Linebacker Teddy Gregory is back to lead the Bulldogs, while Hudson brings back quarterback Jagger Pallay and a strong offensive line, led by junior Tommy Ricard.

When: Week 4 — Friday, September 9

What to see: The Southwestern Conference season opener is significant, as Avon and Avon Lake have established themselves as the biggest public school rivalry in Northeast Ohio outside of McKinley-Massillon Township. Their head-to-head clashes in the shortened 2020 season were some of the region’s best games in the past decade, and the two had teams that could see them meet not just in early September but by the end of September. Division II, Region 6 Playoffs.

After Avon edged Avon Lake twice in 2020, the Shoremen got their revenge with last year’s 30-24 loss to the Silver Rail Trophy, meaning the railroad tracks that separate their towns’ borders.

When: Week 7 — Saturday, October 1

What to see: With the exception of the playoffs, this will be the last time St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle will lead the Wildcats against rival St. Edward. Kyle announced last December that this would be his 40th and final season. He is 26-16-1 against St. Edward. This game is currently scheduled for Byers Field, but it should be noted that St. Ignatius’ home games in the series have been moved to FirstEnergy Stadium since 2016. St. Edward have won four consecutive games in the rivalry, including the 19 -14 from last year. victory.

When: Week 10 — Saturday, October 21

What to see: Both of these programs were last played at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. St. Edward captured the Division I state title with a 23-13 victory over Springfield, while Hoban fell a day earlier, 21-10, in the Division II title game. The two could claim the region’s No. 1 pre-season ranking and could end up settling it by Week 10.

As the Eagles usher in a new quarterback, their defense returns Northwestern rookie Michael Kilbane and Coastal Carolina hires Wyatt Gedeon as passers along with junior offensive tackle Benjamin Roebuck. Hoban added a Division I varsity rookie at quarterback junior JacQai Long of West Virginia to rival senior Jayvian Crable and join an experienced roster led by 2,900-yard rusher Lamar Sperling.

Contact sports journalist Matt Goul on Twitter (@mgoul) or email (mgoul@cleveland.com).

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