Putting a bow on the 2021 local high school fall sports season

Head shot of Tom Hardesty, a white man with short hair in a grey golf polo with the caption "Round Two with Tom Hardesty"

Golf

The Kent Roosevelt girls golf team advanced to the state tournament for the fifth time in its 11-season history, placing 10th in the Division I tourney. Maren Seaholts was the highest individual finisher for the Rough Riders, tying for 32nd place overall.

Also at the Division I girls state tournament, Aurora’s Brooklyn Millard narrowly missed out on capturing an individual state championship, firing a 1-under-par 139 at the Ohio State Gray Course to finish runner-up by one stroke behind Audrey Ryu of Dublin Jerome.

In the Division III boys state tournament, Mogadore’s Dillon Pendergast tied for sixth place at the OSU Scarlet Course.

Cross Country

Aurora’s Morgan Schmitt ran to a 14th-place finish and teammate Grace Barto was 33rd at the Division I girls state meet, while Mogadore’s Katie Lane placed 31st in the Division III race.

On the boys side, the Field Falcons carried the torch for Portage County with a ninth-place team finish in Division II. Owen Roberts led the way for Field, finishing 30th overall. Aurora’s Andrew Ploskunak, meanwhile, finished 32nd in the Division I race.

Football

What’s new was old this autumn.

In the first year of the OHSAA’s playoff expansion to 16 teams qualifying per region, not much changed as Mogadore advanced the furthest among area qualifiers. The Wildcats reached the Division VI, Region 21 title game before falling 43-27 to New Middletown Springfield — their third straight loss to the Tigers in the postseason.

Also representing Portage County in the playoffs were Streetsboro, Aurora and Ravenna in Division III; and Garfield, Rootstown, Crestwood and Southeast in Division V. The G-Men, who finished the regular season undefeated at 10-0, ran their record to 12-0 before losing to six-time state champion Kirtland 25-7 in the Region 17 semifinals. The unbeaten Hornets have won three consecutive state titles and will look for their fourth in a row when they face Versailles in the Division V final Saturday night [Dec. 4] in Canton.

Certainly a tough draw for the G-Men to close their historic 2021 season.

Volleyball

The two schools also met on the volleyball court in the postseason, and again it was the Hornets who came out on top, defeating the G-Men in the Division III, Northeast 1 District title match. Garfield’s district runner-up finish represented Portage County’s deepest foray in this fall’s volleyball postseason.

Soccer

The Streetsboro girls advanced to the district finals in Division II before falling to West Geauga 3-1, while the Rootstown girls did the same in Division III, dropping a 4-1 decision to Burton Berkshire to finish as district runner-up.

So the curtain has fallen on the 2021 fall sports season for the schools of Portage County, who once again demonstrated the depth of athletics in our area across every sport. Here’s to another outstanding season this winter.


Much was made of the OHSAA’s move to 16 teams per region qualifying for the football playoffs possibly “watering down” the postseason.

But as it turned out, doubling the number of playoff teams did not sully the postseason as much as had been feared. In fact, of this weekend’s 14 state championship game contestants, none are lower than an 8 seed in their region.

In other words, had the OHSAA stuck with its traditional eight teams per region format, this year’s state finals would have been unaffected since no teams seeded 9 through 16 made it to the final weekend.

In fact, of the 14 teams playing for state championships this weekend, exactly half are seeded between 1 and 3.

Mogadore coach Matt Adorni told me back in the spring that the cream would still rise to the top, and it did. All that really changed was an additional round was added to the playoff schedule. Other than that, we’re right where we would have been anyway this weekend.


I would be remiss if I didn’t address the Ohio State-Michigan game from Nov. 27.

With most of Buckeye Nation standing precipitously on the ledge following their favorite team’s first loss to the hated Wolverines since 2011, they would do well to remember three things:

1. This is a very young Ohio State team. Good things — very good things — lay ahead.

2. Buckeye receivers uncharacteristically dropped several passes in the first half — one of which would have been a touchdown — which likely would have drastically altered the course of the game and put Ohio State firmly in control at halftime.

3. The Buckeyes were going to lose to the Wolverines at some point. Prior to Saturday’s 42-27 loss in snowy Ann Arbor, Ohio State had beaten its arch-rival eight straight times — its longest such streak in the series, which dates back to 1897. 

I just have two primary questions about the game from an Ohio State standpoint: Why did coach Ryan Day abandon the running game, particularly bullish redshirt freshman running back Miyan Williams, who was powering through the Michigan defense on a drive that reached the Wolverine 3-yard line? Day turned to the passing game with the end zone just a few yards away, and the result was a field goal. An Ohio State touchdown at that early juncture of the game would have been damaging to a Michigan psyche that was already fragile considering its lengthy losing streak in the series.

Also, why were the Buckeyes so sloppy? They were penalized 10 times for 66 yards, including a raft of false-start penalties usually reserved for Week 1, not the biggest game of the season — the one-game season — with everything at stake. Sure, crowd noise at Michigan Stadium was a factor, but it’s not like the Buckeyes aren’t used to playing in front of big crowds. Ohio State just seemed to finally not be razor sharp against the Wolverines, for whatever reason.

As long as that only happens once a decade, Buckeye Nation can live with it. Maybe.

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Tom Hardesty is a Portager sports columnist. He was formerly assistant sports editor at the Record-Courier and author of the book Glimpses of Heaven.

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