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


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

Kickoff for the first Friday night of the 2022 season is Aug. 19. To gear up, cleveland.com is counting down with previews for the next month. Preseason top 10s for each division in Ohio will follow in the next week before daily camp tours, individual player watch lists and team breakdowns with rankings up to Week 1.

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

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

When: Week 1 — Friday, Aug. 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, which moved up to Division II because of competitive balance and has a new coach in Terry Cistone. Glenville will showcase a talented squad with Ohio State targets Bryce West at cornerback, linebacker Arvell Reese and receiver Damarion Witten. STVM will see the return of Santino Harper after he missed most of last season because of injury. The dynamic running back and cornerback spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at Gilmour, but that’s not all to the Fighting Irish roster. The line remains strong with Bryson Getz, Riley Defibaugh and tackle Elijah Harkness.

When: Week 1 — Friday, Aug. 19

What to see: Two-time defending state champion Chardon nearly moved up to Division II, where Olmsted Falls resides. Instead, Chardon remains in Division III as the state’s third-largest school in that classification. The Hilltoppers will have more important games, specifically in the Western Reserve Conference at Riverside (Sept. 9) to open the conference schedule in Week 4, at Kenston (Sept. 23) and vs. Willoughby South (Oct. 14). However, this should provide significant playoff points for the winner that make a difference by season’s end. Both programs have well-established identities in the running game, including the Bulldogs with Rutgers commit Dominic Rivera at tackle blocking for Southwestern Conference MVP Rocco Conti.

When: Week 2 — Friday, Aug. 26

What to see: The home of the Browns will see a big, early Division I, Region 1 matchup that’s a rematch of last year’s playoff opener. Mentor’s hopes for a bounce-back season will be tested by the Wildcats, who handed them a 35-32 loss at Byers Field in Parma. The Cardinals finished with a 5-6 record, their first losing season since 1997. Injuries played a critical factor in a season full of promise, including an early 28-26 win against the Wildcats in the regular season. Senior quarterback Jacob Snow is back after missing games following an injury vs. St. Edward — which is not on the schedule this year — and Notre Dame recruit Brenan Vernon is back at defensive end to bolster Mentor’s chances for a bounce-back season.

When: Week 3 — Saturday, Sept. 3

What to see: This will be Cleveland Heights’ last year in the Lake Erie League, but the Tigers have a handful of big nonleague tests with Brunswick (Aug. 19), a trip to Strongsville (Sept. 23) and visit to St. Vincent-St. Mary (Oct. 14). However, bragging rights around the east side of Cleveland will be up for grabs on the first Saturday of September in Euclid. Benedictine has high aspirations with its move down to Division III, while the Tigers are poised for a fourth straight Division I playoff appearance under coach Mac Stephens.

Some of the area’s brightest underclassmen at 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 make for bullish battles at the line of scrimmage.

When: Week 8 — Friday, Oct. 7

What to see: This could be the last time Hoban and STVM meet for a while on a football field, as they are not currently slated to play next year. Akron’s “Holy War” has been controlled by Hoban for the last seven years, with the Knights winning nine straight games. The series had been held at the University of Akron’s InfoCision Stadium through 2019, but has since been played at the schools.

When: Week 7 — Friday, Sept. 30

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

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

When: Week 10 — Friday, Oct. 21

What to see: Neighboring rivals Stow and Hudson usually play for the Suburban League’s 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 on some of their best teams before leading Brecksville-Broadview Heights the last 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, Sept. 9

What to see: The Southwestern Conference season opener is a big one, as Avon and Avon Lake have established themselves as Northeast Ohio’s biggest public school rivalry outside of Canton McKinley-Massillon. Their down-to-the-wire matchups in the shortened 2020 season were some of the area’s best games in the last decade, and both have experienced squads that could have them meeting not only in early September but by the end of the Division II, Region 6 playoffs.

After Avon edged Avon Lake twice in 2020, the Shoremen earned some revenge with last year’s 30-24 upset for the Silver Rail Trophy, signifying the train tracks that separate their towns’ borders.

When: Week 7 — Saturday, Oct. 1

What to see: Barring the playoffs, this will be the last time St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle leads the Wildcats against their rival from St. Edward. Kyle announced last December that this will be his 40th and final season. He owns a 26-16-1 record against St. Edward. This game is currently scheduled for Byers Field, but it’s worth noting that St. Ignatius’ home games in the series have been moved to FirstEnergy Stadium since 2016. St. Edward has won four straight games in the rivalry, including last year’s 19-14 victory.

When: Week 10 — Saturday, Oct. 21

What to see: Both of these programs last played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. St. Edward took home the Division I state title with a 23-13 win against Springfield, while Hoban fell a day earlier, 21-10, in the Division II title game. Both could make a claim for the area’s preseason No. 1 ranking and could end up settling it by Week 10.

While the Eagles are ushering in a new quarterback, their defense returns Northwestern recruit Michael Kilbane and Coastal Carolina commit Wyatt Gedeon as pass rushers with junior offensive tackle Benjamin Roebuck. Hoban added a Division I college recruit at quarterback in junior JacQai Long from West Virginia to compete with senior Jayvian Crable and join an experienced roster led by 2,900-yard rusher Lamar Sperling.

Contact sports reporter Matt Goul on Twitter (@mgoul) or email ([email protected]).


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