CINCINNATI — Blanchester’s five-game winning streak put the Wildcats back into the playoffs for the first time in three years. And while it was the wins that got them there, they have an improved SBC National Division to thank.
The National Division — Bethel-Tate, Clermont Northeastern, East Clinton, Fayetteville and Williamsburg along with Blanchester — had all six teams finish at 4-6 or better this year.
It was the non-league wins for the division that put Blanchester into the playoffs. The five other teams in the division went 15-10 in non-conference games.
There were two teams below Blanchester in the playoff standings with more wins, and four with as many or more level one playoff points — the amount of points a team gets for beating a team.
However, there were only six teams in the region that had more level two points — the level one points for every team you beat. That’s what allowed the Wildcats to edge Greenon and Mariemont and play on into week 11.
While all due credit goes to the improved division, it wouldn’t have mattered if Blanchester hadn’t turned around a 1-4 start, finishing the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
“When we were 1-4, we could have easily cashed it in and finished 3-7 or whatever,” BHS head coach Jon Mulvihill said. “But we didn’t. The boys fought hard and believed in what we were doing. They got better each and every week.”
NEW STARGEL STADIUM
Saturday’s game wasn’t the first playoff game at Stargel Stadium. It was the first one at this Stargel Stadium.
Thanks to FC Cincinnati deciding it wanted the land occupied by the old Stargel Stadium, Cincinnati Public School teams needed to find a new home.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the CPS board of education voted 6-0 to approve a land swap with the Major League Soccer franchise. FC Cincinnati would pay $10 million for the new Stargel Stadium.
In total, FC Cincinnati agreed to pay CPS $25 million, $10 million paid upfront for the first 10 years, according to the Enquirer.
Stargel Stadium is named after Willard Stargel. He was a coach at Taft from 1955-1966 before moving on to coach at Walnut Hills. He was one of the first African-American football players at the University of Cincinnati in the 1940s.
The new stadium isn’t quite complete, as the new track hasn’t been installed. Talking to people in the press box, there are still some hard feelings toward losing the previous Stargel Stadium to FC Cincinnati.
At least for one night, those feelings turned to joy as fans looked on from the new Stargel Stadium as fireworks marked Taft’s first-ever playoff victory.
LONG DROUGHT FOR CPS
Taft’s win Saturday over Blanchester broke a long drought for Cincinnati Public Schools.
Since the now-defunct Cincinnati Academy of Physical Education (CAPE) won its last playoff game against Jonathan Alder in 1993, CPS schools were a combined 0-15 in OHSAA playoff football games.
Taft has been gradually building to break the streak. This is the fifth straight year the Senators have qualified for the playoffs, and the seventh time in this decade.
Of the six previous losses in the playoffs, three of them have been to Clinton County teams, namely, the Clinton-Massie Falcons.
The two closest losses came to the Falcons, including a 21-20 overtime loss in 2010 and a 26-12 loss in 2016.
Taft will look to start a playoff winning streak next Saturday against West Liberty-Salem.
Cincinnati Public School Playoff Records from 1994-2018
Aiken – 0-1 (2016)
Jacobs – 0-1 (2003)
Shroder – 0-1 (2014)
Taft – 0-6 (2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Walnut Hills – 0-1 (2011)
Western Hills – 0-1 (2000)
Withrow – 0-3 (2004, 2007, 2013)
Woodward – 0-1 (2008)
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @MattSextonPxP.