Aug. 14—Note: Despite this being the second year of expanded playoffs to 16 per region, for consistency with years past and to not make projections a "by default" exercise since well more than half of each region qualifies, the projection number will stay at 12.
(in alphabetical order, with 2021 regular-season record; News-Herald coverage area teams are in CAPS)
Contenders: BERKSHIRE (6-4), CHAGRIN FALLS (5-5), Fairless (9-1), Garaway (10-0), Garrettsville (10-0), Norwayne (7-3), PERRY (8-2), Richmond Edison (7-3), South Range (10-0), Triway (7-1), Waynedale (5-5), West Lafayette Ridgewood (9-1)
What to look for: Prefacing this is more of an observation than a projection, but it feels odd to have Chagrin Falls and Perry in Division V now. One benefit of moving down, though, will be virtually every game will be larger-division points at stake. Every little bit helps in that regard. ... With the Pirates, such a capable senior class exiting the program is concerning. But Perry has earned the trust to figure it out, especially with talented underclassmen who earned playing time a year ago. It's only on paper in mid-August, but that Week 2 clash hosting Kenston feels really important for Perry. ... Chagrin Falls will be in flux on the line with Nick Dalessandro graduated. But versatile RB Donny Hardy showed promise last fall, and there is opportunity to slot into the upper echelon of the CVC Chagrin. Kirtland is the favorite of course, but it could be wide open after that. Not to be repetitive, but Kenston, in the Tigers' case a Week 1 game, looms large as well. ... With Josh Brown and Miles Miller back, Berkshire seems like a squad with which bullish prospects are reasonable — how bullish depends on rebuilding the lines, which were senior-heavy in 2021. ... With Kirtland dropping back to D-VI, Region 21, the best team in this region now is probably Garaway. The Pirates, who won 12 games last fall, return a plethora of All-Ohioans including first-teamers Jarett Wallick and Brady Roden on defense. That group was one of the best in the Buckeye State in 2021, yielding 88 points in 13 games and posting five shutouts. QB Logan Yoder and RB Ethan Miller also earned All-Ohio distinction and should be a handful again. ... Richmond Edison, with 6-foot-6 QB Gage Cline, could also intrigue.