A year ago, the Eastern Eagles were able to spoil the Southern Tornadoes’ quest for a playoff spot.
Southern needed a week 10 win at Eastern to make the playoffs last year, but saw the Eagles kick a late field goal for a 27-26 win.
The result knocked Southern out of the postseason, and allowed River instead to qualify with the eighth and final spot in Division VII, Region 27.
The stage was set for the Tornadoes to get their revenge last Saturday, as they hosted Eastern in the annual week 10 grudge match.
This time it was the Eagles who had to win to make the playoffs. A Southern win would end Eastern’s season. River was once again the team sitting at home, waiting to see if it would make the playoffs.
However, that’s where the story diverges from last season. Eastern took care of business early, rolling to a 63-6 victory at Southern.
The Eagles are in the postseason for the first time since 2001. This time River didn’t get the result it needed, as it finished ninth to just miss the postseason party.
Blake Newland and Steve Fitgerald simply weren’t going to let Eastern fall. Newland rushed for 196 yards on just 13 carries, scoring touchdowns on runs of 55, 9, 3 and 19 yards. He also caught a 49-yard touchdown pass.
Fitzgerald had 177 yards rushing on 21 carries, scoring touchdowns of 4, 3, 19 and 25 yards.
Newland and Fitzgerad combined to score eight of Eastern’s nine touchdowns, as it led 38-0 before Southern got on the board.
The win allowed Eastern to finish 8-2 overall, and 6-2 in the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division. The Eagles won their final six games of the season, while Southern lost its final four games to go 5-5.
Eastern is the No. 7 seed in Region 27, and travels to White Field to take on traditional small-school power No. 2 Newark Catholic. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. on Saturday.
It’s the Eagles’ third trip to the postseason, as they also lost to Newark Catholic in 2000.
The Green Wave have won eight state championships, but are in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Newark Catholic went 7-3, winning six of seven after a 1-2 start. The Green Wave lost to Columbus Academy (21-13), Paint Valley (33-21) and Licking Valley (42-14).
Waterford gives the TVC-Hocking two of the eight playoff teams in Region 27. The Wildcats finished fourth and earn a home game after going 8-2.
The Wildcats will host Shenandoah on Saturday at 7 p.m.
While Eastern will square off on the road against a storied program, the same can be said for the Wellston Golden Rockets.
Wellston is in the playoffs for the third time, but first since 2006.
The Rockets went 7-3 and earned the No. 8 seed in Division V, Region 19.
They face a tall task, as they’ll travel to No. 1 Ironton for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Ironton went 9-1 during the regular season, losing only to Ashland Blazer (Kentucky) in overtime in the fourth game of the season.
Ironton rolled the competition in the Ohio Valley Conference, winning six league bouts by a combined scored of 243-27. Ironton also defeated playoff-bound Wheelersburg in the season opener, 30-6.
Rylan Molihan and the Rockets have enjoyed their best season in more than a decade, and will be rewarded with at least one more week. After a season-opening loss to Jackson, Wellston rolled off six wins in a row, highlighted by a 36-7 win at eventual league champion Nelsonville-York.
However, Wellston suffered a 34-18 home loss to Athens — another eventual league champion — the next week. The Rockets won a close game against Meigs (42-34) before closing the regular season with a 20-0 loss to Vinton County.
Ironton figures to be a tough challenge for the Rockets’ rushing attack. Junior linebacker Reid Carrico is an Ohio State commit, and had Division I scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama and Clemson before settling on the Buckeyes.
The Rockets — the only TVC-Ohio team still playing in week 11 — will get to measure themselves up against one of the top teams in Division V, as Ironton finished fifth in the final Associated Press poll.