Last season, both the Bluestreaks and the Indians’ seasons ended with the final whistle in Week 10.
This year, Archbold and Wauseon both earned the opportunity to host a first-round playoff game, with the Streaks hosting 8-2 Coldwater Friday in Division VI and the Indians taking on 6-4 Bellevue in Division IV Saturday.
“We are very excited for this opportunity,” Wauseon coach Shawn Moore said. “At the beginning of the year, not too many people thought we would be in this position, but we’ve played ourselves into an opportunity to play a quality opponent in the postseason.”
The Indians are coming off a 38-0 loss to Archbold Friday in a game that would have clinched a share of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League title with Liberty Center.
“I’m hoping that game can serve as a wake-up call for us,” Moore said. “We were out-played in every facet of the game, and we need to know that if that happens again, it’s over. Every game is do-or-die now, and that’s how we are going to treat this.”
Wauseon owns wins over Fairview (17-14), Tinora (32-6), Napoleon (21-7), Bryan (14-7), Swanton (41-14), Evergreen (35-6), Patrick Henry (28-27) and Delta (48-14). The Indians two losses are to LC (35-29) and Archbold.
The Indians are led by senior quarterback Cody Figy, a 6-1, 210-pound slinger who tossed for 146 yards in the loss to Archbold.
Juniors Connar Penrod and Tyson Britsch help supplement the Wauseon offense, along with senior receiver Noah Tester.
Wauseon may get a big edge in special teams from junior kicker Samuel Blanco, who has made two game-ending kicks, against Fairview and Patrick Henry, delivering a pair of wins to the Indians.
“Special teams is definitely a key area in any game,” Moore said. “To have someone we can trust in those big moments is huge for us, because it can take pressure off the offense. There are situations where you don’t absolutely need to get into the end zone, and having that edge in the kicking game is reassuring.”
This will be the third time Wauseon and Bellevue have clashed in the postseason, with the first coming in the second round of the 2014 playoffs, a 34-12 Wauseon win, and the second in the first round in 2015, an 18-0 win for Bellevue.
Bellevue, which tied for fourth in the Sandusky Bay-Lake League standings, is led under center by 6-1 junior Keegan Ray.
The Redmen get help from senior receiver Caleb Mason and juniors Nate Davis and Hunter Martin. 6-0 sophomore Nick Missler carries the load for Bellevue on the ground.
“This team is deceptively good,” Moore said. “We can’t overlook any team this time of the year. They have weapons that can flip the field in a hurry, and their defense is seriously disruptive.”
Bellevue gives up an average of a little more than 17 points per contest, while Wauseon is putting up 26 and a half per game.
Wauseon and Bellevue kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday.
In Division VI action, co-NWOAL champ Archbold takes on 8-2 Coldwater, making the playoffs for an Ohio High School Athletics Association-record 23rd year in a row.
“What that program has been able to accomplish is absolutely incredible,” Archbold coach David Dominique said. “It’s an unbelievable string of sustained success. But we cannot come into this star-struck, because we still have a job to do.”
The Streaks claimed their share of the NWOAL title with a 38-0 win over Wauseon Friday, as Noah Gomez ran the ball 20 times for 236 yards and two scores.
Quarterback DJ Newman completed 13 of 15 for 168 yards and two scores through the air for the Bluestreaks.
“Winning the league was a great accomplishment and our goal from day one,” Dominique said. “But so was getting into the playoffs. Now that we are here, the regular season is behind us. Throw records out the window.”
Archbold has wins over Hicksville (56-0), Liberty-Benton (34-20), Lake (21-7), Patrick Henry (36-35), Bryan (35-33), Delta (42-7), Evergreen (41-12), Swanton (42-7) and Wauseon.
The Streaks’ lone loss came 39-36 at co-league champ Liberty Center Oct. 4.
Coldwater has wins over Kenton (42-7), Cincinnati-Mt. Healthy (37-7), Versailles (42-7), Minster (38-20), Fort Recovery (43-21), New Bremen (42-16), St. John’s (49-0) and St. Henry (49-14).
The Cavaliers’ two losses came at Anna (49-8) and at Marion Local (24-0).
Coldwater is led by senior quarterback Jake Hemmelgarn, while senior Shane Homan leads the Cavaliers’ rushing game.
“This group is battle tested against some great programs in the state,” Dominique said. “Getting the chance to go up against a team like this, after coming out of the league we play in, should be a great test for us.”
Coldwater and Archbold kick off Friday at 7 p.m. at Bluestreaks Stadium.