Ohio High School Football

Submitted by MAgoBLUE on June 3rd, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Ok so let me preface this post by saying that I'm a Walmart Wolverine whose only venture into the Midwest came when I spent a long weekend in Chicago 3 years ago.  What I'm wondering is what makes the Ohio recruiting grounds so much superior to Michigan?  For as much anti-Ohio sentiment as there is around here, it's an accepted fact among everyone that Ohio has the better players.  The thread a few posts down the board references an SI article that says Ohio State is still the #2 most desirable coaching job in college football regardless of the future sanctions that they have coming their way.  The author's rational was nothing more than the fact that they will always have the inside track on Ohio recruiting.

This leads me to believe that the football culture in Ohio is deadly serious and at a level unmatched elsewhere in the country save for Texas and maybe Florida.  Is this the case?  The state has a population of 11.5 million which is comparable to Illinois at 13 million and Michigan at about 10 million.  Is Ohio's commitment to youth football just that much more fanatical than other Midwestern states?  It's become abundantly clear to me that OSU fans have a win at all cost mentality but does that same fanaticism trickle down to the high school level and, if so, does it serve to create better players?

My gut feeling is that other states have a much more rational outlook on the sport.  The passion of the Michigan fanbase is unquestionable but at the same time I don't see the typical Michigan fan forcing their kids into football.  In other words, I get the impression from the majority of MGoUsers that it's ok if your son wants to play baseball or join an after school debate team or whatever.  I'd appreciate it if someone could shed some light on this topic for an outsider like me.



June 3rd, 2011 at 3:34 PM ^

Northeast Ohio, the Columbus area, and especially the Cincinnati area are dead serious about their high school football, and Ohio State.  Schools like Cleveland St. Ignatius, and Cincinnati St. Xavier are the two that always come to my mind first.  St.Ignatius has a huge rivalry with St. Edward (there are also big schools like Mentor High, Mayfield, Lake Catholic, Euclid, Shaker Hts, Solon, Benedictine ect).  St. X pretty much has a big time rivalry with every school in the cincinnati area (Colerain, Moeller, Elder ect).  Then of course there's the HUGE Massilon vs. Canton McKinley rivalry.  Earle Bruce was actually the head coach of Massilon before he was a college coach.

I'll never forget being at a state semi final game that Mentor High School was playing in.  Mentor's colors are pretty much scarlet and gray, and they love to think that they are somewhat associated with Ohio State.  They have the exact same fight song, and the students for some reason love to yell out "O-H"  "I-O".  I found this to be hilarious considering it was the Ohio state semi-finals, and the other school was of course from Ohio, so it made absolutely no sense.

M Fanfare

June 3rd, 2011 at 3:58 PM ^

Being from the Cincinnati area, I can definitely attest to the passion for high school football. My high school played against several of the big Cincy-area teams including Elder, St. X and Colerain and routinely played a regular-season game in Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Bengals) or down at UC's Nippert Stadium. Don't forget the huge list of Michigan players who came out of Ohio (from the Bentley's records): Desmond and Woodson immediately come to mind, as did Benny Friedman, Bob Chappuis, Bob Timberlake, Dan Dierdorf, Dave Gallagher, Tom Curtis, Jim Betts, Dennis Franklin, Jim Mandich, Ed Shuttlesworth, Rob Lytle, Andy Cannavino, John Kolesar, Vada Murray, Elvis Grbac, BJ Askew, Pierre Woods, the Massey brothers, Prescott Burgess, Mario Manningham, Zoltan Mesko, Jordan Kovacs, Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, and of course Horace G. Prettyman. It would not be too much of a stretch to say that Michigan football was built and maintained on the strength of Ohioans who joined the forces of good.


June 3rd, 2011 at 5:03 PM ^

went to St. Xavier's football game(I was lucky to nab a ticket for the game) one time.  It was PACKED unlike any other high school football games in Michigan.  There were people tailgating before the game which is weird for me to see.

The passion they have for football is unmatched in any school in the state of Michigan.  The closest that I've seen is basketball for some high schools in Michigan like Muskegon Heights for example(they always bring good crowd in any venue).

On the field, you can see a huge difference in terms of talent on the field between Ohio and Michigan.

Eat Your Wheatlies

June 4th, 2011 at 3:37 PM ^

I lived in Mentor for a year a few years back. I hated that place. Those buttholes definitely gave off a buckeye vibe and you pretty much hit the nail on the head with that one. I dated a girl from there, but dumped her for being an ohio state loyalist for no reason other than what you mention...that, and she was bat-shit crazy


June 3rd, 2011 at 3:32 PM ^

The MHSAA is not exactly football-friendly. If you want to call that "rational," OK.

Players in the state lose their eligibility for playing in the January all-star games, so if you play basketball or baseball, forget it. There are also rules that make high school practices start later than in other places.

Ohio definitely takes it far. They once had state funds go into youth football camps and maybe still do.


Space Coyote

June 3rd, 2011 at 3:34 PM ^

Like the others above stated, high school football is huge there.  You can also note though, that in other midwest states, a number of other sports are really big, which isn't as much the case in Ohio.  Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan all have very strong basketball depth.  Michigan has great hockey.  I'm not saying there isn't good basketball in Ohio, obviously there is, but more kids I think focus on those other sports in the other midwest states.


June 4th, 2011 at 1:08 AM ^

Chicago is also a huge basketball ground in a way that isn't true for football. Once you take the city proper out of the state's total population, you're down to ~9,000,000 (about MI's population), and even in the suburbs basketball is still big (bigger than football at my high school) and if you get into the rich areas, hockey is a huge deal too.

Basically a long-winded way of saying that Illinois doesn't add as much to the mix as I'd like.


June 3rd, 2011 at 3:39 PM ^

I've lived in Ohio my whole life....grew up in NW Ohio which is regarded as the weakest area outside of SE where nobody lives. 

The reasons I would give, Ohio has a long standing history with football.

The Hall of Fame is here.

Paul Brown has a professional team, and a professional stadium named after him.

Massillon Washington won 9 national titles from 1939-1961, so high school football has been a big deal in NE Ohio for a looong time. 

They kind of got a head start (in regards to big time high school football) on everyone...kind of like the University of Michigan got a head start on college football. 

I live in Cleveland now, and I may be the only person in the area who really cares about hockey. 

Browns are by far #1 (even though the Browns stink), then the Indians, then Cavs a distant 3rd (this was skewed by success of LeBron era).



June 3rd, 2011 at 3:46 PM ^

But the fanbase didn't start and die with Lebron.  There was Austin Carr, Nate Thurmond and the miracle at Richfield.  Then there was the Mark Price, Daugherty, Larry Nance era.  Mark Price was and always will be my favorite player.  I will agree that there are very few hockey fans in the Cleveland area, but the Lake Erie Monsters have built a decent following.  Personally if I had a gun to my head I would take an Indians World Series over the Browns winning the super bowl, but it is without a doubt a football town (even though we haven't had very much success in that area for 20 years).


June 3rd, 2011 at 3:44 PM ^

I believe the practice of giving footballs to babies is still around.


To give another example.  About 10 years ago I was a JR backup OL.  We made the playoffs and traveled to Massillon Perry for the game. 

When walking from the locker to the field for warm-ups we passed a group of families tailgating.

I heard a kid yell, "Hey [My Last Name Here], you SUCK!!!"  We didn't have names on the back of our jersey's.  The kid knew who a back up OL was based on my number.  He had to be 10-12 years old. 

Booyah Brady

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:15 PM ^

I just recently got netflix and watched the dcumentary for the First time. Its called Go Tigers and its how massilon families would hold kids back in the 8th grade because of "maturity", so they could get another year eligibility. I too am from NW ohio and that is not a common here but it could be in the NE.

Here is the link to the movie:



June 4th, 2011 at 2:23 AM ^

That explains a lot. Ohio, they reallly are bred to play. Like hockey up here, but in those towns probably more pervasive. Frightening, actually...

OP should watch this film, might explain some things to those of us not from or living in the midwest.


June 3rd, 2011 at 8:46 PM ^

I cant think of too many states where the Friday Night Lights are more revered and there is more glory that surronds it. I played for a high school that really had no reputation for being any good but the time I was a senior we had a great team. We had so much support we needed shuttle buses to bring fans to our stadium. It's just established from a young age when your a boy here that Football is special and important. There is so much great competition in this state that it really consumes when you play Ohio High School Football.

Rivalries like McKinley vs. Massillon are as strong as most college rivalries if not stronger. I have attended many McK vs. Massillon games because my former HS head coach coaches Sevon Pittman and McKiney ane there are 20,000 rabid fans at this game every year. Both sides hate each other it is really like nothing I have ever seen before. St. Ignatius vs St. Edward has a similar feel to it in the Cleveland area. I just feel like in Ohio we take the game more seriously than anyone in the Nation besides Texas and I think it is closer than you think.



June 3rd, 2011 at 3:40 PM ^

I am a football official in the state of Ohio so I would like to think that I have a unique perspective on the state of High School football in Ohio. Now I cant speak for the entire state because I typically only officiate in and around NW Ohio but I do think that there is a fanatacism that is norn and bred in this state for the game of football.

There are portions of this state that were brutalized by the shift away from the steel industries 30+ years ago and the local high school and college teams were able to fill a need for those left behind by the industry. They needed something to cling to that would bring them some kind of hope and enjoyment and football became that natural outlet.

I might be way off in my thinking about this but thats my opinion. Around NW Ohio football is a big deal but its nothing like how the sport is portrayed in the NE and southern portions of the state. They are absolutely fanatical about their teams. The coaches and fans are some of the nastiest towards officials that I have ever experienced. Its just a different kind of game to them that means so much more then wins and losses.


June 3rd, 2011 at 4:06 PM ^

Good point about how areas suffering from economic decline look towards local sports as a distraction and a sense of pride.  Certainly there are cities in Michgan and elsewhere that have gone through the same set of circumstances.


June 3rd, 2011 at 3:59 PM ^

  When you think high school football you think Texas , Ohio and pennsylvania. Some of the top high schools have facilities that rival most colleges and ohio doesn't have the nickname " the craddle of coaches for nothing"


June 4th, 2011 at 12:20 PM ^

I've lived in Omaha (Huskerland) for the last couple years and I can't think of any HS's - in Omaha at least- that don't have field turf.  I've been to most since my younger brother is still in HS.  While the state doesn't put out hardley any talent (only had one 5 star since rivals has been around) they're pretty serious about football.  Most highschools here have amazing facilities.  Compared to where I lived in MI and when I lived in Buffalo, NY, I guess now that I think of it, reletively few had field turf and decent facilities.  Just interesting how different parts of the country put their recources into different things.


June 4th, 2011 at 12:53 PM ^

Just interesting how different parts of the country put their recources into different things.

Very true. For example, my HS football field was nothing (capacity of something like 10k but 6k fit on a hill, the students didn't even get bleachers) yet we had ten basketball courts, one of which is better than most D3 schools I've seen. 25 miles down the road, they have terrible basketball facilities but field turf in bowl stadiums.


June 4th, 2011 at 5:26 PM ^

A lot of high schools have astro turf fields. Blows my mind still. But shows you how proud the community is of a good footabll team. As they'll pass a millage to raise taxs to fund a project like that.

I assume you mean FieldTurf (or another next-generation artificial surface) and not the actual AstroTurf, which was horrific to play on. FieldTurf is expensive to install initially, but during its lifespan (around 8-10 years) there is minimal upkeep needed. Constrast this with grass, which needs to be replanted every year because it gets torn up at the end of the season, and requires regular watering, mowing and painting. The initial installation is somewhat cheaper than FieldTurf, but upkeep ultimately makes it more expensive.  And while the old artificial surfaces were murder on your joints, FieldTurf is very close in comfort to playing on grass (and compared to a dying grass field in November, may be superior).   In Northern states, there is not much real justification for keeping a grass football field beyond a sense of tradition.

The Claw

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:10 PM ^

I was fortunate to play in a state title game.  Unfortunately we got beat.  The next year we made it to the semis and were beat by the champs.

When you have success, it breeds a ravenous culture where people can't get enough.  Our bleachers, home or away, were always filled and all anyone could talk about was football and who we got coming back next year.

Ohio has had a ton of successful schools in the past 50 years.  Massillon Washington won a ton of titles. Cleveland St. Ignatius was ranked #1 in USA Today for a few years.   Now Cleveland Glenville and Cincinnati St Xavier are playing on National TV.  Even smaller schools are racking up titles like St Henry, Delphos St John, and Maria Stein Local and their kids are getting recruited to big colleges.

Then to add a lot of the kids stay in state and go to TSIO, Cincinnati, BGSU, Toledo, Miami, Ohio, etc. the people that live there get to still see the kids they watched in high school become successful in a bigger stage.  It's a never ending cycle of success.   So they stay passionate all year around. 





June 3rd, 2011 at 4:16 PM ^

For what it's worth I'll offer my perspective on high school football in Ohio and possible reasons it produces a significantly larger number of D-1 recruits than Michigan. This perspective comes from having played my high school football in Cincinnati at one of the most storied programs down there. After college I moved back to Michigan (I was born here and lived here until Middle School) and now coach. So, I've seen the high school football up close in both states (though seperated by about 15 years).

First, the passion for football in Ohio dwarfs that of Michigan. The stories of Massilon newborns getting footballs in their nursery crib at birth are true. Youth football is much more competitive (not always a good thing when dealing with 7-12 year olds). It was nothing for us to play a high school game on Friday night in front of 15,000 fans and we would pull more than that when we would play someone like Princeton in Riverfront Stadium. My high school had a indoor facility where we could work out (and this was in the late 80's). We also had a weight room that was the size of many college weight rooms. Our 2-a-day practices went for 2 solid weeks including weekends in August. There is more money, resources and passion directed to the football programs of Ohio high schools.

Another factor, in my opinion, is the fact that the MHSAA is significantly more restrictive on off season activities than Ohio is. We worked out as a team all winter in Ohio and never worried about breaking rules. There will be sanctioned spring football in Ohio soon if there isn't already while here in Michigan we can't even send a kid to an all-star game without making them inelgible for all remaining high school sports. Ohio kids train at an earlier age, train more and train harder than kids in Michigan do.

The bottom line is they don't miraculously birth better football players in Ohio. The simply build a larger number of top level football players in Ohio. Just one guy's opinion.

death by wolverine

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:51 PM ^

High school football is getting a little out of hand.From being on ESPN every Friday-which is rediculous- to being recruited as freshman and sophomores. I too live in Ohio and know firsthand how dirty it is. I am not shocked at all with what's happening with OSU and Cam Newton etc. It's starts soo early that these kids don't know any different from right or wrong.


June 3rd, 2011 at 6:06 PM ^

because I played football for Findlay and  nobody ever offered me improper anything.  I did get a letter of interest from Western despite blowing my knee out early my junior year and skipping my senior year to stay healthy for wrestling.

Then again, Roethlisberger played for Findlay and Ohio State didn't offer him; as to Hector B. Tressel's QB luck, one bit of misfortune he ran up against was head coach Cliff Hite keeping Roethlisberger at wideout so that his own son could take snaps.  By the time Big Ben was hitting his stride, the major programs had other plans.




June 3rd, 2011 at 6:07 PM ^

and another NW Ohioan too.  Yes the football fever in this state is very high.  Here in NW Ohio it's intense and as others have mentioned, this area isn't even comparable to other areas within the state where it's even more intense.


I'd also add that it starts at a very young age.  In my area there are TONS of Little League/Pop Warner leagues/teams.  The town that is closest to mine has around 15,000 people.  They have their own Little League for football that began back in the early 70's and is still going strong.  It has 4 teams that play 6 games in a season and then have playoffs.  They pick all-stars at the end then travel to other towns and play their LL teams.  I should add that a lot of work is put in to make sure this LL is FREE of charge....and the equipment they're provided is top notch.  A nice 70 yard field with goal posts at each end, a nice scoreboard, painted lines, concession building, stands, officials...they even have cheerleader programs for each team.


And this is just common for the state...not out of the ordinary.


June 3rd, 2011 at 7:53 PM ^

I live in NW Ohio also and high school football really is huge in the state. Having been stationed various places around the United States the only place I have seen with more passion was Texas. Texas is on a whole other level...


June 3rd, 2011 at 8:42 PM ^

Ohio isn't in the same class nationally as Florida, Texas and California.  Those are probably the 3 best HS football states.  Tier 1 if you will.  Ohio is probably in the second tier, althought I'm not sure which other states you could group them with.  Alabama and Louisiana maybe? Pennsylvania? I'm just guessing at this point but it's pretty well established that FL, CA, and TX are the big 3 HS football, at least in terms of producing talent. 


June 3rd, 2011 at 9:58 PM ^

In terms of producing D-1 talent, after the Big 3 (Texas, Florida and California), the next state is Georgia, but it's a significant drop off.  After Georgia, Ohio and Louisiana are next.  Michigan is in the top ten, but a ways behind Ohio. 

Just because Florida and California produce more talent, I wouldn't say they are more passionate then Ohio.  They have a large population and weather advantage.  California has the population of Texas and Ohio combined.


June 3rd, 2011 at 9:15 PM ^

I was born and raised in Youngstown, the heart of the steel valley. People here are blue collar, no nonsense people. Football is a blue collar, no nonsense game. Football is really all a lot of these kids have. Theres just nothing left anymore. Michigan has always had a strong connection in this area. My grandfather recruited kids for Michigan during the 70s, and hopefully coach Hoke can bring a little bit of Hokeamania to Youngstown.


June 3rd, 2011 at 11:34 PM ^

Agreed. I was born and raised in central Ohio, and the only activity in town on Friday nights was high school football. Football also used to be the way out of the steel mills and auto plants...


June 3rd, 2011 at 10:07 PM ^

California has so many people that there will be great football players coming out of there, since football is the top sport in this country. In Texas, football is THE sport, and it's a huge state. Florida's a southern state and a big one - while football may not be as important as it is in Texas or Ohio, it's still the top dog by a lot, and Florida is a big state.

While Ohio isn't as big as those three, Ohio is like Texas in that football is THE sport. There are other states across the south like this - Louisiana and Alabama come to mind. But Ohio doubles their population, and therefore produces a lot of good football players.

In Michigan, so many kids play hockey - which, especially at the youth level, takes up a lot of time. When kids invest that much time into hockey, it's natural that come high school, they care more about hockey than football - if they play both.

In Illinois and New York, football isn't the same cultural force it is, heck even in Michigan. The HS State Championship weekend sees entire towns descend to Detroit and sees coverage from the major media outlets. That doesn't happen in NYor other large population states in the Northeast. It happens in Michigan, but it's even moreso in Ohio and Pennsylvania.


June 4th, 2011 at 1:30 AM ^

I used to live in Middletown (home to a decent amount of Div. 1 players over the years) and go to a lot of their games. One of those games was a Middletown v. Massillon game at Middletown. I walked across the field before the game, from the Middletown side to the Massillon side, and realized that Massillon had with them a live tiger cub in a cage. Massillon has to be about three hours from Middletown, maybe more, and they brought a tiger with them to the game. I'll never forget that.


June 3rd, 2011 at 10:52 PM ^

This leads me to believe that the football culture in Ohio is deadly serious and at a level unmatched elsewhere in the country save for Texas and maybe Florida.

It is very strong there - but I'd say the entire South can match it in terms of intensity.