The 2021 high school football regular season has ended.
Good luck to Lakeside and Pymatuning Valley in the playoffs, which begin this weekend.
As usual, the high school season provided highs and lows. There was inclement weather, which is always the case in Northeast Ohio.
The season also reminded us that COVID-19 is still around as multiple schools had to cancel games or juggle schedules just to play.
School administrators have done a great job of navigating the still unknown.
Aside from last season in which every school advanced to the playoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic unless they opted out, Lakeside makes its first playoff appearance since 2002.
Coach Buzz Edwards is building a program at Lakeside.
Lakeside heads to Hudson for a Division II, Region 5 first-round matchup on Friday.
“The hard work and commitment to each other and this program has been huge in setting the foundation of a winning culture here at Lakeside,” Edwards said earlier in the week.
The Dragons (5-4) earned a big 31-29 win over Chagrin Falls to help seal a playoff spot.
The Lakers (6-3) captured a third straight Northeastern Athletic Conference with a 24-16 win over Mathews on Friday night. PV makes its second straight playoff appearance.
The Lakers are at Norwayne for a Division VI, Region 21 opening-round contest at 7 p.m. Saturday.
PV posted two, last-second key victories on the season.
The Lakers downed Windham 36-28 on Oct. 1 and the Mustangs.
Week 10 provided Madison, Grand Valley and Jefferson with wins and possibly a boost heading into next season.
For the Blue Streaks, Mike Gilligan picked up his first win as Madison’s head coach. It’s been a tough road for the Blue Streaks, who had lost 17 straight games before Friday.
But Madison didn’t cave in. They kept working and it paid off with a thrilling 22-19 win over Garfield Heights on a Ben Amos field goal in the closing seconds.
The Mustangs had a rough season with injuries to key players and had two games cancelled due to COVID-19.
They played Berkshire close before losing 29-25 on Sept. 10.
After the second game was cancelled due to COVID, GV played Crestwood to a 7-7 halftime standoff, before Crestwood took over in the second half to notch a 26-7 win in Week 9.
Which led to the Beachwood game to close out the season. The Mustangs recorded a 34-14 win last Friday, their first victory since defeating Fairport Harbor 21-6 on Nov. 1, 2019.
Then, there’s the Falcons. From 2017-20, Jefferson went 5-35.
This season, Jefferson won its first three games, before entering a rugged Northeast 8 Conference schedule. The Falcons fell to Girard 35-34 on Sept. 10.
Jefferson finally broke through after a six-game losing streak to defeat Lakeview 23-3 in the season finale and finish 4-6.
For the other county schools, Conneaut closed at 4-6 and placed 17th in the Division V, Region 17 computer ratings, which just missed out on a playoff spot.
Junior running back Zack Rice had a monster season for the Spartans. He rushed for 1,046 yards with 17 touchdowns. Rice also led the team with 470 receiving yards and seven scores.
Edgewood had issues to deal with this season. In the end, sophomore Tony Hall emerged as the quarterback of the present and future. Freshman running back-linebacker Zeke Lucas, sophomore running back-linebacker Seth Enos and sophomore lineman Nick Barger are other names to watch out for in the future.
St. John went 0-10, and is likely to build around freshman QB Jeff Watson.
Despite its challenges, the 2021 season also cemented why high school football — and all that goes with it — is important to players, families, schools, fans and officials.