The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Northwood senior two-way tackle Charles Artino had his first Friday night off in nearly three months this week.

He would rather have been on the football field with his Rangers teammates, playing in the Division V state playoffs. Northwood, however, missed out on a playoff berth despite rolling through the Toledo Area Athletic Conference and posting a 9-1 record.

"I miss football already," said the 260-pound Artino, one of four Northwood captains. "I miss the whole concept of football and playing under the lights. I miss playing with my teammates. I miss doing something I love. It's been real special. I've been playing with all those guys since fourth grade and I'm not going to be able to play with them anymore. I'm going to miss that."
The Rangers have gone 17-3 overall and 12-0 in the TAAC over the last two seasons and missed the playoffs both years. Northwood has won six conference titles (five outright) since joining the TAAC in 2001, and this year's team scored a school-record 442 points and gave up just 129.

The Rangers' last playoff appearance was in Division VI in 2004, when they lost 21-0 to top-ranked Hopewell-Loudon. Northwood also made the playoffs from 2001-03, winning a first-round game against Edgerton in 2003 before losing to eventual state champion Columbus Grove.

"It's been a really cool year, but really difficult the last few weeks," Northwood coach Ken James said. "We knew we were on the edge of getting into the playoffs. We knew we needed upsets. By the end of the Stritch game (a 54-6 win on Oct. 24) the seniors knew it was over for them. We had checked other scores and at halftime people filled us in on what what was going on.

"We knew at halftime things weren't going our way, but we didn't tell the kids. It was their last home game. Even if we got to keep going, their careers were coming to a close. It just hit them at that point. Even if we did get in the playoffs, even though there was a slim chance, they knew going in they had to have some weird things happen."

The Rangers' 9-1 record would have qualified for the Division VI playoffs this season, and they would have qualified in Division V had it not been for a 27-22 season-opening loss to Lakota. Northwood had five turnovers in the loss.

"We went 9-1 and the one loss was only by five points, and that was tough to grasp," said Artino, a two-way starter since his freshman year. "We were up by 22-14 at the half on Lakota and couldn't score in the second half. I try not to think about it. That was back in week one, but now that the season's over, it's kind of hard not to think about it."

Eight teams in each state computer region earns a playoff bid. Northwood finished ninth in Region 18, with 14.0070 computer points. Ashland Crestview (9-1), which secured the eighth seed in the region, finished with 15.2500 computer points.

According to Ohio High School Athletic Association enrollment guidelines, schools with a male enrollment between 131-186 for the 2006 school year are listed as Division V teams in 2008. Schools with 130 or less male students are Division VI.

As of October 2006, Northwood had 131 boys enrolled in grades 9-11, which placed the football team in Division V for the 2008 season.

"We obviously didn't win that first game, so we have nobody else to blame," James said. "But, our guys like the competition and would have liked to continue competing. And they would have liked to spend another week together and keep playing."

James said the 2008 squad was one of the best teams he's had in his 23 years as the Rangers' head coach.

"It was maybe one of the more complete teams, similar to 2002," he said. "We didn't have any kid who had a million catches or 2,000 rushing yards, but we had a bunch of really good ones and a bunch of kids who played really well together. This was a team where maybe the total was greater than the sum of its parts.

"We had such great team chemistry, guys blocking for each other and playing hard and doing things for their teammates. It was the epitome of a group that didn't worry who got the credit or the points or their name in the paper. They were just worried about making the team better."

Northwood has a beefy non-conference schedule next season that, should it win a couple of those and win the TAAC again, could propel them into the playoffs.

The Rangers against Lakota and host Lake, travel to Hopewell-Loudon and host Genoa. Hopewell-Loudon (10-0) is the top-ranked team in Divison VI this season, while Genoa (10-0) is ranked fourth in Division IV.

Northwood graduates 14 seniors from this year's team, including captains Kyle Gunn, Justin Grindle, Nate James and Artino.

"For me," James said, "this is one of the worst parts of coaching, when the season comes to a close."

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