In the first matchup of the 2018 playoffs, the Northmont will play at home against the Hilliard Darby Panthers in what looks to be one of the most competitive matchups of the season. The Thunderbolts come into the game as 1-point favorites, projected to come away with the victory by a score of 23-22. The playoffs are an interesting time of year as 7 teams fulfill their most ambitious goal in winning a state championship while the other 217 playoff teams will end their season with a loss. This matchup is no different as the winner will continue their playoff run while the loser will end its 2018 season with a loss. The Panthers rank 20th in the division while the Thunderbolts rank 17th. A new matchup on the schedule for each team, Friday's game is a chance for each to test its skills and strategies against an unfamiliar opponent. Stylistically and schematically, past matchups are often used as a guiding tool. This week, however, each team will likely take time to adjust to an unfamiliar opponent, which should make for some added excitement.
Looking to build upon their 6-game winning streak, Hilliard Darby comes into the week at 8-2. After their 13-11 win against the Dublin Scioto Irish, they are confident in their ability to finish strong. While the Panthers offense has not been particularly great, ranked 61st in Division 1 with 16.6 points per game, they have improved in recent weeks, averaging 22.6 points over their last 5 contests. On defense, they haven't been any better statistically, ranking 10th in their division, allowing 13.8 points per game.
Northmont will look to continue the momentum of their 5-game winning streak, the most recent addition to which was a 21-6 win against the Miamisburg Vikings last week, bringing their record to 9-1. The Thunderbolts offense is the 8th-ranked offense in Division 1, scoring an average of 34.6 points per game over the course of the season. In their last 2 games, however, they haven't been quite as explosive as they've averaged 29.5 points per game. Their defense ranks 29th in their division giving up an average of 17.4 points per game, but they've been improving with each game - over the last 5 weeks, they've allowed an average of 12.2 points.
Prediction: Northmont to win (84.46% chance of victory)