Where we stand: Week 3
Region 1: The only N-H team in the top eight is South, sitting in second after its 3-0 start and one of eight unbeaten teams in the region. Mentor sits in 11th, and faces a interesting stretch coming up that features fellow N-H squad Mayfield (12th) this coming week and a trip to Brunswick in Week 6. Getting a good head of steam into that Week 7 showdown with Solon is a must. Mayfield got its lone Division II game of 2012 out of the way this past weekend, a win over Olmsted Falls.
Region 5: After some struggles in recent years, kudos to Chardon for sitting in the No. 1 spot in this region, albeit with a lot of season left to play. One of the key factors down the stretch for any team, if available, is jumping on larger-division points, and the Hilltoppers have that coming this week against winless, but Division I, North. Madison sits in eighth after its dramatic win over neighborhood rival Perry. A Week 5 trek to Chardon will be vital for both teams, needless to say.
Region 9: Big shocker - Chagrin Falls tops this region. No one saw that coming (kidding of course). After that N-H wise, Benedictine (10th) really did itself a favor edging Bedford in Week 3 after a hard-luck setback at always-formidable Steubenville. For a 1-2 Lake Catholic squad, a big game looking far ahead, building on the larger-division point mentioned earlier: The Cougars have only one D-II game remaining, Week 9 at Walsh Jesuit.
Region 13: In my preseason prognostication for this region, I did not forecast an N-H team in the mix. So far, I'll raise my hand and admit I was wrong. Kudos to Hawken for a 3-0 start that has it sitting in third, and how about Cardinal? A year after going 1-9, the Huskies are 3-0 and sitting in fifth. The folks in Middlefield have good reason to be excited. Wickliffe is in 12th, with the least points of the 2-1 teams in this region. A tip of the hat to them, but nevertheless the Blue Devils would need a lot to go right in CVC Chagrin play in order to make a move.
Region 17: Defending state champion Kirtland is the only N-H squad really factoring into the race at the moment, on track as expected at 3-0 and currently in fourth. Due to the CVC Valley schedule coming up, it might be tough to make a charge at No. 1 here because of Ursuline's hot start. The Fighting Irish are back with a vengeance and have D-II (Zanesville) points available this week.
Region 21: Fairport was a big playoff sleeper in the estimation of not only this pundit but many others before the season, and the Skippers have done nothing to disappoint at 3-0 and in second. With all due respect to the rest of the N-H area, though, the feel-good story of the year so far - even though it's on the outside looking in - is Newbury. The Black Knights are 3-0 and ninth. Yes, they have Kirtland coming up in their home opener, and in all likelihood that's probably not going to go well from their perspective. Still, considering the struggles they've had over there, they have every right to be excited right now.
- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH