For seven area schools it became a reality on Sunday afternoon, when the OHSAA finished the final tabulation of the computer rankings and assigned games for the top eight teams in each region.
Ravenna, Crestwood and Waterloo will be making their first trip to the playoffs, while perennial powers Mogadore and Walsh Jesuit are returning along with Windham and Newton Falls.
Western Reserve Conference South Division champion Ravenna (9-1) finished third in Region 5 and will host Akron Buchtel (8-2, 6th) Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the opening round of Division II play.
"It's a great day in Ravenna football history," said Ravens coach Cyle Feldman. "This senior class has worked hard to earn this spot. It has been a long, hard road.
"We are undefeated at home. We are so happy to host a game, we didn't care who it was against."
The Ravens will face a talented Buchtel team, which defeated Akron Garfield to capture the Akron City Series title Saturday.
"Buchtel has a long history of playing in the playoffs," said Feldman. "They have two losses, one to Canton McKinley and the other to Massillon. We know they are fast and talented. We have a big challenge, but our kids have always played big in big games.
"We are going to work this week in our normal way, practicing hard and smart. We know it is a great matchup between our Marcus Sanders and Buchtel's Tim Murphy. Fans will not be disappointed."
Ironically two area teams will play each other in the first round of the Division VI Region 21 playoffs. Top-ranked Mogadore (9-1) will host eighth-seeded Windham (7-3) Saturday at 7 p.m. in a rematch of a Week VIII battle in Windham, which the Wildcats won 32-14.
"That score is no indication of how good Windham is. We just had a few things go our way," said Wildcats coach Scott Pollock. "It's going to be a real good game. I just hope we come ready to play."
Mogadore's seniors were freshmen the last time the Wildcats earned a trip to the playoffs in 1996, when they captured the state title with a breathtaking come-from-behind victory over St. Henry.
"A lot of these seniors dressed as freshmen and were on the sidelines that year, but playing in the playoffs will be new to them," said Pollock. "They grew up watching Mogadore teams in the playoffs, so this is something they've always wanted to do."
The Bombers will make their first playoff appearance since 1986.
"Windham was 8-2 that year and we ended up 7-3, but I think that's still a great record," said Bombers coach Joe Baum. "I tell the kids that if we were a college team we'd be in a bowl game, and that's what every team aims for. The kids feel they've achieved a lot."
Baum doesn't mind playing a team from his own league.
"I suppose if I had to choose I'd like to play Mogadore," said Baum. "We're familiar with them and they're familiar with us, and it's good for the league. I'm good friends with Scott. I know we have a lot of respect for them, and I hope they have some respect for us.
"We feel like we have a good chance. I'm not saying we should be favored, but I believe we can play them much better than we did last time."
The Red Devils were hoping to get another chance to play Akron Hoban, which came from behind to hand Crestwood its only loss of the season in Week IV. But Hoban wound up second by the slimmest of margins in Division III, Region 9, which means the No. 6 Red Devils (9-1) will travel to No. 3 Orrville (8-2) Friday for a 7:30 p.m. first-round battle.
"We were looking forward to a rematch (with Hoban)," said Crestwood coach Tom Hannan. "We feel we outplayed them earlier this year, and we knew we could play with them again. It was real close, but a couple of Hoban's opponents only played nine games and that made the difference."
The Red Devils will have their hands full with the Red Riders according to Hannan.
"They're the defending Division IV state champs, and they've got some great athletes again this year," he said. "But we're just happy to get in the playoffs, especially after just missing it the past two years. We'll play anybody.
"This is a tribute to our senior class, because those kids have worked so hard. It's great for our players, fans and the entire community. It's something you always dream of."
Dreams have been coming true all season long for the Vikings (9-1), who tied the school record for victories in a season previously held by the 1971 team _ the only Waterloo squad that's ever won a PCL title.
"The kids are excited, and they should be," said Vikings coach Robb Karovic. "Any time you go 9-1 you have to be a good team that overcomes some adversity. I'm proud of how these kids have come together and played well together.
"Our players have never been in the playoffs, and neither have I. It's a new and challenging thing for all of us."
Waterloo finished seventh in Region 13 and will travel to No. 2 Girard (9-1) for a first-round Division IV playoff battle Saturday at 7 p.m.
"They are the best opponent we've come across this year by far," said
Karovic. "They come from the tough Mahoning Valley Conference, and
they've played a couple Division II teams and several Division III
teams. Playing Girard is definitely a challenge, but we're looking
forward to it."