Nelsonville-York early favorite for fifth straight TVC title


TVC Football
For the past four football seasons, the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division could easily be named the Nelsonville-York Invitational. Twenty league opponents, 20 straight league victories, and four consecutive TVC-Ohio Division championships. Despite graduating 17 seniors, the Buckeyes are still the early favorite to win the league title. Southeastern correspondent Paul Boggs has a preview of this year's TVC.

For the past four football seasons, the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division could easily be named the Nelsonville-York Invitational.

Twenty league opponents, 20 straight league victories, and four consecutive TVC-Ohio Division championships.

In fact, Nelsonville-York has not lost a league game in 21 straight tries, with its last league loss coming at Belpre in 2002.

Now, the tradition-rich Buckeyes begin a drive for five — that being one for the thumb and a fifth straight TVC-Ohio Division championship.

The Buckeyes have been the team of the decade in the division, winning every league title minus back-to-back crowns won by Wellston (2001 and 2002).

Since the TVC’s inaugural football season in 1969, Nelsonville-York has won or shared an amazing 17 league championships. Since 1990, the Buckeyes have captured 10 of those crowns, including their last nine in outright fashion.

The TVC split into two divisions —Ohio and Hocking — beginning with the 1993 season.

However, with the graduation of 17 seniors, including the TVC-Ohio Offensive Player of the Year Jay Edwards, the Buckeyes’ quest for a fifth straight crown could be its most challenging yet.

Edwards, a star quarterback and linebacker, was a three-time all-league selection, and is now a freshman for the Division I Ohio University Bobcats. His teammate — running back and linebacker Bear Lewis — was a two-time all-league choice.

Still, despite the heavy losses, many observers are predicting another Nelsonville-York sweep through the division.

At a minimum, the Buckeyes are indeed the preseason favorite — and defending division champion until one of the challengers can knock them off.

And, they have two of the main contenders at home to open league play — Vinton County and Meigs.

Besides Nelsonville-York and Wellston, only Vinton County and Meigs have claimed the TVC championship since 1988 and 1989. Belpre won the league in 1988 followed by Trimble the next season.

Vinton County’s last league crown came in 1999, as the Vikings shared the distinction with the Buckeyes as “the team of the division in the 1990s.”

In addition to the 1999 title, Vinton County won or shared the league championship in 1990, 1991, 1995 and 1996. Nelsonville-York split the 1990 title, won three straight outright crowns from 1992 to 1994, and took the division once more in 1997 and 2000.

Meigs, meanwhile, shared the 1996 championship before winning it outright in 1998.

But, it has been a decade of TVC title dry spell for both the Marauders and the Vikings.

Both schools are looking to change that this season, as both teams return plenty of seniors and overall talent. Among the all-league returnees are Vinton County’s Nick Hurne and Derek Woltz and Meigs running back Cornelius English.

The Vikings did suffer a key loss to transfer, as fullback and linebacker Zach Ray moved to Chillicothe.

The Marauders, meanwhile, have been the consistent fourth-place team in the TVC-Ohio for the past five years. They did tie for second two years ago with Wellston and Vinton County, while the Vikings were second three years ago.

Speaking of Wellston, the Golden Rockets have been the club that has best challenged the Buckeyes the past four falls.

Wellston was second to the Bucks in 2003 and again last year, and only lost at Nelsonville-York 21-14 in overtime. The Golden Rockets even held a 14-0 lead late in the first half.

Beginning with the 1999 season, Wellston and the Buckeyes have faced each other with both clubs sporting 2-0 division records at the time of their week eight meeting.

And, like Nelsonville-York, the Rockets are reloading from graduation losses.

Wellston graduated 13 seniors, most of which were two-way players, including two-time division Defensive MVP Jacob Walburn.

The Blue and Gold also have a new head coach, as Jason Mantell takes over the top spot vacated by three-year boss Heath Hinton. Hinton is now the new head coach at Marion Harding High School.

The Rockets’ top returnee is junior Matt Lockard, an all-TVC-Ohio pick as a sophomore.

The main mover in the division could be Alexander, which begins its third season under head coach Sean Arno. Arno was Hinton’s defensive coordinator at Wellston three years ago.

The Spartans took their first major step in the right direction last season, that being capturing their first division victory since joining the Ohio.

Alexander shifted to the Ohio from the TVC-Hocking in 1997, and had gone 45 games before beating Belpre for its first division triumph.

Belpre, meanwhile, rounds out the TVC-Ohio teams, and has a new head coach this season in Curt Shriver. Bill Cieslewski, the Belpre boss for the past three years, abruptly resigned in July when he accepted an assistant coaching position at Marietta College.

Hence, it seems like a long time ago when Belpre (second-place in 2002) was runner-up in the conference after beating the Buckeyes for their last league loss.

Since then, the TVC-Ohio has become a Nelsonville-York Invitational, as the drive for five begins today.

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Information compiled by David Bolender, author of Vinton County Football: The First 40 Years, was used in this story.

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