It was not all that long ago that Cincinnati Elder was considered the class of the Greater Catholic League. The Panthers won back-to-back Division I state championships in 2002-03. But Elder has watched as first Cincinnati Colerain in 2004 and then GCL rival Cincinnati St. Xavier in 2005 and ’07 claimed the state title in the big-school division. This year, the Panthers welcome back 12 starters and hopr to get back to the top of the league.
Cincinnati Elder (7-4)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
WR Josh Jones (6-1, 210, Sr.), TB Nick Gramke (6-0, 200, Sr.), OT Austen Bujnoch (6-4, 270, Sr.), OG John Anevski (6-3, 280, Sr.), DT Orlando Scales (6-1, 235, Sr.), CB Zac Asman (6-1, 180, Sr.).
It was not all that long ago that Cincinnati Elder was considered the class of the Greater Catholic League. The Panthers won back-to-back Division I state championships in 2002-03.
But Elder has watched as first Cincinnati Colerain in 2004 and then GCL rival Cincinnati St. Xavier in 2005 and ’07 claimed the state title in the big-school division.
Last year, Elder was 1-2 in GCL South games. It fell to St. X 18-0 in the regular season and lost again to the eventual state champion Bombers 45-14 in its playoff opener.
Coach Doug Ramsey returns for his 12th year as the Panthers head coach. He will have some experience back with seven starters on offense and five more on defense returning.
“I think we’ve got a chance to have a pretty decent team,” Ramsey said. “We would like to know as soon as possible who the quarterback is going to be. But we feel like we should have a lot of good skill players around him.
“We also think we should have one of the best offensive lines we have had since we were winning a lot of games in the early 2000s. On defense, we should be decent up front and our secondary should be good. We think we are good on two of the three levels. We need to find a couple of linebackers.”
The race at quarterback will be wide open to replace departed starter John Groene.
“We will have four guys competing – two seniors and two juniors,” Ramsey said.
Gramke is a building block at tailback. He rushed 176 times for 924 yards (5.3 average) and scored 11 touchdowns as a junior.
“He is just kind of a big, bruising back at the tailback spot,” Ramsey said. “He is not an extremely fast guy, but he is one of those guys who is always going forward. He always seems to get you those tough yards when you need them.”
Jones added 38 catches for 601 yards with six TDs.
“He is a great run after the catch guy,” Ramsey said. “He is already committed to play college ball at the University of Cincinnati. He is a talented wide receiver.”
As always, Elder will play one of the toughest schedules in the state. Elder opens by playing Middletown in the Crosstown Showdown at UC’s Nippert Stadium. The Panthers will then play Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas in the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge at Paul Brown Stadium.
“They have won several state championships in a row,” Ramsey said of Aquinas. “They are going to be a pretty formidable foe. They had nine Division I players in last year’s senior class.”
Elder has nonleague home games with Cincinnati Oak Hills, Lakewood St. Edward, Covington (Ky.) Catholic, Cleveland Benedictine and Cincinnati Western Hills.
In the GCL, St. X has won four straight league titles.
“It’s a hard league,” Ramsey said. “It is just so competitive. All of the teams in the league place great importance on each of those games. We all know each other so well. Everybody is always pretty talented. Those are difficult games to prepare for and to go play in.
“You know how emotional those games are. The kids love to play those games. You know you are playing against the best. Everybody in the league takes pride in being GCL champions. You know no one is giving up in the GCL.”
Aug. 23 vs. Middletown (Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown, at UC’s Nippert Stadium, 5:30 p.m.)
Aug. 30 vs. Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas (Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge, at Paul Brown Stadium, 11 a.m.)
Sept. 5 Cincinnati Oak Hills
Sept. 12 Cincinnati LaSalle
Sept. 20 Lakewood St. Edward, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 Cincinnati St. Xavier
Oct. 3 at Cincinnati Moeller
Oct. 10 Covington (Ky.) Catholic
Oct. 18 Cleveland Benedictine, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 Cincinnati Western Hills