More questions than answers in new-look TVC-Ohio


Nelsonville-York Buckeyes

Entering the 2008 football season, there is definitely more questions than answers in the new-look Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division.

Paul Boggs takes a look at the conference from top to bottom in this preview.

Entering the 2008 football season, there is definitely more questions than answers in the new-look Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division.

Will Nelsonville-York reclaim the top spot and win its fifth outright championship in six seasons?

Can Belpre build on last season’s success and repeat as division champion?

Will the addition of Athens make a difference in the division?

Vinton County and Meigs may be younger, and will that make them better?

Will Wellston and Alexander make a worst-to-first type turnaround?

Can Alexander make it three straight seasons with a TVC-Ohio triumph?

Dating back a decade, when Meigs (1998) and Vinton County (1999) captured their last league crowns, the division has been dominated by the Nelsonville-York Buckeyes.

Minus back-to-back titles by Wellston in 2001 and 2002, the Buckeyes had steamrolled the division for 24 straight victories and were driving for an unprecedented fifth straight league championship.

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.

But last season, especially at Nelsonville-York, certainly did not follow script.

That’s because Belpre, the last TVC-Ohio team to topple Nelsonville-York in 2002, upstaged everyone and crashed the Buckeyes’ party with a 10-6 upset special.

But Belpre lost in the regular-season finale to visiting Meigs, and appeared to share the championship after Nelsonville-York kept its perfect record intact against Alexander.

However, at season’s end, it was discovered that Nelsonville-York had used an ineligible player in two games, including a 43-3 on-the-field-win at Wellston in week eight.

The Buckeyes were forced to forfeit the Wellston win, thus dropping them into a three-way tie with Vinton County and Meigs for second.

Thus, Belpre became the TVC champion for the first time in two decades, all the while completing a worst-to-first turnaround in the league.

In fact, the Golden Eagles sported just 23 varsity players.

The TVC-Ohio title and Division V playoff berth — spearheaded by second-year head coach Curt Shriver — have sparked a rebirth in Belpre football, although the Golden Eagles are likely to receive a strong challenge from Nelsonville-York.

The Golden Eagles, also, must replace a senior-heavy squad from last season, which included all-league players Bryan Walker, R.J. Walker, Mike Waderker, Zach Kress and Tyler Carr.

Belpre does return, however, the TVC-Ohio Defensive Player of the Year in senior linebacker Ashton Packard.

The Golden Eagles also get four league games at home, including Nelsonville-York, Vinton County, Athens and Wellston.

Many division observers are predicting another Buckeye blitz in the league, as all-leaguers Zach Talbert, Michael Barrick and Derek Arnold all return.

The Buckeyes, though, will be road warriors in a way if they are indeed to reclaim the TVC-Ohio throne.

Nelsonville-York must travel to Belpre, Vinton County and Wellston, as Wellston opens league play while Vinton County concludes it.

Speaking of Vinton County, the Vikings suffered some key graduation losses, losing 15 seniors from last season’s squad which endured narrow defeats at both Nelsonville-York and Belpre.

Among those were all-league and all-district performers Ryan Stewart and Dustin Guthrie.

VCHS does return junior all-leaguer Andy Grillo, though, as Grillo could be the most versatile and most exciting player in the division this season.

This year, the Vikings host the Buckeyes in the regular-season finale, but do have tricky road trips at Wellston, at Athens and at Belpre.

The Vikings also host Meigs, which also suffered several key graduation losses.

None more important than Cornelius English, the tailback who ran away with the TVC-Ohio Offensive Player of the Year award.

The Marauders also graduated all-league quarterback Aaron Story and all-league lineman Cassidy Willford.

Despite early home games against Athens and Belpre, the Marauders must travel to two places they have struggled — Nelsonville-York and Vinton County.

Adding to the intrigue is the Athens Bulldogs, which enter the TVC-Ohio after leaving their charter membership in the 84-year-old Southeastern Ohio Athletic League.

Since the 2003 season, the Bulldogs have struggled mightily in the SEOAL, and mightily overall as well.

Perhaps the move to the TVC-Ohio is just what the doctor ordered.

The Bulldogs are familiar with many of their league opponents, as Nelsonville-York, Meigs and Alexander have been their first three non-league tilts for several years.

This year, Athens faces those foes later in the season.

Senior tailback Cameron Tope, the Bulldogs’ only first-team all-SEOAL selection last season, could be one of the top rushers in the entire TVC.

Athens also returns a total of 14 letterwinners.

Rounding out the division are Wellston and Alexander, as Alexander edged the Rockets 24-21 in overtime last season for only their second TVC-Ohio win in 55 total games.

However, the Spartans have scored league victories in back-to-back seasons.

Two years ago, they turned back Belpre for their first league triumph in 46 tries.

Alexander is at Wellston this year in week 10, as the Rockets aim to soar higher in the division after not winning a game — on the field — last year.

The Rockets return both of their all-league selections — running back and linebacker Matt Lockard and lineman Kevin King.

Alexander, conversely, graduated both of theirs — tailback/linebacker Adam McCarty and lineman Shawn Hudnall.

Wellston, at times last season, started as many as nine sophomores.

The revamped rotation features a Nelsonville-York-Wellston rematch in Wellston, as the Rockets also travel to Belpre, Athens and Meigs.

The longstanding week 10 battle with rival Vinton County, due to the schedule shakeup, is in week six this season.

Speaking of shakeups, the 2007 season was indeed one in the TVC-Ohio.

Will this season be another?

Just another of the many more questions than answers.


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