Division IV received a facelift thanks to realignment.
Gone are stalwarts Youngstown Cardinal Mooney,
Steubenville, Akron St. Vincent St. Mary, Coldwater, Cincinnati Wyoming, Waverly
and New Lexington.
Defending state champion Kettering Alter, however, hasn’t
The Knights captured their first football state title last
year after coming close in 2006 (34-33 loss to Steubenville in the D-III state
final) and are the favorites to repeat this season.
Sure Alter has to replace standout quarterback Austin
Boucher, who led Ohio to a dramatic win in the Big 33 game and is now a freshman
at Miami (Ohio), and running back Chris Borland (Wisconsin), but there’s no
reason to believe Alter won’t be playing deep into November – and even into
Last year the Knights had to replace 10 starters on defense
and were able to overcome.
So who can challenge Alter?
Standout programs Martins Ferry, Chagrin Falls, Marion
Pleasant, Ironton, Clinton-Massie, Lorain Clearview, Elyria Catholic,
Williamsport Westfall and Kenton – among others – will give it a shot.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Belmont Union Local (10-2)
The Jets lived up to their nickname last
season, burning defenses with five-wide alignments and missiles from the arm of
quarterback Jordan Barbina, who threw for about 3,200 yards last season and
added a whopping 980 rushing to completely torment foes. The only obstacle they
couldn’t overcome was league rival Martins Ferry, losing to the Purple Riders in
both the regular season and the playoffs.
Barbina is off to Lake Erie College and in his
place will be junior Kyle Copland (6-1, 205), a fine athlete who prospered at
wideout last season. Copland will be one of seven new starters on offense,
although the Jets return WR Brandon Nichols and three offensive lineman.
“Our most important thing will be to know that
the strength of our team is now the defense,” fourth-year coach Mark Cisar said.
“Those guys have played and played in a lot of big games.”
Cisar isn’t sure if this year’s team will
throw as often – 386 times – as in 2008, but the concept will be the same.
The most dependable defender is Tyler Arigoni,
who was made to play linebacker despite his diminutive stature. He produced more
than 180 tackles last season and also pounced on nine fumbles, many of them at
very key times in games. Arigoni, LB Kyle Jarrett and LB Tyler Grant all will be
challenged to keep up their production, however, because of the loss of
all-conference defensive ends Bo Olexo and Eric Williams.
The standout on offense is Nichols, a track
star – he qualified for the state meet with a time of 49.5 seconds in the 400 –
who is fearless in the open field. A legitimate Division I prospect with 4.5
speed, Nichols hauled in 77 catches last season for more than 1,100 yards.
The schedule is littered with potential peril,
including road trips to St. Clairsville (Sept. 11) and Division III combatant
Richmond Edison (Oct. 2). But it’s safe to say the game to circle on the
calendar will be when Martins Ferry visits on Sept. 25.
Chagrin Falls (8-4)
The Tigers are on the prowl again after
advancing to the postseason last season in D-III and attaining immediate status
as a contender in D-IV.
Posting seven wins while facing a loaded
regular-season schedule last season, Chagrin Falls earned the No. 5 seed in
Region 9 of the Division III playoffs and then promptly knocked off powerful
Youngstown Liberty in the first round. Proving they were a tough out, the Tigers
lost a tight 21-17 contest to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in the second round to
finish at 8-4.
It’s safe to say coach Mark Iammarino’s squad
will carry confidence into the 2009 season despite the loss of several key
players including Andrew Klindera, Matt Diles, Jack Karlovec and Dan Mignogna.
In fact, the roster is headed by 25 seniors, including several of the top
players in the Chagrin Valley Conference. Also, Falls returns several
underclassmen who earned valuable time last season.
The offense returns seven starters and a dozen
lettermen, including a pair of skill players who were named All-Ohio last season
in RB/LB Chris Gorman and QB Chris Trinetti.
Gorman is sturdy and dependable and makes a
living between the tackles. He wasn’t always a first option out of the spread
but managed to put together some big games and rambled for more than 100 yards
in both of the postseason affairs. Meanwhile, Trinetti is coming off a
record-breaking season as he set a new school mark with more than 1,900 yards
passing and 18 touchdown tosses. He added 225 yards rushing a four more scores
on the ground.
Trinetti is missing some of his top receiving
targets from last season, but the Tigers believe they have an emerging weapon in
TE/DL Connor Clegg, who can get open against smaller defenders. Clegg also is an
The Tigers run a 4-3 defense and will feature
15 letterwinners on that side of the ball, including six first-teamers from a
year ago. LB Bobby Winkelman enters his third straight season as a starter and
is expected to lead the team in stops.
Put it all together and Chagrin Falls has star
power, size, speed, depth, postseason experience and a hunger to rule the roost
in Division IV.
Martins Ferry (11-2)
The Purple Riders are going to leave teams
black and blue this season.
David Bruney, who enters his 31st year as
Martins Ferry head coach, has immense offensive and defensive lines, several
players who can bench well over 300 pounds and a pair of punishing runners who
double as hard-hitting inside linebackers.
TB Patrick Allen, for example, runs with a low
center of gravity and sheer force, which he also displays in the weight room
with a bench press of 380 pounds and a box squat of more than 600.
“He’s pretty amazing,” Bruney said. “He’s got
good feet and good hands and he’s tough enough that he helps us on defense, too.
He played some defensive end last year.”
Also in the backfield and playing at
linebacker next to Allen is FB Devon Parson, another physical specimen.
Handing off to those two and directing the
offense for the first time will be QB Marco Ricchetti, who played wide receiver
and corner last season. Ricchetti, who has 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash, is one
of seven new starters on offense but also one of eight returning letterman who
will appear on that side of the ball.
Ferry’s 4-4-3 defense welcomes back six
starters, including TE Jordan Burress and OL Dalton Leach up front. Burress is a
Division I football prospect who also excels on the basketball court. Leach is a
wrestler and the strongest player on the team. Wells, another hoopster in the
winter, joins them on both lines and plays end on defense.
Jack Beavers, a rising junior, mans the other
DE spot while Cody McGee and youngster Michael Rose (5-9, 170) are expected to
flank Allen and Parson as outside linebackers. The secondary features a pair of
tall and fast defenders with Ricchetti and sophomore Tyrell Simmons (6-3, 185)
along the back line.
Martins Ferry, which lost to New Lexington in
the D-IV regional finals last season, opens its schedule against three Division
III opponents in Rayland Buckeye Local, Richmond Edison and Cadiz Harrison
Central. The season debut game with Buckeye Local should feature a taste of
revenge as the Purple Riders lost to that team on the road last season, 21-14,
after losing grip of seven fumbles and a 14-0 lead.
On most Friday nights, Martins Ferry may
simply overpower foes. Extending the season all the way into December, though,
will take more than brawn.
Matt Rosati arrived from West Geauga three
years ago and promptly guided the Pirates to the postseason in his first year at
the helm, although they were run off the field by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in
the regional quarterfinals. Last season, the program made progress by playing in
three playoff games before being overcome by Steubenville 35-17 in the regional
“We have experience and we have a lot of kids
who have played in big football games,” Rosati said. “Really, there is not much
that has to be said now. We played deep into the playoffs and we also played
Aurora, the Division III state champs, and we felt we should have won that game.
“In the loss to Steubenville, we earned
respect from a lot of people by playing them pretty close. They pulled away from
us but our kids were not surprised we competed because we feel we can play with
anybody. We want to compete for the state championship. That’s our goal. We have
a pretty low-key group here but we know what’s at stake.”
Perry no doubt will miss running back/free
safety Mike Hanhauser, who scored a whopping 40 touchdowns last season. He now
toils for Lehigh. However, Rosati has expressed a belief in tailback Ben Perko
(6-2, 185), who broke his wrist last year but is back to carry the load.
Mitch Hovakar is a first-year starter and
takes over the quarterback duties from his departed older brother, Vinny, but he
arrives with high expectations. He started at free safety last year as a
sophomore, but saw time under center, including 20 snaps at QB in the regional
final. He threw 31 passes last season and completed 21 for 300 yards.
TE Anthony Kukawa has 4.6 speed, a 305 bench
and a 29-inch vertical leap. Last season he had 31 receptions for 470 yards and
seven TDs. He also picked off five passes from his outside linebacker spot. Not
only can Kukawa provide a target and help block up front, the Pirates are
blessed with an outstanding tackle in Rich Zalanka, who also excels in the
sports of baseball and basketball.
The defense should be anchored by LB David
Wallie, who is a blur when in pursuit and registered nine sacks in 2008. He is
one of four returning starters on defense while five return on offense.
The schedule will be challenging and includes
an Oct. 15 rematch at home with Aurora, a game that is ticketed for broadcast on
Sports Time Ohio. The Pirates close the regular season Oct. 30 at Chagrin Falls
in what should be one of the premier D-IV matchups of the entire season.
Also Keep An Eye On
|Akron Manchester (7-3)
Opposing coaches are concerned the Panthers
are set to build on some quality wins from last year.
|Massillon Tuslaw (10-2)
The Mustangs have endured some turnover this season (graduated 17 seniors) but
coach Nate Held has this program soaring. The key to maintaining “Blue Pride”
will be to get through the always-tough Principals Athletic Conference
relatively unscathed. Tuslaw took out Wooster Triway in the 2008 postseason but
couldn’t get by Perry in the second round. Held, entering his fourth year, is
St. Clairsville (7-4)
Always a team with which to contend, the Red Devils are looking to do damage in
the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference – and beyond. St. Clairsville has been to
the playoffs a school record three straight seasons.
Youngstown Liberty (8-3)
A playoff team in Division III a year ago, Liberty could prove to be the class
of this entire region. The Leopards are led by senior linebacker and Michigan
recruit Antonio Kinard (6-4, 210) who is rated the No. 25 prospect in Ohio by
Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (9-2)
The Royals have been to the playoffs four straight years and five of the last
six. Last year they dropped a 14-6 decision to Cardinal Mooney in the first
round. Replacing two-time All-Ohio running back John Pettigrew (Bowling Green)
is a priority.
Even a Week 10 win over Youngstown Liberty last season wasn’t enough to propel
the Indians into the playoffs. Girard won nine games, but the first eight came
against opponents who failed to record a winning record or even reach .500.
The Big Reds were state semifinalists in 2006,
but since then have gone 4-16, including 0-10 in 2007. Former Bellaire standout
quarterback Jose Davis starts his first head coaching gig this season in charge
of his alma mater.
Leavittsville LaBrae (9-2)
The Vikings made their first playoff
appearance in school history last year. Now the goal is to win their first
playoff game. LaBrae lost to Tuslaw 28-0 in the first round.
Other Teams In The Region
(6-4), Atwater Waterloo (1-9), Beachwood (2-8), Brooklyn (4-6), Byesville
Meadowbrook (2-8), Canton Central Catholic (2-8), Cleveland Central Catholic
(3-7), Cortland Lakeview (7-3), Fairview Park Fairview (2-8), Garrettsville
Garfield (7-3), Gnadenhutten Indian Valley (2-8), Magnolia Sandy Valley (3-7),
Newton Falls (3-6), Peninsula Woodridge (5-5), Warren Champion (3-7), Wickliffe
(2-8), Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley (3-7)
Elyria Catholic (6-4)
Head coach Ben Malbasa enters his third season
at EC with a team capable of adding to the school’s lengthy tradition (three
state titles, but none since 1984). The Panthers return nine starters on defense
and seven offense.
Points should not be a problem. Josh Russ, a
Cincinnati commit, was first team All-Ohio last year as a receiver (35 catches,
651 yards, eight TDs). Danny Reaser, an honorable mention All-Ohioan, returns
after throwing for over 1,800 yards and 14 TDs in eight starts. Alex Allicea
rushed for over 1,000 yards and 15 TDs. Three starters return on the offensive
Defensively the Panthers will be stout. EC is
led by All-Ohio S Nick Ksenich (107 tackles), DB Zach Rogers (five
interceptions) and LB Buddy Davalia (19 tackles-for-loss). LB Corey Campbell, LB
Adam Kirsch and LB Mike Betka each added over 77 tackles.
As usual, a daunting schedule awaits with
non-league games against Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, Shaker Heights (D-I) and
Akron Hoban (D-II). The North Coast League White Division is no cake walk.
A lot is new for the Redmen, last year’s No. 1
seed in the region.
Quarterback Micah Hyde, who is ticketed to
play football at Iowa, is out the door along with five other starters on offense
and six on defense. Also, coach Tom Grine has moved on as well, opening the door
for Beau Carmon, who served the past two years on Grine’s staff as Fostoria’s
offensive line coach.
Even with all that turnover, there is plenty
of reason to believe the Redmen can contend once again.
The offensive line and receiving corps still
could be strengths.
“I’m excited about our line,” Carmon said of
the group he directed the past two seasons. “We will average 240 pounds up there
and we’ve got two returning starters. We are going to be a team built on speed
but I look for our offensive line to grind people up when we want to run it.”
Carmon expects to still get production out of
the team’s spread offense, especially with Tucker ready to become a productive
back and with receivers like WR Jordan Bulkowski and WR/CB Antoine Williams
still in the fold. Bulkowski gathered in 59 receptions for 588 yards and three
touchdowns last season and Williams, who has 4.5 speed, made 20 grabs on offense
along with playing his role of shutdown corner.
Also helping on defense will be C/DE Dominic
Zelenak, who made 40 tackles as a defensive lineman in 2008 and OLB Isaac Tyson,
who produced 30 stops and six sacks.
SS Jake Solether will lead the secondary and
isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty against the run as evidenced by his 68
tackles last season. He is able to take chances with Williams and Tucker ably
handling the duties at corner.
Still, it will be extremely difficult to for
offense to excel as it did with Hyde (Iowa), a special talent who threw for
2,457 yards and 21 TDs and rushed for 1,363 more yards and 24 scores. The heir
apparent to the signal caller spot is Perry Johnson. Johnson and the Redmen will
be tested right out of the chute as they host Ottawa-Glandorf in their opener.
|Lorain Clearview (10-1)
The Clippers buzzed through the Patriot
Athletic Conference last season and the entire regular-season schedule, for that
matter, but their dream campaign ended in abrupt fashion – a 56-12 loss to
Ottawa-Glandorf in week 11.
Clearview should recover well, however,
especially since coach Mike Collier’s team can hitch the wagon once again to
TB/LB Anthony Hitchens.
Possessing good size, great speed and
elusiveness, Hitchens is sometimes a one-man spectacle on Friday nights as he
often mesmerizes fans and air-grabbing defenders.
“He’s the big ticket,” said Collier, who is
entering his third year at the helm of the program. “He’s a great athlete and he
has all the instincts.”
Hitchens rushed for 1,600 yards and 23
touchdowns last season en route to being named first-team all-state in Division
IV. He also caught a touchdown, returned a kickoff for a score, led the team in
tackles with 78 and found the end zone four more times as a defender. If that’s
not enough he’s also a standout basketball player and runs the 100-yard dash for
the track team.
Tony Williams and Curtis Alston can also run
the ball and should be called on occasionally as Clearview tries to control the
game on the ground at times. Collier employs multiple formations on offense and
different alignments on defense including a 3-5-3 look as well as a 4-2-5. Six
starters return on the defensive side of the ball and many of them are burners,
especially Williams. He was clocked at 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Ohio
State’s summer camp, which even topped Hitchens’ 4.63.
“Tony has a great nose for the ball and he can
really move out there,” Collier said. “He’s another basketball player and we
just had him for the first year last season, so he could really take off this
QB Zach Anderson is not quite in the phenom
category but he’s a third-year starter who will do whatever it takes to keep the
The Clippers’ schedule looks manageable once
again and they appear to have enough pieces in place to return to the
The Panthers weren’t highly regarded heading
into last season and, sure enough, they struggled against elite competition with
lopsided losses against Delphos Jefferson and Ada.
However, coach Chris Etzler – yet another
up-and-coming Division IV mentor entering his third season with his school –
likes what he has brewing.
“After our first winning season in 11 years,
we are looking forward to this season,” he said. “We have to replace some very
good players that were lost to graduation, but we feel we have pieces in place
to be successful again.”
The biggest reason for the optimism is well,
size. The defensive line especially could be among the best in the area with DT
Travis McPherson (6-2, 260, Sr.) inside, the similarly built OT/DE Dylan (6-2,
260, Jr.)Welch on the outside and DE Derek Schlatter (6-1, 220, Sr.) at the
opposite end. Welch already is being courted by Division I colleges as is
Miller, who is a road-grader along the offensive line.
One player who won’t need any time to find
comfort is DB Justin Riley, who covers the field sideline to sideline. He had 64
tackles and a pick last season.
|Wooster Triway (8-3)
You can just call ATH Cole Drake “Slash” if you like. Not
only does he play some quarterback for Triway, he also moves around to running
back and receiver and is a standout in the defensive backfield. He played
primarily under center last season but could move around liberally in ’09.
Along with possessing all the football prowess, Drake is
also an accomplished wrestler who qualified for the state tournament. In fact,
he may be too good an athlete to play only at QB, especially if Derek Carmichael
proves worthy of the job.
Triway is in transition as it will try to find the answers
without 2,000-yard running back Ben Cline and head coach Doug Haas. Now in
charge is former assistant Tony Lee, who was last on the Triway staff in 2004 as
the Titans’ offensive coordinator.
Triway competed in Region 13 last season and earned the No.
6 seed of the regional playoffs. However, after being co-champs of the Patriot
Athletic Conference, the Titans were felled in the first round of the postseason
in a 41-7 loss to Perry at Perry Alumni Stadium.
“We’ve got some really good skilled athletes coming back,”
Lee said. “We only return one lineman starter from last year. We’ve got kids
with potential, we just have to work them. That’s the key to the season, how our
unproven players develop, especially up front.”
Triway’s schedule is littered with challenges, including
games with Millersburg West Holmes and Orrville. The Titans’ first two league
games are against Akron Manchester and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.
Also Keep An Eye On
A late-season, 14-10 loss in the home finale with Riverdale was costly to the
Redmen as they ended up with the ninth-place rating in the region and just out
of the 2008 postseason. The previous season they posted a 9-1 mark but also were
on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Obviously there will be little margin
for error again this season.
|Genoa Area (12-1)
Third-year coach Mike Vicars has turned
matters around big-time as he took a down-on-its-luck program to the regional
tournament each of the last two seasons and appears to be in position to make it
three for three. Area, in fact, was a state powerhouse last year with an
undefeated regular season and by rocketing past Huron, Fostoria and
Ottawa-Glandorf in the postseason. The Comets didn’t stop until losing a 42-34
thriller in the state semis against Kettering Alter, which went on the defeat
Steubenville for the D-IV title.
The Tigers will be looking to make the playoffs for the eighth time in the last
10 years but they’ll have to do so without several departed players including
tailback Craig Thorne, quarterback Mike Mielke and linebacker Cody Koenig. They
lost in the first round of the postseason in what amounted to an away game with
|LaGrange Keystone (3-7)
Yes, we can read the record from last season
but coach Rob Clarico has been working hard to build up this program and the
Wildcats were 8-2 in 2007. Last season, no less than 14 players were lost to
season-ending injuries. That forced the coaching staff to put a total of 10
freshmen and sophomores into starting roles. One of them, diminutive tailback
Ryan Clement (5-5, 140), gained 381 rushing yards in just 50 carries as a frosh
and proved he belonged on the big stage. The ’Cats also return running back Jim
Reid (5-6, 160), who missed most of last season, and leading tackler Casey
Conrad (5-9, 190), an active linebacker.
The Titans wowed teams with their athleticism last year and destroyed Lorain
Clearview in the first round of last year’s Region 14 tourney. They also clipped
Marion Pleasant 28-21 in overtime before losing in the regional final to Genoa
Area. More explosions could be in store even though many skill players have
The Red Riders look to get back to the playoffs after missing out the past 2 years. A switch from Region 13 to Region 14, plus a large and experienced senior class is once again fueling high expectations. They will be led on defense by senior LB Chase Hoobler (129 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INT) who is weighing multiple D-I scholarship offers. Senior wideout Sam Miller (38 rec., 585 yds, 5 TD) leads a deep receiving corps that dual threat QB Joe Besancon (1800 pass yds, 600+ rush yds, 16 total TD’s) will target often. Early season matchups with Northwest (Week 1) and D-II power Lexington (Week 4) will go a long way to deciding the Riders fate.
Pemberville Eastwood (8-3)
The Eagles played well in Suburban Lakes League action as usual last season and
earned the sixth seed of the regional tournament. They were clipped in the first
round by Marion Pleasant, 20-7, but still will be able to field some impressive
athletes in ’09. Among them is senior running back Cody Seifert.
Creston Norwayne (8-3)
The Bobcats earned the first playoff berth in school history last season with an
appearance in the D-V, Region 17 quarterfinals. After bumping up a division, can
they add another postseason berth?
Other Teams In The Region
Bellville Clear Fork
(5-5), Doylestown Chippewa (4-6), Galion (5-5), Mansfield Ontario (4-6),
Metamora Evergreen (4-6), Milan Edison (7-3), Millbury Lake (3-7), Port Clinton
(1-9), Rossford (0-10), Sheffield Brookside (0-10), Sullivan Black River (5-5),
Swanton (3-7), Tontogany Ostego (1-9), Upper Sandusky (3-7), Van Wert (3-7),
Wauseon (5-5), Wellington (4-6).
The defending Mid-Buckeye Conference champs will have their
hands full this season with a schedule that includes a Sept. 4 hosting of the
Heath Bulldogs, an Oct. 2 home date with Fredericktown and an Oct. 9 trip to
Utica. If the Johnnies can somehow manage that and avoid any other slip-ups,
they could be on their way to another preferential spot in the postseason
brackets as the final three games are against middling teams Danville, Howard
East Knox and Johnstown Northridge.
However, a return to the postseason wouldn’t have the same
feel as the Johnnies are no longer in Division V – they earned the 4-seed in
Region 19 last year – and instead have been dropped into perhaps the deepest
region in D-IV.
Still, it’s still understandable to be awed by
Johnstown-Monroe’s depth and assemblage of top-tier players, even after it lost
the likes of linebacker Kurt Sammons, free safety Josh McClellan and bulldozing
fullback Will Carter.
“We have some great leaders returning for this year,” said
Mike Carter, who is entering his eighth season as the head coach of the
Even with Will Carter departed, the running game should be
in good hands and on sturdy legs as Brad Couts returns from a season in which he
took 224 handoffs and netted 1,381 yards, and average of 6.2 yards per tote.
A first-team All-Central District performer last season,
Couts is the whole package. He is an honor student who also plays lacrosse and
is a workout warrior with a bench press of 355 pounds, a 40 time of 4.68 and a
FB/LB Scott Robinson should provide a dangerous change of
pace. He is a step quicker than Couts and gained 329 yards rushing on just 38
carries last season.
If you have to develop a new quarterback, why not start
with a cannon? That’s Riley Cannon, who made more of a name last year as a
defensive end with 48 tackles and two sacks.
Smart, versatile and athletic, OL-FB/DL-LB Reed Franklin
typifies this roster and also should be a playmaker on both sides of the ball.
|Marion Pleasant (10-2)
There aren’t too many prospects in Division IV
who are on par with TE/DE Brad Harrah, a hulking youngster who already is
committed to play major college ball for Big East member Cincinnati.
“He had about 10 to 12 Division I offers,”
Marion Pleasant assistant coach Aaron Cook said. “He’s a 4.0 student and just a
great talent and we need to make sure he’s a big part of what we’re doing.”
Fortunately for the Spartans, that shouldn’t
be a problem since the quarterback is Kubbs, who will log his third year on the
varsity at Pleasant and for his father, 20-year head coach Chris Kubbs.
“Cory is a smart kid,” Cook said. “He’s a
coach’s son so he plays hard and with intelligence just like you’d expect. He
knows our offense inside and out.”
The younger Cory Kubbs, though, will be
stepping into the starting quarterback role for the first time now that the
fantastic career of Cody Harris is completed.
“He was all-state last year and broke every
school record we have for a quarterback,” Cook said.
Even with the change at quarterback and the
departure of three running talents and two-way stars in Cory Snyder, Kyle Beck
and Jake Lawrence, the Spartans aren’t likely to panic. In fact, it’s just not
in their nature.
Pleasant has won the Mid-Ohio Athletic
Conference 17 straight times and also has overcome opening-season, nail-biter
losses to St. Henry the last two seasons. The Spartans were nipped 14-13 at home
by St. Henry last August then ripped off nine convincing wins in a row to earn
the No. 3 seed in Region 14. The Spartans proceeded to take out Pemberville
Eastwood in the playoffs before losing 28-21 in overtime to Ottawa-Glandorf.
Three-tenths of a point. That’s what kept
Utica out of last year’s Region 15 playoffs.
What hurts more, though, is the 27-21 overtime
loss the Redskins suffered at Johnstown-Monroe on Oct. 3. That cost Utica the
Mid-Buckeye Conference title and the trimmings that would have come with it.
Still the seven-win season was an improvement
on the 5-5 mark of 2007 and the Redskins are intent to take the next step this
To do so, Utica will have to lean on several
unproven but talented players.
“We’re a team with a lot of questions,” head
coach Randy Felumlee said heading into his 21st season at the helm of the
program. “We have a relatively small, inexperienced team and we’ve got a lot of
holes to fill. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Utica showcased 15 seniors last season and
will have six this year.
Typically, Felumlee likes to rely most on his
defense but the Redskins lost seven starters on that side of the ball including
a pair of three-year starting linebackers in Ethan Brewer and Joey Caplin. Given
that and the team’s struggles last year at times to finish off drives, the
’Skins will look for even more out of QB/S Jason Hoar. He will have to carry the
offense early on until the coaching staff figures out how to fill the holes at
|Williamsport Westfall (8-3)
In just two years at Westfall, head coach
Scott Keller has put together an impressive 21-4 record with two Scioto Valley
Conference titles and two D-IV playoff berths. The trend should continue. Riding
an SVC record 26-game win streak, the Mustangs are the team to beat in the
conference – again. Westfall returns seven starters on defense and five on
“With 25 lettermen returning we expect to
field an experienced, veteran team,” Keller said. “This senior class is among
the hardest working and most disciplined that we’ve ever had here.”
Overall the program has been to the postseason
six straight years. It’s won the SVC three straight times.
The roster could be bolstered by an influx of
Grove City and Central Crossing players should that district’s levy fail on Aug.
“Our defense was young and very inexperienced
last year,” Keller said. “We really believe that with a year under their belt,
and 7 of them back on that unit, our defense should be our greatest strength.
“Offensively we need to find a quarterback
that can effectively manage a team. We really feel like we have enough weapons
surrounding that position, that what we’re looking for is a quarterback that can
protect the football and move the chains.”
Also Keep An Eye On
|Columbus Bishop Hartley (6-4)
The Hawks rode speed and big plays to a playoff appearance last season, but then
found a tall order with a Week 11 assignment at top-seeded Martins Ferry. Even
so, they played valiantly in a 20-6 loss. Now the challenge is to get through a
varied schedule and find enough computer points to return to the postseason. The
Hawks actually won a seventh game last season, a 35-0 win over the Columbus
Crusaders, but that game did not count as an official OHSAA contest.
The Redskins have won a combined 16 games the last two seasons but were knocked
out of the first round of the Region 13 playoffs each year. However, the two
teams that vanquished them in the last two playoff appearances, Youngstown
Cardinal Mooney and Steubenville, are out of D-IV, which could pave the way for
Coshocton – and others, for that matter. Plus, the Redskins are now shifted to
Region 15, which appears to be wide open.
The Bulldogs return an impressive amount of talent and they already are
discussing finishing up strong after last year’s disappointing finish to the
regular season. Heath was enjoying a strong 7-1 start to the 2008 campaign
including a decisive Week 2 win over Johnstown-Monroe but derailed in losing to
Granville and Bexley in games 9 and 10. After just missing out on the D-V
playoffs, the Bulldogs will now try their luck in Division IV.
The Fighting Tigers are theoretically the top returning team in this region with
Martins Ferry shifted over to Region 13 and state semifinalist New Lexington now
in Division III. Longtime coach Bob Lutz led the Tigers to a 5-5 mark in 2007
after a one-year hiatus and is now primed to return his team to the spotlight.
Ironton took out Westfall before losing to New Lex at the end of last season.
Pomeroy Meigs (8-3)
A 42-14 first-round playoff loss to New Lexington shouldn’t bring down this
program and instead inspire the Marauders. Offense will be the name of the game
again. Meigs racked up more than 40 points five times last season and averaged
32.7 points per contest.
Portsmouth Portsmouth West (11-1)
The Senators posted an undefeated regular season, earned a top seed in Region 19
and won a playoff game before their season ended in a 17-0 loss in the regional
semis to Columbus Bishop Ready. Now the question is simple: Can they carry over
any of that success from Division V to D-IV?
The former state champion (1999, 2000) and five-time finalist has seen better
days. Since moving up to D-IV two years ago, the Aces are 9-11. In 2006, its
last season in D-V, A-C made the state semifinals and finished 12-2. Is this the
year the Aces return to the playoffs?
Sparta Highland (6-5)
The Scots are a transplant from Region 14 where they earned the eight seed last
year (lost to Fostoria in opening round). Overall Highland has been to the
playoffs three straight seasons. They’ll likely have to win more than six games
if they want to make it four in a row. Although Highland made the playoffs in
Region 14, their 11.95 points would have placed them 12th in Region 15.
The Redstreaks are led by standout senior Caleb Southworth, the No. 98 prospect
in the state according to Ohio High. Southworth, a 6-5, 210 pound,
linebacker/tight end has an offer from Central Michigan. He was also a starter
on Piketon’s basketball team, which made the D-III state semifinals in March.
Other Teams In The Region
(4-6), Caledonia River Valley (0-10), Bloom-Carroll (3-7), Cheshire River Valley
(3-7), Chillicothe Unioto (0-10), Chillicothe Zane Trace (5-5), Howard East Knox
(4-6), Ironton Rock Hill (0-10), Lancaster Fairfield Union (5-5), Marion Elgin
(3-7), McDermott Northwest (1-9), Portsmouth (1-9), Proctorville Fairland (4-5),
South Point (6-4), Wellston (4-6), Zanesville West Muskingum (4-6).
The Blue Devils lost seven starters on each
side of the ball but enough talent returns to Mike Hetrick’s squad for them to
be considered dangerous once again.
But does the ninth-year head coach consider
his team to be a contender?
“I probably couldn’t say we are,” Hetrick
said. “We might have the potential to sneak up on some people, though. Our JV
team was undefeated last year. I just don’t know how many of those kids can
really impact us right away.”
The Devils posted an undefeated regular season
in 2008 only to run into eventual state champ Kettering Alter in the first round
of the Region 16 playoffs. Now the rebuilding is underway.
Brookville should be fine at deep back as RB/S
Ryan Ekberg and RB/LB Jason Stone are primed for big senior seasons and RB/CB
Matt McIntosh also is capable of making plays on the ground. Ekberg gained 559
yards, averaged 5.4 per carry and found the end zone 10 times last season while
Stone put up 637 rushing yards, a stout average of 8.5 per pop and scored eight
times. Stone also used his speed to turn six receptions into 120 yards.
The QB situation, though, is still in flux.
When asked if he has a signal caller in mind for the season, Hetrick said, “Not
Clarksville Clinton-Massie (10-1)
The Falcons had almost an identical season to
that of Brookville, plowing through the regular season unscathed but losing in
the first round of the Region 16 playoffs.
Clinton-Massie posted shutouts in three of its
first four games and also routed a very good Waynesville team to set the season
in motion. Falcon fans thought destiny lay ahead after C-M finished off Plain
City Jonathan Alder in Week 10.
However, heartbreak ensued in the form of a
33-27 overtime loss at home to Hamilton Badin.
“I think that’s definitely a motivator for
us,” said head coach Dan McSurley. “They were up 21 at half and we came back and
tied the game. Our quarterback got hurt and we had to play Jake (Richardson).
“It was a tough loss but is gave us an
opportunity to face an outstanding spread team and we got guys some really
valuable playoff experience, including our future quarterback.”
McSurley enters his 14th year at C-M with
eight starters back on defense and six on offense. The Falcons return some
serious size as RT Mike Stenger, LG James Ebby, C Paul Singleton and RG/DE Corby
Running are imposing getting off the bus, let alone in full pads and helmets.
With that core group returning, RB Jordie
Scanlon could surpass his production of last season, when he rambled for 1,300
yards on the ground.
Most teams will have major problems dealing
with C-M’s power rushing game but the hope in Clarksville is that the offense
will find even another gear with Richardson under center. He is slippery and
ideally suited to run Clinton-Massie’s triple option.
The two most impressive athletes on the team,
though, are Running and MLB Gunner Calhoun. Running is a state wrestling champ
and also anchors the 4×100 relay team. Calhoun has led the football team in
tackles the past two seasons and also is a star on the baseball diamond for the
|Kettering Alter (13-2)
Even though the Knights appeared due for a
championship, it’s doubtful any of their followers will ever forget the 2008
campaign, a most interesting season for the ages.
Alter had to forfeit its first two games of
the season against Kettering Fairmont and Bellbrook but wiped out the next eight
foes by an average score of 46-6. Then, behind superstar seniors – quarterback
Austin Boucher and running backs Chris Borland and Justin Hall – Alter proceeded
to plow through Region 16. The Knights dumped Coldwater in the third round and
eventually took down traditional power Steubenville in the Division IV state
championships at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
The 21-6 victory represented the program’s
first-ever football state title and was extra sweet factoring in that the
Knights were nipped by Big Red in the 2006 D-III state finals – not to mention
the 59-52 loss to Coldwater in triple-overtime in the 2007 regional
Of course, head coach Ed Domsitz wants his
team to repeat as winners of the Greater Catholic League North Division, but
there is good reason to believe the Knights can make another deep run in the
postseason with all the top players in tow.
Cody Taulbee appears capable of handling much
of the running chores, LB Cody Conley is the team’s leading tackler from a year
ago and s Cody Byers is a Division I college prospect with sub-4.6 speed and the
ability to make lots of plays in the secondary.
The defense is especially stout with OLB Chris
Bockrath and possibly Nolan Plate able to flank Conley and oxen like DE John
Doncaster and DT Andrew Bonnano up front.
The Spartans were outclassed by playoff teams Clarksville
Clinton-Massie and Dayton Oakwood but mopped up on everyone else on the
regular-season schedule to earn the third seed in Region 20. Once in the
postseason, Waynesville picked up the first playoff win on program history with
a 34-9 victory over West Liberty-Salem. The Spartans lost Maria Stein Marion
Local in the regional semifinals With some key performers back, the Spartans
could make the same kind of noise in D-IV.
Seth Millar is already the Waynesville career record holder
for rushing TDs (49) and this past season set school records for single season
rushing yards (1,856), TDs (24) and points (156). He also owns school records
for single game rushing yards (331) and TDs (6) and has the longest TD run in
history (95 yards).
Millar was named first team Southwestern Buckeye League and
was the Buckeye Division Back of the Year. He was also first team Southwest
District and the district’s offensive player of the year. Millar was honorable
mention on the ONN/Ohio High All-Ohio team (regardless of division) and first
team D-V All-Ohio.
The Spartans are expecting big things in 2009. In addition
to Millar, Waynesville returns QB/DB Cory Young, who’ll be a three-year starter.
Also Keep An Eye On
Cincinnati North College Hill (7-4)
The Trojans were bombed at the end of last
season by top-seeded Coldwater, 42-0, in the opening round of the Region 16
playoffs, but they return several key athletes from a team that was downright
explosive at times last season. NCH posted back-to-back shutouts in midseason
and blasted Lockland 33-7 in the regular-season finale. With 15 wins in the last
two seasons the Trojans can’t be counted out.
Coach Mike Mauk has another solid squad heading into this season. The Wildcats return nine starters on offense, including four lineman and standout sophomore QB Maty Mauk, the coach’s son. The Wildcats will continue to use a five-wide attack. Defensively the Widlcats will be tough as well with six starters back.
Plain City Jonathan Alder (8-3)
For the second straight time, the Pioneers made the postseason with an 8-2
regular season and promptly lost in the first round. Last year it was a 12-10
defeat at the hands of Dayton Oakwood, which unseated the fourth-ranked team in
the region. Coach Steve Coate has a chance to one-up the recent trend,
especially with powerful Coldwater out of the region.
Germantown Valley View (7-4)
The Spartans were edged in their final two regular-season games last October by
Eaton and Brookville but still qualified for the Region 12 playoffs in Division
III. The postseason didn’t go so well, however, as Valley View lost 48-19 to
Columbus Eastmoor Academy. Head coach Jay Niswonger and the program own a
lengthy resume that includes three state titles (1994, 1996-97) and 15 playoff
Other Teams In The Region
Clermont Northeastern (3-7), Blanchester (4-6), Preble Shawnee (1-8), Carlisle
(5-5), Finneytown (4-6), Cincinnati Madeira (6-4), Cincinnati Purcell Marian
(1-9), Cincinnati Schroeder (4-6), Cincinnati Taft (6-4), Dayton Northridge
(4-6), Dayton Thurgood Marshall (2-8), Franklin Bishop Fenwick (3-7), Lewistown
Indian Lake (5-5), Lima Bath (2-8), London (6-4), London Madison Plains (4-6),
Middletown Madison Senior (5-5), Reading (5-5), Springfield Northeastern (2-8),
Springfield Northwestern (1-9), West Milton Milton-Union (3-7).
PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES
Patrick Allen, TB/ILB, Martins Ferry
Tyler Arigoni, MLB, Belmont Union Local
Jordan Bulkowski, WR, Fostoria
Jordan Burress, TE/DT, Martins Ferry
Cody Byers, SS, Kettering Alter
Gunner Calhoun, MLB, Clarksville Clinton-Massie
Cody Conley, LB, Kettering Alter
Brad Couts, RB/LB, Johnstown-Monroe
Josh Davis, DT, Plain City Jonathan Alder
Harrison Dickerhoof, OL/DL, Canton Central Catholic
Cole Drake, WR-QB-RB/S, Wooster Triway
Ryan Ekberg, RB/S, Brookville
Chris Gorman, RB/LB, Chagrin Falls
Brad Harrah, TE/DE, Marion Pleasant
Anthony Hitchens, TB/LB, Lorain Clearview
Jason Hoar, QB/S, Utica
Mitch Hovakar, QB/FS, Perry
Antonio Kinnard, LB, Youngstown Liberty
Cory Kubbs, QB, Marion Pleasant
Anthony Kukawa, TE/OLB, Perry
Travis McPherson, DT, Paulding
Brandon Nichols, WR/DB, Belmont Union Local
Cory Nielson, DB/WR, Marion Pleasant
Garrett Patterson, OL/DL, Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley
Marco Ricchetti, QB/CB, Martins Ferry
Tyler Robinson, RB/DB, Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley
Josh Russ, WR/OLB, Elyria Catholic
Jordie Scanlon, RB, Clarksville Clinton-Massie
Skyler Schofner, OL, Johnstown-Monroe
Cody Seifert, RB/DB, Pemberville Eastwood
Mike Stenger, OT, Clarksville Clinton-Massie
Jake Solether, SS, Fostoria
Cody Taulbee, RB, Kettering Alter
Chris Trinetti, QB, Chagrin Falls
Alex Utley, RB/LB, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy
Cory Young, QB, Waynesville
Seth Millar, RB, Waynesville
GAMES OF INTEREST
Week 1 (Aug. 28): Ottawa-Glandorf at Fostoria,
Rayland Buckeye Local at Martins Ferry, Kenton at Coldwater, Byesville
Meadowbrook at Belmont Union Local, Johnstown-Monroe at Granville, Thomas
Worthington at Plain City Jonathan Alder, Genoa Area at Rossford, Dayton Dunbar
at Germantown Valley View, Girard at Salem, Cortland Lakeview at Struthers,
Richmond Edison at St. Clairsville, Utica at Grandview Heights (Saturday),
Kettering Alter at Kettering Fairmont, Marion Pleasant at St. Henry (Saturday),
Howard East Knox at Coshocton, Williamsport Westfall at Ashville Teays Valley,
Sparta Highland at Fredericktown, Smithville at Akron Manchester, Huron at
Vermilion, Cleveland Collingwood at Elyria Catholic, Newark Catholic at
Amanda-Clearcreek, Norwalk at Milan Edison
Week 2 (Sept. 4): Heath at Johnstown-Monroe,
Clarksville Clinton-Massie at Waynesville, Martins Ferry at Richmond Edison,
Orrville at Wooster Triway, Granville at Utica, Akron Manchester at Coshocton,
St. Clairsville at Rayland Buckeye Local, Creston Norwayne at Cuyahoga Falls at
Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, Fostoria at Bowling Green, Lima Shawnee at
Ottawa-Glandorf, Pemberville Eastwood at Rossford, Genoa Area at Oak Harbor,
Lorain Clearview at Vermilion, Doylestown Chippewa at LaGrange Keystone,
Struthers at Girard, Upper Sandusky at Bucyrus, Circleville Logan Elm at
Williamsport Westfall, Cincinnati Finneytown at Cincinnati Shroder, West
Portsmouth Portsmouth West at Portsmouth (Saturday)
Week 3 (Sept. 11): Youngstown Cardinal Mooney at
Elyria Catholic, Belmont Union Local at St. Clairsville, Heath at Utica, Plain
City Jonathan Alder at Clarks Clinton-Massie, Cadiz Harrison Central at Martins
Ferry, Toledo Whitmer at Fostoria, Youngstown Liberty at Campbell Memorial,
Peninsula Woodridge at Chagrin Falls, Leavittsburg LaBrae at Cuyahoga Falls
Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, Garrettsville Garfield at Andover Pymatuning
Valley, Hamilton at Cincinnati Taft, Columbus Bishop Hartley at Bexley, Genoa
Area at Port Clinton, Paulding at Lima Central Catholic, Marion Pleasant at
Delaware Buckeye Valley, Cincinnati North College Hill at Cincinnati Madeira
Week 4 (Sept. 18): Ottawa-Glandorf at Kenton,
Chagrin Falls at Aurora (Thursday), Perry at Pepper Pike Orange (Thursday,
Sports Time Ohio), Wooster Triway at Akron Manchester, Howard East Knox at
Utica, Heath at Newark Licking Valley, Germantown Valley View at Dayton Oakwood
(Thursday), Massillon Tuslaw at Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley, Huron at Milan
Edison, Kettering Alter at Hamilton Badin, Lexington at Orrville, Cincinnati
Madeira at Cincinnati Finneytown, Creston Norwayne at Doylestown Chippewa,
Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas at Columbus Bishop Hartley, Cincinnati Taft at
Dayton Dunbar (Thursday)
Week 5 (Sept. 25): Martins Ferry at Belmont Union
Local, Sparta Highland at Marion Pleasant, Lorain Clearview at Medina Buckeye,
Loudonville at Johnstown-Monroe, Newark Catholic at Heath, Chagrin Falls Kenston
at Chagrin Falls, Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy at Wooster
Triway, Plain City Jonathan Alder at London, Orrville at Mansfield Senior,
Cincinnati McNicholas at Kettering Alter, Dayton Dunbar at Columbus Bishop
Hartley, Chillicothe Zane Trace at Piketon, Byesville Meadowbrook at Coshocton,
Waynesville at Camden Preble Shawnee
Week 6 (Oct. 2): Belmont Union Local at Richmond
Edison, Fredericktown at Johnstown-Monroe, Pemberville Eastwood at Genoa Area,
Elyria Catholic at Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (Saturday), Brookville at
Dayton Oakwood, Dayton Carroll at Kettering Alter, Utica at Loudonville,
Massillon Tuslaw at Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy,
Chillicothe at Ironton, Marion Elgin at Sparta Highland, London at Clarksville
Clinton-Massie, Chagrin Falls at Wickliffe, Cambridge at Coshocton, Orrville at
Millersburg West Holmes, Leavittsburg LaBrae at Struthers, Bucyrus at Mansfield
Ontario, Waverly at West Portsmouth Portsmouth West, Amanda-Clearcreek at Canal
Week 7 (Oct. 9): Johnstown-Monroe at Utica, Fostoria
at Bellevue, Lorain Clearview at Brooklyn, Canton Timken at Massillon Tuslaw,
Dayton Oakwood at Waynesville, Cortland Lakeview at Youngstown Liberty,
Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley at Akron Manchester, Paynesville Harvey at Chagrin
Falls, Elyria Catholic at Akron Hoban, Huron at Sandusky Perkins, Milan Edison
at Oak Harbor, Gahanna Columbus Academy at Heath, Dayton Thurgood Marshall at
Columbus Bishop Hartley, Pataskala Licking Heights at Grandview Heights, West
Milton Milton-Union at Brookville
Week 8 (Oct. 16): Aurora at Perry (Thursday, Sports
Time Ohio), Belmont Union Local at Rayland Buckeye Local, Martins Ferry at St.
Clairsville, Utica at Fredericktown, Wooster Triway at Zoarville Tuscarawas
Valley, Clarksville Clinton-Massie at Washington Court House Washington,
Kettering Alter at St. Bernard Roger Bacon, Akron Manchester at Massillon
Tuslaw, Lima Bath at Ottawa-Glandorf, Oak Harbor at Huron, Heath at Granville,
Youngstown Liberty at Hubbard, Delaware Buckeye Valley at Sparta Highland,
Waynesville at Dayton Northridge
Week 9 (Oct. 23): Massillon Tuslaw at Wooster
Triway, Johnstown-Monroe at Howard East Knox, Wickliffe at Perry, Chagrin Falls
at Pepper Pike Orange, Clarksville Clinton-Massie at Madison Plains, Cincinnati
Purcell Marian at Kettering Alter, Leavittsburg LaBrae at Girard, Wellington at
LaGrange Keystone, Akron Manchester at Canton Timken (Saturday), Pataskala
Licking Heights at West Jefferson, Amanda-Clearcreek at Lancaster Fairfield
Union, Plain City Jonathan Alder at Greenfield McClain, Cincinnati North College
Hill at Lockland, Pomeroy Meigs at Wellston
Week 10 (Oct. 30): Perry at Chagrin Falls, Fostoria
at Tiffin Columbian, Utica at Centerburg, Martins Ferry at Bellaire, Cuyahoga
Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy at Akron Manchester, Piketon at
Williamsport Westfall, Wooster Triway at Canton Timken, Girard at Youngstown
Liberty, Creston Norwayne at Smithville, Cadiz Harrison Central at St.
Clairsville, Kettering Alter at Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, Brookville at
Germantown Valley View, Ottawa-Glandorf at Celina, Marion Elgin at Marion
Pleasant, Wooster at Orrville, Columbus Bishop Hartley at Columbus Bishop Ready,
Port Clinton at Huron, St. Marys Memorial at Kenton, London Madison Plains at
London, Elyria Catholic at Cleveland Central Catholic (Saturday)
OHIO HIGH PREDICTIONS
Martins Ferry over Chagrin Falls
Elyria Catholic over Lorain Clearview
Ironton over Marion Pleasant
Kettering Alter over Clarksville Clinton-Massie
Kettering Alter over Elyria Catholic