Division V Football Overview: Can Ursuline Repeat? And here comes Coldwater


Youngstown Ursuline is looking to defend its Division V state title. (Photo by Stephanie Porter)

As is the case with the other divisions across the state of Ohio, Division V saw major changes as a result of this year’s realignment. Gone are Marion Local, Bucyrus Wynford, Portsmouth West and Johnstown-Monroe. Now in are Coldwater and Mechanicsburg. State champ Ursuline hasn’t gone anywhere.

As is the case with the other divisions across the state of Ohio, Division V saw major changes as a result of this year’s division realignment.

Gone are playoff teams Maria Stein Marion Local (2007 champion, 2008 semifinalist), Creston Norwayne, Bucyrus Wynford, Portsmouth West and Johnstown-Monroe. Some quality teams, however, have taken their place. Two-time state champion Coldwater moves down from Division IV, while playoff teams Mechanicsburg, Caldwell, East Canton and Mt. Blanchard Riverdale move up from Division VI.

Defending state champion Youngstown Ursuline remains the team to beat, but they are only one of several quality contenders. The Irish could be challenged by Cuyahoga Heights in Region 17. In Region 18, the field will be typically strong, led by what appears to be another quality Hamler Patrick Henry team.

In Region 19, Baltimore Liberty Union will be defending their regional crown behind a solid group of 18 seniors. With teams such as Minford, Fredericktown and Wheelersburg also bringing back plenty of starters, the task will not be easy.

Meanwhile, divisional and regional realignment was not friendly to Region 20. The region lost its champion from the past two years in Maria Stein Marion Local, but the addition of former Division IV powerhouse Coldwater along with Division VI state semifinalist Mechanicsburg and the move of the Columbus teams from Region 19 means that this region could be as strong as ever.

Here is a look at some of the teams to watch this year in Division V.


Region 17

Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (5-5)

This tradition-rich program makes the move down to Division V from Division IV and faces the challenge of navigating a tough schedule with a team in rebuilding mode. Only one starter returns on defense while the offense must replace all five starters on the offensive line. 

“Both sides of the football need to be rebuilt,” head coach Matt Melle said. “We lost some really productive skill players… We lost all five starters on the line from a year ago and we lost our whole front seven, so to say we have some holes to fill would be an understatement.”

Cuyahoga Heights (9-2)

The Redskins returned to the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 years after missing the postseason in 2007 by a fraction of a computer point. The team’s two losses came to two of the best teams in Division V – Kirtland and Youngstown Ursuline – and the Redskins fought hard in each game.

“I thought we had a good year,” head coach Al Martin said. “We lost a tough game to Kirtland somewhere towards the beginning of the season. We played well but made a couple of mistakes, and they beat us 14-7. From there on out, I thought we got better. By the end of the season, we were a pretty good team.”

This year’s team returns 14 starters (six offense, eight defense); including a major college prospect in Zach D’Orazio. Martin feels the offensive line may need some time to develop. But with much of the team coming back, the Redskins appear set to keep on winning and make another run at the postseason.  

“I think we have a lot players coming back that got a lot of experience last year,” Martin said. “We did graduate some very important seniors, but at programs like ours at our level – D-V and D-VI – that’s always going to happen. You always have to have younger kids coming in to replace them. But we really like a lot of the kids coming back, and we think the experience last year in the playoffs will be a big help to them.”

Kirtland (12-1)

The Hornets had a tremendous season in 2008, posting the first 12-win season in school history and narrowly missing a win over eventual state champion Youngstown Ursuline in the regional finals.

“We were pretty solid all the way around,” head coach Tiger LaVerde said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of weaknesses. We had some experienced kids that had a lot of playing time and had started a lot of games, and I figured we would have a chance to be really good. You never know, but we had a chance to be good and it turned out real well.”

The departing group of players – nine of whom moved on to play college football – helped raise the bar in Kirtland, notching three consecutive playoff berths after the school had just two prior appearances in its history. This year’s Kirtland team will be a younger group, returning just two starters on offense and three on defense. Leading the way will be Anthony Ritossa, who has verbally committed to play at the University of Akron.

“Last year, one of our big strengths was up front,” LaVerde said. “We had a great group on the offensive and defensive line, and they’re all gone. I think we still have some pretty good skill position (players). We have a good quarterback, but really the key’s going to be how well we do on the line of scrimmage.”

North Lima South Range (8-3)

South Range’s streak of seasons with double-digit wins was snapped at five last year, but the Raiders still found themselves in a familiar spot – the state playoffs. Head coach Dan Yeagley viewed the season as a success.

“Things went actually pretty well last year,” Yeagley said. “We were really actually inexperienced last year, and then we had some injuries throughout the season which really made us really inexperienced last year. We had some young kids and some seniors step up and perform very, very well for us.”

This year’s team returns three starters on each side of the ball. Yeagley likes what he sees at the skill positions but feels the team will need to develop along the offensive line.

“We lost a lot of offensive linemen,” Yeagley said. “That’s going to be our weakness this year is going to be the offensive line. We have Tim Shives coming back who started for us at tackle, and he’s our only offensive lineman, so we’ve got a lot to replace there. But I think it’s going to be pretty good. Our schedule’s going to be the tough thing.”

Youngstown Ursuline (15-0)

Youngstown Ursuline put together an extremely impressive list of wins last season, including regular season victories over Massillon Washington, Warren Harding, Youngstown Mooney, and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, along with two playoff wins over previously unbeaten Kirtland and Findlay Liberty-Benton. The Irish won their first state championship since 2000.

Several key players are gone from last year’s team, but a solid core returns, especially at the skill positions. Jones and Teague bring speed and experience to the running back position, while Kempe and Harris both have experience at quarterback.

One question mark is the status of Ohio State verbal Jamel Turner at defensive end. As of press time, it was unclear whether Turner would be back for his senior year at Ursuline.

Also Keep An Eye On

Apple Creek Waynedale (8-3)



The Golden Bears will be aiming for their third straight playoff appearance. Two-time All-Ohio running back Thad Nofsinger will be missed.  

Burton Berkshire (7-3)



The Badgers drop down from D-IV, Region 13 and could be postseason contenders.

Columbiana Crestview (10-2)



Always a tough team to deal with, the Rebels have made the postseason five of the last six years and will be expected by many to do so once again in 2009.

East Canton (7-4)



The Skippers struggled last year but do return first team All-Ohio receiver Aramis Greenwood (6-1, 175).

Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (10-2)


The Lancers posted another strong season in 2008 but now face a transition period with the retirement of head coach Bob Spicer and the departure of a strong group of players that included two first-team All-Ohio performers in RB Tom Hallal and QB Billy Urban.


Rocky River Lutheran West (7-3)



The Longhorns narrowly missed the playoffs in 2008, finishing ranked ninth in Region 17.

Smithville (6-4)



The Smithies were a competitive team in 2008 that lost some tough games and will be looking to get over the hump and return to the postseason in 2009. 

Sugarcreek Garaway (7-3)



The Pirates will be looking to improve on their seven-win season of 2008 but will miss graduated first-team All-Ohio quarterback David Gerber.

Other Teams In The Region

Brookfield (4-6); East Palestine (4-6); Garfield Heights Trinity (5-5); Gates Mills Hawken (4-6); United Hanoverton (6-4); Independence (4-6); Lisbon David Anderson (0-10); Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas (3-6); Middlefield Cardinal (6-4); Mineral Ridge (3-7); New Middletown Springfield (5-5); Newcomerstown (2-8); Orwell Grand Valley (3-7); Richmond Heights (6-4); Rootstown (1-9); West Salem Northwestern (3-7)


Region 18

Ashland Crestview (9-2)

The Crestview Cougars bounced back from an uncharacteristic losing season in 2007 to notch nine regular season wins and a playoff berth.

“The previous year, we came off a 4-6 season,” head coach Sean Conway said. “I think we had exceeded what the public’s expectations of us were, but at the same time, that’s the type of program that we hope to put together in the future – a team that’s capable of doing something like that. I attribute it to a lot of hard work and dedication from the kids, and there was outstanding leadership from last year’s senior class. They’re going to be greatly missed here in the future.”

Crestview ran into a tough opening round matchup in the playoffs, having to face off with powerhouse Hamler Patrick Henry. The Cougars’ postseason was cut short at the hands of Patrick Henry, but the experience has motivated this year’s team, which returns 11 total starters on offense and defense.

“The goal is still to win Week 1, because we do have a difficult schedule,” Conway said. “But I do think last year’s success has self-motivated the kids. This seems to be the most self-motivated Crestview offseason we’ve had. I don’t know if it will translate into wins and losses, but I’m definitely happy with the way the kids are working and the dedication that they’ve shown.”

Defiance Tinora (7-3)

With most of their players returning from 2007’s playoff team, expectations were high for Tinora in 2008. But tough losses to three playoff teams, including Division VI state champion Delphos St. John’s, left the Rams out of the postseason.

Head coach Ken Krouse says there was some disappointment in finishing out of the playoffs.

“The bar has been raised for our program,” Krouse said. “Ten years ago, you take (the 7-3 record) and run, but with the success we’ve had recently, obviously we wish we had won our league and gotten to the postseason, which we didn’t.”

The good news for the Rams is that last year’s team was still mostly underclassmen, and this year, nine starters return on both sides of the ball. The expectations will be to make noise in the postseason again, but the Rams will have to do better against the three teams that bested them in 2008.

“It’s the same as what we faced last year,” Krouse said. “Our games 1, 2, and 4 are huge, and those are the three games we lost, with Liberty Center, Delphos (St. John’s) and then Sherwood Fairview being our first league game. It is huge that we get off to a good start.”

Delphos Jefferson (9-2)

Jefferson put together a strong season in 2009 but ran into juggernaut Findlay Liberty-Benton in the opening round of the playoffs. The Wildcats lost 19 seniors from last year’s group and also will have a new head coach this year in Bub Lindeman.

Lindeman feels his team will have the postseason as a goal once again.

“(They) will be hungry to prove that they are a playoff-caliber team,” Lindeman said.

Findlay Liberty-Benton (14-1)

The Eagles were nothing short of dominant in 2008. After winning 14 straight games – nine of which were shutouts and none of which were closer than 20 points – Liberty-Benton was defeated by another unbeaten team, Youngstown Ursuline, in the state finals. 

“We fell a little short of what we wanted to do once we made it up to Massillon,” head coach Tim Nichols said, “but I think it’s something that hopefully will help benefit our program down the road – that we had a team that did achieve that level and hopefully will inspire kids to try to get back to that. It was just a great experience. That’s why you coach and play. Once you do it once, you want to do it again.”

Nichols cites a strong group of seniors for last year’s success, most of whom had played together since sixth grade.

“You just can’t put a price on senior leadership, and we had that,” Nichols said. “Things just came together. We stayed injury free for the most part, but when you just get a group of kids that stayed together that long, I think good things are going to happen for you.”

This year’s team returns just one starter on offense and two on defense. Those numbers will increase by one if QB/DB Aaron Craft, the reigning Division V Offensive Player of the Year, decides to play football as a senior. Craft has committed to Ohio State to play basketball. As of press time, his future on the gridiron was up in the air.

Regardless of what Craft decides, Nichols thinks last year’s seniors set the tone for more success in the future.

“I hope we can continue on and play at a pretty good level,” Nichols said. “There’s going to be some new names and new faces, but I think once again those seniors provided what needs to be done in the offseason and preseason. We’re probably not going to change too many things.”

Hamler Patrick Henry (12-1)

The train kept rolling for Hamler Patrick Henry last season. The Patriots won their seventh straight conference title – the longest in the history of Ohio’s oldest high school sports conference, the Northwest Ohio Athletic League – and their fifth appearance in the regional finals in six years before losing to state runner-up Liberty-Benton.

“I think we had a very good season with what we wanted to get into, and I think we lost to a very good football team,” head coach Bill Inselmann said. “So I think we achieved most of our goals.”

This year’s team returns a good core of five starters on offense and six on defense, including a 1,600-yard rusher in Buenger and an experienced QB in George. But the wide receiver position as well as the lines could need some development.

“The biggest rebuilding area probably in the last eight years we’ve had to have at a key position is our wide receiver position,” Inselmann said. “We lost some good ones there and lost all of our depth, so wide receiver is going to be our biggest question mark going into the season.

“It’ll be an interesting season depending on how our youth develops on the offensive line, defensive interior and especially at wide receiver.”

But coming into the season, Patrick Henry remains a program with big expectations. 

“One of the biggest things we have going right now is our kids are confident,” Inselmann said. “They believe they can win, so that’s probably something I think that’s really picked up over this last eight years.”

Mt. Blanchard Riverdale (8-3)

The Riverdale Falcons had a special season in 2008, posting an 8-2 record and making the postseason for the first time in school history. The experience was one to remember.

“The community, for never having gone to the playoffs, was very ecstatic about it,” head coach Jeremy Kloepfer said. “You have all kinds of people talking to you, talking to the kids, cheering for the kids on Friday nights. It was just a one-of-a-kind experience for the kids, and I’m glad that I could help be a part of that and try and get them to that level.”

Kloepfer gives much of the credit to a group of experienced seniors that experienced a winless season as freshmen but persevered and made the playoffs in their final year.

“Going into it, we definitely thought we’d have a good season due to the experience we had at the senior level,” Kloepfer said. “We had about nine guys who had played varsity for three years probably.

“For those seniors, going 0-10 as freshmen, that was a heck of an accomplishment and achievement for those kids, going out in their senior year 8-2.”

This year’s team returns eight starters on offense and five on defense and moves up to Division V from Division VI. Kloepfer feels that the offense will be a strength, while cutting back on turnovers and getting continuity on defense will be the biggest things to address. 

“We’ve definitely got to get some continuity early on,” Kloepfer said. “That way everybody knows their gaps and their assignments and just how the person next to them plays their spot.”

In Kloepfer’s first three years the Falcons have gone 2-8, 5-5 and 8-3. The four years prior to his arrival the program went 1-39.

Weber returns after throwing for over 2,000 yards and 15 TDs last season.

Northwood (9-1)

After dropping their season opener to Kansas Lakota, Northwood steamrolled their way to a 9-1 regular season, winning their final nine games by an average of 35 points per game. Unfortunately, the computer points weren’t there for the Rangers to make the playoffs.

“It was one of the most fun years I’ve had in coaching just in terms of being around the kids,” head coach Ken James said. “We enjoyed it. Obviously we lost real early – turned it over five times, and we can’t do that and win against a good team. That obviously ended up biting us in the rear end at the end, and we knew that we might have to go 10-0 to get in. Region 18’s a little difficult.”

The Rangers return six starters on defense and five on offense. The schedule has gotten tougher with newly-added games against Division VI finalist Hopewell-Loudon and Division IV semifinalist Genoa, but Northwood will still expect to have another good season.

“I’m sad to seniors go, but by the same token we have a bunch of what we think are really good players coming back and a really good freshman class coming in,” James said. “Our program’s stable, so we think we’re going to have a real solid year again this year.”

Sherwood Fairview (9-2)

The Apaches were in their first season under new head coach Dave Robinson last year, but the team didn’t miss a beat and continued their winning ways with a conference title and a playoff berth.

“Last year, I was very pleased with the way the kids reacted to the change in the head coach’s position,” Robinson said. “My mentor and long-term coach Bob Olwin left and went down to Versailles. Football’s pretty important to the people and the kids in this community, and losing somebody like him and replacing him with somebody like me who’d never had any experience being a head coach, that was going to be a big change. But the entire staff stayed on and the kids reacted very well, very positive to everything.”

This year’s Apache squad returns six starters on offense and seven on defense. Robinson expects it to be another winning year at Fairview.

“We go into every season talking to our kids that our expectation is that we’re going to win the league title and we’re going to be back in the playoffs,” Robinson said. “That doesn’t change. We never talk about anything less than that.

“We have some huge voids to fill. Probably for the first time in a long time, defensively we have quite a few kids coming back, but as far as quarterback experience, for the first time in quite a few years, we’re going to be lacking there. We do have two juniors that will probably be playing for that spot that put on time on their own throwing and working and doing things to help prepare themselves to take that spot.”

Also Keep An Eye On

Archbold (9-3)


The Blue Streaks made their second straight playoff appearance in 2008, this time bringing home a postseason win over Liberty Center. They will try to do it again this year with a new head coach.

Collins Western Reserve (9-3)


Losses to three playoff teams (Creston Norwayne, Norwalk St. Paul, Ashland Crestview) kept the Roughriders out of the playoffs last year.

Hicksville (8-2)



The Aces got out of the gate strong with eight straight wins to start the season but fell to two tough teams (Sherwood Fairview and Defiance Tinora) to end the year.

Lafayette Allen East (2-8)

The Mustangs move up from Division VI to Division V and hope to continue to build up the program.

“The athletes have been able to benefit from a full offseason strength and conditioning program this year,” head coach Cam Staley said. “We were a young team last season and will be again, but many of the 2008 sophomore class gained valuable experience playing on Friday night. We look forward to returning Allen East to a competitive program in the Northwest conference.”

Liberty Center (9-2)



Longtime head coach Rex Lingruen’s crew will be hoping to make another appearance in the postseason.

Lima Central Catholic (5-5)

After having a strong stretch between 2004 and 2007, the Thunderbirds fell to .500 last season, losing four games by seven points or less. Opener with Delphos St. John’s, the reigning D-VI state champion, will set the tone. 


Other Teams In The Region

Bloomdale Elmwood (6-4); Bluffton (4-6); Castallia Margaretta (3-7); Columbia Station Columbia (1-9); Delta (2-8); Elmore Woodmore (2-8); Gibsonburg (5-5); Haviland Wayne Trace (3-7); Jeromesville Hillsdale (6-4); Kansas Lakota (5-5); Loudonville (3-7); Montpelier (0-10); New London (6-4); North Robinson Colonel Crawford (2-8); Oberlin (6-4); Plymouth (3-7); Spencerville (4-6)


Region 19

Baltimore Liberty Union (12-2)


The Liberty Union Lions put together a fantastic season in 2008, posting nine regular season wins and then winning the Region 19 bracket.

The Lions lost some key players from last year’s team, including lineman Sam Johnson, who signed with Ohio University, and QB/DB Andy Mix, who signed with Toledo to play baseball. But 11 total starters return on offense and defense along with a big senior class, giving Liberty Union hopes and expectations of another strong season.

“The bar was set high in 2008 with league and regional championships,” head coach Dan Johnson said. “The eight seniors who graduated leave big shoes to fill. We have a large class of 18 seniors who could step up and meet the challenge of performing at the same level in 2009.” 


Caldwell (8-3)

Head coach Mike Devol had a successful homecoming last season. After coaching at Caldwell from 1974 to 1994, Devol spent time at two other schools before returning to his alma mater in 2008. The Redskins posted an 8-2 regular season with a playoff berth.

“We expect to win,” Devol said. “When I was at Caldwell before, I think we won 130 games – about 70 percent of our games. I would expect with the kids we have at Caldwell and the people that we have up there that we’ll be successful no matter when we take the field.”

This year’s team moves from Division VI to Division V, but the shift doesn’t make a difference in the Redskins’ outlook.

“We have to play the teams that we play, and the schedule didn’t change, so it didn’t bother us one way or the other,” Devol said.

This year’s team will have a lot of new starters on both sides of the ball, but the expectations will not change.

“We lost a lot of seniors that were really good,” Devol said. “They certainly deserved to be 8-2. We’re going to be extremely young this year, but like I say, that doesn’t matter. We’re going to step on the field, we’re going to give 110 percent, and I think we’re going to win the majority of the games we play.”

Fredericktown (8-2)

After a 10-3 season and a berth in the Region 19 finals in 2007, some thought 2008 would be a rebuilding year for Fredericktown. But the Freddies surprised some people, posting an eight-win season despite having a young team.

“At the end of the season last year, there were kind of a lot of mixed emotions because we were a young team, and I don’t think anyone would have expected us to go 8-2 at the beginning of the season,” head coach Luke Beal said. “But once the season started and we started having some success, the kids I think were really counting on making another trip to the playoffs. So despite the nice record, there was some disappointment at the end of the season when we just missed the playoffs.”

Beal says that the team has turned that disappointment into something positive.

“It’s been a real motivator for us in the offseason,” Beal said. “We’ve had a great winter and spring. It’s really motivated our kids because they knew how close we were.”

This year’s Fredericktown squad will be in a position to cash in on the motivation as they return a veteran team with at least eight starters on each side of the ball. The playoffs will be on the team’s mind, but more than that, the Freddies want to capture a league title.

“Our top priority right now is to try and win our league,” Beal said. “Despite the nice seasons that we’ve had the last two years, that’s been a source of disappointment for us – we have not been able to win our league. That’s got to be our top priority.”

Minford (8-3)

Things continue to look up for the Minford football program. The team earned their second straight playoff berth last year – their fifth postseason appearance in school history and the fourth one in eight years. Head coach Brent Daniels has led the Falcons to consecutive successful seasons during his time at Minford.

“This is our second year running the Wing-T offense and me being the head coach,” Daniels said. “We had some good kids that put a lot of time in the weight room during the offseason, which is a good reason why we were as successful as we were last season.”

This year’s team appears to be a very experienced group, returning ten starters on offense and seven on defense.

“We’ve got all of our skill guys back from last year,” Daniels said. “We have to replace a couple linemen, but overall we hope to be pretty good this year.

Not surprisingly, the excitement and expectations surrounding this year’s team are at a high level.

“The expectations are high this year,” Daniels said. “I guess you could say the bar’s been set here a little bit finally. I think they realize what’s at stake this year and what we’re expected to do this year. The excitement’s there. I think everybody’s ready to get the football season kicked off, and we’re just going to see what happens.”

West Lafayette Ridgewood (8-3)

Ridgewood made their sixth consecutive playoff appearance in 2008 after a second-place finish in conference.

The Generals lost a strong class of senior players from last year’s team, but the expectations for a winning season and a postseason appearance remain.

“We lost a great class of seniors but feel we have a very hard working group returning,” head coach John Slusser said. “Our goals have not changed as a program in that we expect to play for championships. Our senior class has waited its turn and is looking forward to the challenge of Ridgewood football.”

Wheelersburg (10-2)

Despite having a young team and losing their starting quarterback to injury in the first game, Wheelersburg put together a strong season in 2008, winning nine regular season games and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

“We were really tickled with last year’s group,” head coach Rob Woodward said. “We only had seven seniors going into the year. To go 10-2 was tremendous.”

This year’s team returns six starters on offense and eight on defense. Expectations will be high but Woodward says the team must take things to the next level in order to surpass last season’s performance.

“We return a lot of individuals on both sides of the ball,” Woodward said. “With already having success, they need to understand that the work ethic, the level of work and intensity needs to be raised. They can’t maintain the same work ethic from last year or things will turn out basically the same as last year.”

Also Keep An Eye On

Bainbridge Paint Valley (8-2)



The Bearcats narrowly missed a postseason berth last year but should be in contention to make the playoffs this season.


Nelsonville-York (8-3)



The Buckeyes will be aiming for another berth in the postseason and will have an all-state running back in senior Derek Arnold leading the way.

Woodsfield Monroe Central (7-3)

The Seminoles will be led by quarterback Tyler Kinchen, who won second-team All-Ohio honors last season despite being just a freshman.

Other Teams In The Region

Barnesville (1-9); Belpre (3-7); Beverly Fort Frye (3-7); Cardington-Lincoln (5-5); Centerburg (1-9); Chesapeake (4-6); Chillicothe Huntington (1-9); Chillicothe Southeastern (3-7); Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant (6-4); Crooksville (6-4); Frankfort Adena (6-4); Galion Northmor (3-7); Johnstown-Northridge (4-6); Lore City Buckeye Trail (0-9); Lucasville Valley (5-5); Manchester (0-10); Mount Gilead (5-5); Oak Hill (7-3); Sarahsville Shenandoah (4-6); Stewart Federal Hocking (7-3); Sugar Grove Berne Union (4-6)


Region 20

Anna (9-2)

The Anna football program continued to make strides last season, posting their best record yet since joining the powerful Midwest Athletic Conference. 

“I think we progressed pretty well from the beginning of the season to the end,” head coach Bryan Rioch said. “I think we got a lot better. Obviously going 9-1 in the regular season in that league and your two losses for the year are coming to Coldwater and to Marion Local, you have to be pretty happy with that.”

The loss to Marion Local came in the opening round of the playoffs – a spot where Anna would rather not see a conference opponent.

“One of the rationales for going into that league was once you get into the playoffs, you have an opportunity to be as good as anybody and win the whole thing,” Rioch said. “It was a little disappointing to run into Marion Local after already playing them the week before. But getting away from that, just taking a look at the whole thing, I think the program generally took a step forward.”

This year’s team returns seven starters on offense and six on defense, and there’s some talk in MAC country that this could be Anna’s year. Rioch says the team’s main question mark is in the trenches.

“We have a lot of question marks in terms of line play,” Rioch said. “We graduate four of our five offensive linemen, and we were pretty good up front. We feel we have some young kids that can step up potentially. We won’t be as big, but we’ll be probably more athletic. All our skill kids are back, which is a big positive.”

Casstown Miami East (9-2)

Miami East football has had two memorable years. The Vikings followed up their first ever playoff season in 2007 with a repeat performance in 2008, along with a conference crown to go with it.

“It went real well,” head coach Max Current said. “We won a league title, and that hasn’t happened since 1983, so it was an exciting year. It was also the 50th year of football at our school, so there was a lot of celebration every week in honoring players of the past. It was a great year to be a part of.”

The success on the gridiron has resulted in plenty of community support.

“It’s been great,” Current said. “Everybody’s been excited. Our fans have been following to all the games and packing our side of the stadium wherever we go.”

The cupboard won’t be bare for Miami East this year as five starters return on each side of the ball, including 1,800 yards worth of rushing production on offense. But after losing 16 seniors and three All-Ohio players, it’s time for a new core of players to rise to the top.

“We’re going to need some guys to step up,” Current said. “We’ve kind of ridden the past year’s graduating class the past three years. Now it’s these guys’s time.”

Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (11-1)

Head coach Eric Taylor made a big splash in his first season at CHCA after moving over from Finneytown. The Eagles posted an undefeated regular season and also captured a playoff victory.

“I thought our kids really played well,” Taylor said. “The biggest thing we did is our kids did a good job of just playing good team ball and really being eleven strong and working together for the benefit of their teammates. We were pleased.”

This year’s team returns six or seven starters on offense and five on defense, as well as two outstanding specialists in kicker Joe Riefenberg and major college prospect John Lloyd at punter. Things could be in line for CHCA to be a prime contender to make it out of Region 20, but Taylor thinks it could come down to how well some of the younger linemen step up for those who have graduated.

“We have a good core,” Taylor said. “I think we have four of five all-state players back and five of seven all-district players. So we have a very good core of some very important roles returning, but it’s all going to come down to how we do up front.”

Coldwater (12-1)

One of Ohio’s premier small-school powerhouse programs, the Cavaliers arrive in Division V after winning Division IV state championships in 2005 and 2007 and advancing to the regional finals in 2008. The Cavaliers have won six of the last eight conference titles in the Midwest Athletic Conference, the state’s strongest small-school affiliation.

The Cavaliers lost several pieces from last year’s team, including Ohio State signee Adam Homan. A new group is ready to take over this year, led by University of Cincinnati verbal commitment Eric Lefeld. Wenning is a standout QB with big game experience.

Columbus Bishop Ready (8-3)

It was a bit of an odd year for Bishop Ready. After having opponents cancel games in both Week 4 and Week 5, the Silver Knights found themselves in the odd predicament of not only having an unexpected three-week layoff in the middle of the season but also trying to make the postseason with just eight games to work with.

“We had two teams – one from New York and one from Kentucky – that simply said they just didn’t think they could play us,” head coach Larry Wolf said. “After they had signed a contract to do so, they just thought that we were too good. I could have assured them we weren’t, but they obviously didn’t want to hear that, so they canceled.”

Things worked out, however, as Bishop Ready did make it back to the playoffs and made an appearance in the regional finals for the second straight year.

“Actually, I think (the time off) was a turning point for our season because we really got some midseason corrections taken care of,” Wolf said. “Normally when you’re going week to week, you don’t have an opportunity, but we knew we had three weeks, and we fixed some things in a hurry that we could see were going to be problems after the first three games. It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”

This year’s team will feature five returning starters on each side of the ball and have the same goals and expectations as always. Wolf feels this year’s team can be good but is concerned about the team’s depth.

“We’re very thin,” Wolf said. “We have good, quality kids, but we are one-deep everywhere… This is probably as thin as we’ve been in seven or eight years.”

Mechanicsburg (12-1)

As if the additions of Coldwater and Bishop Ready weren’t enough, Mechanicsburg moves up from Division VI to give Region 20 four teams that played in regional final games in 2008. The Indians posted an unbeaten regular season last year and advanced to the regional finals for only the second time in school history.  

“We had an outstanding year,” head coach Chris Kosiorek said. “We had great seniors. We had 12 leaders that took charge and made the coach’s job a lot easier, and then we had underclassmen that followed the guidance of those seniors and the coaches. That’s why we had the season we did, and we’re looking forward to next year.”

This year’s team returns five starters on each side of the ball, including second-team All-Ohio receiver Joe Webb. Kosiorek says the turnout for offseason workouts has been excellent but that it’s time for a new group of players to step up and move forward from the success of 2008.

“A lot of our kids that were role players last year need to be impact players this year, so therefore they have to do a lot more than what was required of them last year,” Kosiorek said. “Some of our starters that are returning, we’re going to expect bigger things from them.

“When you get a group of kids that buy into something – and I think these kids are buying into the system and buying into what we as coaches are trying to accomplish – it makes it a lot easier, but there’s a lot of work ahead of us. Just because we were successful last year doesn’t guarantee anything, and that’s been stressed to the kids a lot.”

St. Henry (6-4)

Two years removed from its last state title, the Redskins might have just what it takes to get No. 7.

Stahl, Schwieterman, Fortkamp, Fishbaugh and Wuebker all earned all-conference honors last season on a team that lost to Marion Local, Anna and Delphos St. John’s by seven points or less. Only Coldwater beat the Skins by double-digits.

St. Henry has gone 6-4 each of the last two seasons and seven wins likely gets them in the postseason. As usual, the Skins open with Marion Pleasant in a great match up of small school powers. St. Henry has won four straight in the series, including a 2006 playoff meeting. The last two openers have been decided by four points total.

West Jefferson (10-3)

West Jefferson continued their winning ways in 2008, advancing to the regional finals for the third straight season. The Rough Riders had a goal to advance further, but head coach Shawn Buescher was still pleased with the season’s outcome.

“As a program, we definitely had a goal to get over that hump last year,” Buescher said. “We weren’t able to do so, but all in all, we were able to win another league and advance pretty deep, so it was a successful season.”

Expect West Jefferson to once again be in the thick of things in Region 20. First-team All-Ohio quarterback D.J. Mendenhall is among a solid core that will lead this year’s team.

“We return a good core again,” Buescher said. “We feel very good about next year’s senior group and the leaders that we have there.”

Also Keep An Eye On

Hamilton Badin (8-4)


The Rams put together a strong campaign in 2008, winning seven regular season games and a first-round overtime playoff win. This year, the Rams move down to Division V and will be breaking in a new head coach after former coach David Wirth accepted the head coaching position at Covington (Ky.) Catholic.           

Lees Creek East Clinton (7-4)


The Astros rebounded from back-to-back losing seasons to earn a postseason berth in 2008.   


Minford Center Fairbanks (8-2)


The Panthers completed their fourth straight winning season in 2008, but two early season losses to tough opponents prevented their return to the playoffs.


West Liberty-Salem (9-2)



The Tigers made their third consecutive playoff appearance in 2008 and their fifth in six seasons.

Versailles (2-8)


Year 2 of the Bob Olwin era starts. Last year was an adjustment for both the program and coach who installed his spread offense, made famous at Sherwood Fairview. After back-to-back 2-8 seasons and just nine wins in three years, the Tigers should start bringing the bite again. The program won five state titles between 1993-2003.   

North Lewisburg Triad (7-3)



The Cardinals finished as the odd man out and ninth in the region in computer points last year. To make it worse, Triad was painfully close in all three losses, none of which was by double-digits.

Minford Center Fairbanks (8-2)


Despite an eight-win season the Panthers missed out on the playoffs (finished 11th in region). Winning two of three non-league games this year is key to postseason run.


Other Teams In The Region

Clark Montessori (2-8); Deer Park (1-9); Mariemont (2-8); Summit Country Day (4-6); Columbus Africentric (5-5); Grandview Heights (4-6); Gahnna Columbus Academy (4-6); Jamestown Greeneview (2-8); Lewisburg Tri-County North (3-7); Dayton Christian (4-6); New Lebanon Dixie (5-5); Richwood North Union (7-3); Rockford Parkway (4-6); Tipp City Bethel (3-7); West Alexandria Twin Valley South (5-5); Williamsburg (1-8)



Derek Arnold, RB, Nelsonville-York

Justin Buenger, RB/DB, Hamler Patrick Henry

Jake Conrad, RB/DB, West Lafayette Ridgewood

Aaron Craft, QB/DB, Findlay Liberty-Benton

Zach D’Orazio, QB/SS/P, Cuyahoga Heights

Tyler Kinchen, QB, Woodsfield Monroe Central (soph.)

D.J. Mendenhall, QB/DB, West Jefferson

Andrew Perkins, WR, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy

Wes Rataiczak, WR, Sarahsville Shenandoah

Anthony Ritossa, TE/LB, Kirtland

Warren Shields, DE, Richwood North Union (jr.)

Alec Swartz, QB, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy

Joe Webb, RB/WR/DB/P, Mechanicsburg

John Lloyd, P/DE/QB, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy


Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10


Region 17
Youngstown Ursuline over Cuyahoga Heights 

Region 18
Hamler Patrick Henry over Defiance Tinora

Region 19
Wheelersburg over Baltimore Liberty Union 

Region 20
St. Henry over Anna 

Championship Game
Youngstown Ursuline over St. Henry



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