It’s a crazy collection of talent and it will be on hand this weekend at the state football finals. The following are players you want to make sure to see if your headed to Stark County. Most of these guys will be headed to the end zone this weekend.
Taking snaps, running wild and tackling machines…these guys will bring it Friday and Saturday in Stark County.
Antwan Gilbert, Trotwood-Madison, RB, 5-10, 170, Sr.: After rushing for over 2,500 yards last year, Gilbert has racked up 2,117 this season. He started off slow (394 yards in the first five games), but has since slapped 1,719 yards on opponents. In the last four playoff games he’s been at his best. In victories over Harrison, Winton Woods, Kings and Lake, Gilbert has gone for 901 yards and 13 TDs on 113 carries. He’s rushed for 238, 241 and 269 yards the last three weeks. He has offers from Cincinnati, Louisville, Indiana, North Carolina, Pitt and West Virginia
Braxton Miller, Wayne, QB, 6-3, 200, Sr.: An Ohio State recruit and one of the country’s top prep players (also had offers from USC, Wisconsin, Florida, Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan), Miller will cap his remarkable prep career in the D-I state final. This season Miller has thrown for 15 TDs and run for 15 more.
Said Wayne head coach Jay Minton: “We’ve tried to develop him into more of a passing quarterback instead of just a running guy, but when a kid runs like that and has that kind of ability I don’t think you harness that. Especially in the playoffs.”
Shaq Washington, Maple Heights, QB, 5-9, 170, Sr.: Despite being projected as a wide receiver when he heads to Cincinnati next year, Washington does his damage in high school from under center. For the second straight season Washington has thrown for over 1,00 yards and rushed for over 1,000. He has exactly 1,000 yards on the ground and 13 TDs on 115 carries. Threw the air he’s completed 102-of-164 passes for 1,719 yards and 22 TDs. He’s thrown just ONE interception.
“Shaq is what makes the team go, both at practice and on Friday nights,” Maple Heights head coach Todd Filtz said. “He’s a dual threat QB that’s very efficient in both. If we’re to win, Shaq will have to have a big game both ways.”
Jordan Leininger, Delphos St. John’s, QB, 6-2, 205, Sr.: Leininger has started more varsity games (43) than most players even have in their entire careers. A starter and 1,000-yard rusher at RB on the Blue Jays last two state final teams, Leininger switched to QB this year and has flourished. In addition to running for over 1,000 yards for the third straight season, Leininger has thrown for over 1,200. He’s accounted for 27 TDs, 17 of which have come threw the air. Leininger is the 2010 Midwest Athletic Conference offensive player of the year.
“We always knew he threw a nice ball,” DSJ head coach Todd Schulte said. “He’s a patient QB, he wants to sit in that pocket and find room and let things happen in front of him. He hasn’t put is in bad situations.”
Ellis Brown, Shadyside, QB, 6-0, 152, Sr.: Senior QB has excelled in his first-year as a starter. A former receiver, Brown has thrown for 1,223 yards and 17 TDs and rushed for 664 yards and seven TDs. He has shown a penchant for reverting back to his receiver roots and running early when feeling pressure in the pocket, but head coach Mark Holenka has learned to adapt.
“I can’t argue with what he’s done. He’s what makes the offense run,” Holenka said. “Sometimes he’s frustrating as a coach, but to the public it looks like ‘Wow, he’s good.’ And he is.”
Noah Key, Columbus Hartley, RB, 5-11, 185, Sr.: Regarded by many as one of the best backs in the state regardless of division. Key has rushed for 2,755 yards and 39 TDs this season on 315 attempts and is a big reason the Hawks average 369 yards on the ground. In the D-IV state semifinals last week, Key ran for 245 yards and three TDs on 25 carries in a 29-28 win over two-time defending state champion Kettering Alter. He also scored the game-winning 2-point conversion.
“He’s certainly all that. He’s electric,” Chagrin Falls head coach Mark Iammarino said. “He has to be one of the best running backs in the state regardless of Division. He’s put up X-Box type numbers this year.”
Deonte Gibson, Lakewood St. Edward, DL, 6-3, 225, Sr.: The Eagles have a ton of future D-I college players on their team but none received more offers than Gibson. The two-time All-Ohioan and Pitt recruit had 15 offers including Northwestern, Stanford, Michigan, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Colorado.
Reese Klenke, Coldwater, WR, 6-4, 195, Sr.: Has produced one of the state’s top seasons for a receiver with 1,625 yards and 20 TDs on 96 receptions. Klenke shared the MAC’s Offensive Player of the year award with Leininger.
“We try to get our best players in positions that help us make plays,” Coldwater head coach Chip Otten said. “We move Reese around. You can’t always put the ball in a receiver’s hands. We try to find spots to get him the ball effectively.”
Akise Teague, Youngstown Ursuline, RB, 5-8, 179, Sr.: One of the state’s top players regardless of division, Teague is also one of its most versatile. He plays RB, WR, DB, returns kicks, can line-up in the Wildcat and is a threat every time he touches the ball. This season Teague has scored 43 TDs and rushed for 2,223 yards on 208 carries. He also has 748 yards receiving on 31 catches.
“At times he looks like a slasher and at times you’ll see him lower his shoulder and run someone over,” Ursuline head coach Dan Reardon said. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world but he runs very strong for his size. He can be a very physical player when the situation presents itself and he can make you miss in the open field.”
Teague has offers from Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Ohio and Toledo. Ohio State contacted him last week.
“You want to say you just have to tackle him, but there’s going to be some missed tackles,” Otten said. “He’s just that good.”
In last year’s state final win over Coldwater Teague rushed for 112 yards and three TDs on just nine carries, had 66 return yards and caught three passes for 19 yards.
Steve Parker, Akron Buchtel, QB, 5-9, 160, Sr.: A dual threat QB who will lead his team against Columbus Watterson in the D-III final, Parker has thrown for 1,616 yards and rushed for 899. He’s accounted for 30 TDs, including 24 of which he’s thrown for.
Chris Pohlman, Delphos St. John’s, LB, 6-2, 240, Sr.: Heading into his senior season, Pohlman had posted 299 tackles as a sophomore and junior and was coming off a 2009 season in which he was named the AP’s D-VI defensive player of the year in Ohio. He hasn’t disappointed in his swan song. Pohlman was recently named the Midwest Athletic Conference defensive player of the year for the second straight season. After registering 158 tackles as a sophomore and 141 as a junior. Pohlman has 123 this season. In the Region 22 final against McComb he intercepted three passes and returned two for TDs.
“Chris is obviously our man in the middle,” Schulte said. “We need that stud in there and he’s definitely fit that bill.”
DeVonte Ransom, Maple Heights, RB, 5-10, 180, Sr.: Looks to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark in the D-II state final. Ransom enters Week 15 with 1,929 yards and 23 TDs on 226 carries.
“He’s an explosive tailback for us who we rely heavily on,” Filtz said.
Aaron Rammel, Coldwater, RB/LB, 6-0, 190, Sr.: Will be counted upon heavily on both sides of the ball for the Cavaliers in the D-V final against Youngstown Ursuline. The first team All-MAC defender ranks second on the team with 110 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions. He’s the team’s leading rusher too (562 yards, 12 TDs). Rammel will also line up in the Wildcat. He had 3.5 tackles and 75 all-purpose yards in last year’s state final.
Paul Kempe, Youngstown Ursuline, QB, 6-1, 185, Sr.: Signal caller is looking to improve to 3-0 in state title games as a starter. In the last two state championships Kempe hasn’t posted huge numbers (10-of-19, 119 yards, TD, INT combined) but he has produced wins. That’s the most important stat for a QB.
“I don’t know if there’s been any other QB that’s started in three consecutive championship games,” Reardon said. “He has a chance to win a third and I have a feeling that he’s probably the first QB in Ohio history with the opportunity to do that. I guess as a QB you look at how many games he’s won and (he’s) done a great job.”
Patrick Rhomberg, Columbus Watterson, QB, 6-1, 210, Sr.: QB has shown a penchant for making plays with his feet and arm when warranted. Rhomberg has thrown for 1,186 yards and 13 TDs and rushed for 344 yards and eight TDs.
Said Watterson head coach Dan Bjalac: “He can do both (run and pass) for us and that’s what’s helped us along – his ability to do both in key games.”
Corey Smith, Akron Buchtel, WR, 6-0, 175, Jr.: One of only two receivers in the state finals with over 1,000 receiving yards (Coldwater’s Klenke is the other). Smith has a total of 1,141 yards and 16 TDs on 50 catches.
Matt Hammond, Shadyside, DE, 6-0, 185, Jr.: Hammond will have to have a big game against Delphos St. John’s in regards to pressuring and stepping DSJ QB Jordan Leininger. Hammond is capable. He enters the state final with 103 tackles and 13 sacks.
Nicholas Grigsby, Trotwood-Madison, LB, 6-1, 200, Sr.: The senior is being courted by several BCS schools (Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas offers) and MAC schools and for good reason. Grigsby has 114 tackles, four sacks and an interception on the season.
Geoff Mogus, Lakewood St. Edward, OL, 6-5, 285, Sr.: The Northwestern recruit is one of several talented lineman on the Eagles impressive front five. Mogus can rep 225 on the bench 22 times and has 50 pancake blocks this year. He’s also graded out at 95% this year.
Teren Williams, Wayne, LB, 5-11, 205, Sr.: Try these stats on for size: 135 tackles, 21 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions.