MVP Football Preview Excerpt:
A look at Division I, Region 3 and what to expect this season. We look
at the top teams, players and offer up our playoff predicitons. Who has what? And what will they do?
JJHuddle’s Region 3 Previews and Predictions
TEAMS TO WATCH
Springfield (9-3, D-I R3 Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – DE Darius James (6-1, 195, sr.), RB Onslow Williams (5-9, 165, sr.), QB JC Wallace (5-11, 180, jr.), OL Brandon Ehlinger (6-3, 275, jr.)
* Outlook – The Wildcats have been to the playoffs two years in a row but if they do it this year there will be several new faces leading the charge. Former head coach Rick Robertson left in the offseason, All-American LB Trey DePriest is now at Alabama and standout RB George Walker left the school. Wallace returns after throwing for 1,301 yards and 10 TDs last season.
Westerville South (9-3, D-I R3 Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – RB Daxton Cates (5-10, 210, sr.), WR/DB Kelly Carter (5-10, 175, sr.)
* Outlook – The Wildcats have been to the playoffs five of the last eight years. Cates (89 carries, 520 yards) will see his workload explode with the graduation of OCC POY and All-Ohioan Jayshon Jackson.
Dublin Coffman (8-3, D-I R3 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – WR Marcus Davis (5-10, 170, sr.), LB Mitch Kraly (6-0, 195, sr.), WR/DB Trey Scott (6-1, 185, sr.), WR/DB Taylor Williams (5-11, 175, sr.), LB Tyler Magee (6-0, 200, sr.), DE Miles McCollum (6-3, 235, jr.), QB James Walsh (6-1, 184, jr.)
* Outlook – The Rocks have rolled to the playoffs eight of the last 10 years, but head coach Mark Crabtree (11th season) must fill some holes after losing 33 seniors. Williams is one of Central Ohio’s top players (45 tackles, eight blocked kicks and four INTs) and holds offers from several MAC schools. Davis is a game-changer (53 catches, 700 yards, seven TDs). Kraly (63 tackles) anchors the defense. Walsh steps into one of the most prized positions in Central Ohio – Coffman’s QB spot.
Hilliard Darby (8-3, D-I R3 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – DB Caleb Day (6-1, 180, jr.), QB Chase Longwell (5-10, 190, jr.), LB Cameron Kohl (6-1, 215, jr.)
* Outlook – Head coach John Santagata returns for his third year and the Panthers are coming off their second playoff berth since 2007. There are holes to fill with just four starters back on offense, including one lineman. Defensively, Darby brings back seven starters. The Panthers have just 10 seniors on the team so the junior class will be relied upon heavily. Day, who has an offer from Ohio State, had 112 tackles last year and accounted for seven TOs (four INTs, three fumble recoveries). On offense he scored six TDs. Kohl led the team in tackles last year with 92.
Troy (8-3, D-I R3 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – DB/RB Marcus Foster (6-0, 195, sr.), RB Isiah Williams (5-9, 170, sr.), QB Cody May (6-3, 190, sr.), LB Chris Blair (6-0, 220, sr.), DL Alec Sears (6-1, 290, sr.), OL Ethan Hargrove (6-3, 290, sr.), DB Seth Predziola (6-1, 190, sr.), LB Zach Butcher (6-0, 210, sr.), WR Ian Dunaway (5-9, 180, sr.), RB/LB Zach Jones (5-9, 170, sr.)
* Outlook – The Trojans and head coach Steve Nolan (194-90 at Troy, 225-97 overall) made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 last year. Anything but a return trip this season would be a disappointment. Troy returns a talented nucleus that includes its QB, leading receiver, top three rushers, top two tacklers and seven All-GWOC performers. Foster has committed to Cincinnati and was the team’s leading rusher last year (870 yards and 13 TDs). He also caught 14 passes for 336 yards and three TDs. Defensively, Foster had three INTs. Williams (755 yards, eight TDs) and Jones (480 yards, six TDs) were second and third in rushing, respectively, while Williams (the leading receiver) added 14 receptions for 231 yards and a TD. Dunaway caught 17 passes for 208 yards and three TDs. May threw for 922 yards and seven TDs. Blair (125 tackles) will lead the defense along with Butcher (109 tackles) and Sears (38 tackles). An early season meeting with Middletown will tell a lot about each team.
Upper Arlington (6-4)
* Players to Watch – WR/DB Frank Epitropoulos (6-3, 195, sr.), RB Ryan McSheffery (6-0, 175, sr.), LB Jack Trabue (6-1, 200, sr.), OL Spencer Luallen (6-3, 265, sr.), OL James Henry (6-8, 260, sr.), QB David Smith (6-2, 190, sr.), DE Grayson Fisher (6-4, 228, sr.); DB Garrett Powers (6-2, 188, sr.)
* Outlook – The Golden Bears have missed the postseason the last two years but should challenge for a spot in Week 11. One area of concern is line play. UA must replace four of five OL starters and four of its top seven in the DL rotation. One plus is the addition of Henry, a transfer from Madison Plains who has committed to Toledo. McSheffery (850 rushing yards) will carry the rushing load, while Epitropoulos (Ohio State commit) will impact every facet of the game. Last year Epitropoulos caught 29 passes for 490 yards and five TDs, made 55 tackles and scored two defensive TDs, averaged 42 yards per punt and had 1,134 all-purpose yards. Powers had three INTs last year.
* Players to Watch – QB Shane Denney (6-3, 225, sr.), RB Melvin Smith (6-1, 190, sr.), RB Jalen Bell (5-10, 215, jr.), DL Vincent Waymon (6-2, 215, sr.)
* Outlook – The Cruisers faltered down the stretch last year losing three of four and failing to make the playoffs. Denney returns for his fourth year as a starter and should be one of Central Ohio’s top QBs. Smith and Bell are a capable backfield tandem.
* Players to Watch – LB Jeff Baasch (N/A, sr.), WR/DB Sante Cook (N/A, sr.), P/K/DB/QB Tyler Grassman (N/A, sr.), WR/DB Julian Lowe (N/A, sr.)
* Outlook – The Lions are hoping the momentum of winning three straight games to end last season carries over to this one. Experience in the secondary and at LB, WR and RB is a plus. Finding a new QB and retooling a decimated OL (hit hard by graduation) are keys. Overall head coach John Snoad (115-94 in 20 years) and the Lions welcome back 23 letterwinners. A $200 pay-to-play fee may hamper numbers.
Hilliard Davidson (13-1, State Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – RB Alex Mickley (5-9, 174, sr.), RB Tyler Talbott (5-9, 163, sr.), OL Jordan Weatherby (6-4, 270, sr.), LB Jake Himmeger (6-0, 205, sr.), DL Dylan Skaggs (5-9, 198, sr.), DL Sam Coles (5-10, 192, sr.), DB Jack Kincade (6-1, 171, sr.), DB Chase Delande (5-10, 164, sr.)
* Outlook – The Wildcats have been the state’s top D-I program the last five years with two state titles, three regional championships, four regional finals and five OCC titles. It’s highly likely Davidson makes another solid run. The Wildcats return five starters on defense and three on offense. Mickley (1,538 yards and 29 TDs) is one of Ohio’s top backs and returns after earning first team All-OCC honors. Himmeger was second team OCC. Head coach Brian White (117-32 in 12 years) knows “the target on the Wildcats back only grows bigger.” One concern is the OL where four starters graduated.
Pickerington Central (11-1, D-I R3 Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – QB Nick Jensen-Clagg (6-1, 180, sr.), OL/DL Jacoby Boren (67-3, 275, sr.), WR/DB Roger Lewis (6-2, 190, sr.), RB/LB Jake Kincaid (6-1, 230, sr.), WR/K Jake Raymond (5-9, 170, sr.), RB/DB Billy Eakins (5-10, 180, sr.), OL/DL Nick Wilson (6-3, 280, sr.), OL/DL Adam Cole (6-3, 290, sr.), DB Sebastian Smith (6-3, 185, sr.), DE Taco Charlton (6-6, 240, jr.)
* Outlook – The Tigers lost 28 seniors off of last year’s team, but head coach Jay Sharrett (83-15 in eight years) returns plenty of talent. Pick Central has made the playoffs 10 of the last 12 years and is arguably Central Ohio’s top squad this season. Boren is an Ohio State commit, Lewis owns offers from nine MAC schools, Smith (60 tackles, two INTs) has an Indiana offer and Charlton – despite being an underclassmen – already has Cincinnati, Purdue and Syracuse offers. Kincaid is committed to Kent State.
Pickerington North (6-4)
* Players to Watch – OL/DL Pat Elflein (6-3, 285, sr.), OL/DL Luke Carothers (6-3, 280, sr.), TE/DE Jake Butt (6-6, 215, jr.), QB Zach Olszewski (6-2, 210, sr.), WR/DB Seth Gamby (6-0, 170, sr.), DB Derek Frebault (N/A, sr.), LB Warren Stoddard (5-11, 190, jr.), LB Blake Springhetti (5-11, 190, sr.)
* Outlook – Depth could be a concern for the Panthers who lost 21 seniors and will be negatively affected by a steep pay-to-play fee of $500. That being said, head coach Tom Phillips (23-18 in four years) has built a solid program that will continue to field a competitive team. Elflein (Ohio State commit) and Carothers are three-year starters and will anchor the lines. Olszewski returns after completing 112-of-175 passes for 1,457 yards with 17 TDs. Butt (14.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks) is one of Ohio’s top underclassmen and already has an offer from UCLA
Dublin Scioto (6-4)
* Players to Watch – OL Grant Noppenberger (6-2, 250, sr.), QB Evan DeMars (6-0, 170, jr.), RB William Houston (6-0, 210, jr.), OL/DL Mason Sawicki (6-1, 225, jr.), OL Wesley King (6-3, 225, sr.)
* Outlook – Head coach Karl Johnson begins his 12th season at Scioto (77-44 record) with some experience on the line and talent in the backfield. Noppenberger and King are both three-year starters, while Houston was last year’s leading rusher (202 carries, 908 yards and six TDs). DeMars returns as the starter after throwing for 1,097 yards and eight TDs as a sophomore. Sawicki had 46 tackles last season (3.5 TFL and two sacks).
* Players to Watch – LB Luke Roberts (6-2, 245, sr.), DE Aaron Woosley (6-4, 260, sr.), OL Jordan Francis (6-2, 270, sr.), OL Kevin Miller (6-2, 265, sr.), DB Ethan Jones (5-10, 175, sr.), RB Bradon Meadows (6-0, 190, sr.), TE/LB Jesse Reliford (6-2 210, sr.), RB/LB Isiah Dexter (6-2, 225, so.), TE/DL Chris McClurg (6-0, 220, sr.), TE Ryan Thomas (6-6, 210, jr.), QB Riley Theiss (6-2, 190, jr.), WR Justin Sharp (6-3, 195, jr.)
* Outlook – The Golden Gales and head coach Rob Carpenter (104-74 in 14 years) add Twinsburg and Mason to the schedule this year. Roberts is an Ohio State commit, choosing the Buckeyes over Arizona. Woosley is also a D-I prospect (Ball State commit) and keep an eye on Dexter and Thomas.
Olentangy Orange (6-4)
* Players to Watch – OL/DL Bill McCague (6-4, 260, sr.), RB/DB Brandon Schoen (5-11, 190, sr.), TE/DE Taylor Hardy (6-3, 220, sr.), TE/LB John Peddicord (6-0, 220, sr.), OL/DL Doug Ganim (5-10, 230, sr.), RB/CB DeShon Hill (5-9, 165, sr.), WB/LB Ryne Mayer (6-2, 195, sr.), QB Kofi Hill (6-2, 210, jr.), OL Spencer Wilson (6-2, 260, jr.)
* Outlook – Head coach Brian Cross begins his 30th season overall and fourth at Orange with 203 career wins. The Pioneers could be poised for a breakout year with no real concerns or holes except for linebacker, where the entire unit graduated. Schoen is a versatile player whose scored 20 TDs, picked off six passes and made over 100 tackles the last two years.
KEEP AN EYE ON
* Reynoldsburg (3-7) – New head coach Buddy White, who won a D-IV state title last year as an assistant at Hartley, takes over a program that’s gone 12-38 the last five years. Senior DL Lavonne Gauthney (6-1, 285) is a D-I prospect. Other key contributors will be Sean McKeen (sr., LB, 5-11″, 235), Jimmy McKean (sr., DB/WR, 5-10″, 180), Mykel Traylor-Bennett (jr., WR/DB, 6-3, 195), Ryan Carter (sr., TE/DE, 6-6, 220), Takael Holland (sr., WR/DB, 5-9, 180) and Emmanuel Beal (jr., LB/WR, 6-1, 200). Said White: “We believe the biggest game we will have will be our first game against Dublin Jerome. They have dominated (us) over the past five years and we need to be more competitive against them to show progress in the program.”
* Delaware Hayes (3-7) – The Pacers have a new head coach in Zebb Schroeder who comes over from Olentangy Liberty where he’s been the offensive coordinator the last seven seasons. Hayes returns a lot of talent including senior WR Matt Bingaya (6-4, 200) who is a D-I football and basketball prospect. Defensively senior LB Xia Minich (6-1, 200) leads the unit.
* Olentangy Liberty (6-4) – The Patriots had a string of five straight playoff berths snapped last year. Key returning seniors for head coach Steve Hale (ninth season) are OL Brian Johnson (6-4, 285), WR/DB A.J. Motika (6-3, 175) and RB/DB Pjillip Osolinski (6-2, 185).
* Grove City (4-6) – The Greyhounds lost 37 seniors from last year’s team but numbers won’t be a problem for fourth year head coach Matt Jordan. Grove City has over 100 players out in grades 10-12. Replacing QB Luke Smurthwaite, who is now at Kent State, is a priority. Key senior contributors will be OL/DL Dalton Chapman (6-6, 280), RB Jordan Fisher (5-8, 180), DL Dakota Cardanez (6-2, 308), RB/DB Ryan Barbari (5-8, 175) and WR/DB/RB Connor Lucas (5-7, 160). Impact juniors will be OL Hayes Davis (6-2, 260) and OL Brandon Glover (6-4, 305).
* Dublin Jerome (6-4) – Head coach Mark Hundley (34-38 in seven years) welcomes back 13 starters, including WR/ATH Joe Bano (5-10, 180, sr.), RB/DB Austin Duncan (5-11, 200, sr.), WR/DB Matt Mehrer (5-10, 181, sr.) and ATH Cameron Wilson (6-2, 190, sr.). Wilson has committed to Iowa. Junior RB/LB Donovan Wilson (6-1, 201) is one of Ohio’s top underclassmen after rushing for 1,206 yards and 15 TDs last season. He has an offer from Purdue. Five new starters on the OL is a concern.
* Marysville (5-5) – This season marks the 100th for the Monarchs who are looking for their first winning season since 2008 and have a D-I prospect in senior TE/DE Craig Runyan (6-4, 225) who has committed to Toledo. According to head coach Jeff Gafford (162-114-1 career record), line depth and talent (five starters return on the OL) will be a strength. Linebacker play and the kicking game are also positives. Senior LB Dakota Romine (6-1,225) and junior RB/DB Kody Davidson (6-1, 180) are names to remember.
* Olentangy (6-4) – The Braves and longtime head coach Ed Terwilliger (22 years) make the move to D-I led by seniors and Big Ten recruits Josh Perry (6-4, 230, LB, Ohio State) and Kenton Playko (6-5, 280, OL, Northwestern). Other key returners include seniors Will Brett (5-11, 175, DB), Brandon Owens (6-0, 240, OL), Eric Price (6-1, 235, DE), Derrick Rodgers (5-7, 205, FB), Alex Shetler (6-2, 200, TE), Bryan Young (6-1, 285, DL) and Alex Steinmetz (5-11, 220, DL). Underclassmen of note are juniors Buchi Okafor (6-0, 175, DB) and Austin Schmidt (6-5, 230, OL).
* Columbus St. Charles (5-5, D-II R7 Quarterfinalist) – The Cardinals bump up after making the D-II postseason for the first time since 2002. Don’t expect an encore. Third-year head coach Jeff Pharion and the Cardinals have some holes to fill. St. Charles has to replace QB Joe Spahr and RB Jourdan Wickliffe, who combined for 26 TDs last year. Look for key contributions to come from junior LB Philip LaFleur (6-0, 210), senior LB Brooks Wagstaff (6-2, 215) and senior RB Gunner Francis (5-10″, 175).
* Westerville North (0-10) – Since finishing 5-5 in 2005, the Warriors have gone 6-44 and dropped 25 straight games. Head coach Mike Owens said he and his staff are “looking to build this program from the bottom up.” Key contributors this year will be seniors BJ Campfield (WR/DB, 5-10, 170), Kory Watson (QB/DB, 6-0, 180) and Dane Cameron (TE/LB, 6-4, 215).
* Newark (1-9) – Second year head coach Gregg Forsyth and the Wildcats will try to improve a program that’s gone 10-40 since 2006. Sophomore QB Grant Russell returns for his second year as a starter.
ALSO IN THIS REGION
Central Crossing (2-8), Thomas Worthington (3-7), Westland (1-9), Westerville Central (2-8), Hilliard Bradley (3-7)
Dark Horses: Lancaster, Springfield