MVP Football Preview Excerpt:
A look at Division I, Region 4 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 4 Previews and Predictions
TEAMS TO WATCH
Cincinnati St. Xavier (7-5, D-I R4 Finalist)
* Players to Watch – RB Connor Hundley (5-10, 200, sr.), QB Griffin Dolle (6-2, 190, sr.), OL Brandyn Cook (6-2, 290, sr.), OL Alex Breen (6-5, 260, sr.), WR Kevin Milligan (5-9, 175, jr.), WR Trey Kilgore (6-2, 175, jr.), LB Nathan Gerbus (6-2, 225, sr.), DB Andrew Arand (6-2, 205, sr.), DE EJ Parchment (6-3, 235, sr.), DE Bryson Albright (6-6, 210, sr.), DB Sean Ahern (6-1, 175, sr.), LB Mark Jacob (6-1, 200, jr.)
* Outlook – Under head coach Steve Specht (72-17 in seven years), St. Xavier has won a pair of state titles with 15-0 seasons in the last five years. They could make it three in six. The Bombers return nine starters on offense and six on defense. Hundley is looking for his third straight 1,000-yard season and has a chance to set the school’s all-time rushing mark this year. He enters the season with 2,561 yards and 23 career TDs. Dolle, who became the starter in Week 7 last year, is back after throwing for 382 yards and three TDs. Kilgore (20 catches, 278 yards, two TDs) and Milligan (12 catches, 76 yards, TD) are viable options. Hundley, Cook (Pitt commit) and Gerbus (Miami commit; five sacks) were first team GCL South. Arand (GCL leading four INTs) was second team. Albright has committed to Miami (Oh). As usual a brutal schedule awaits.
Clayton Northmont (6-4)
* Players to Watch – LB Kaleb Ringer (6-1, 220, sr.), DT Jeremy Campbell (6-0, 250, sr.), DB Justin Woods (6-1, 185, sr.), DB Bobby Hardy (5-9, 174, sr.), DB Cody Grillot (6-2, 195, jr.), WR Jamal Trammell (6-4, 185, sr.), OL K.J. Rieder (6-6, 290, sr.), QB Cameron Belton (6-2, 170, jr.), RB Gaven Kenerly (6-0, 215, jr.), TE Troy Mangen (6-5, 235, jr.), FB Dante Bland (6-1, 240, so.)
* Outlook – The Thunderbolts have qualified for the playoffs seven of the last 10 seasons, but have missed the postseason two straight years. Coach Lance Schneider, starting his 13th year at Northmont, has the talent back to stop that slide. Ringer has committed to Michigan and will spearhead the defense along with Campbell and Woods. Last season Northmont started five sophomores and freshmen on offense, which should play dividends this year. Belton led the GWOC in passing last year with 1,684 yards and 14 TDs. Trammell caught 33 passes for 487 yards and five TDs last year.
Centerville (9-3, D-I R4 Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – OL/DL Benny McGowan (6-4, 290, sr.), S Jay Mastin (6-1, 200, sr.), DE Ifeadi Odenigbo (6-4, 207, sr.), OL/DL Evan Lisle (6-5, 260, jr.); OL/DL Brant Gressel (6-1, 265, jr.); FB Chris Barr (5-11, 210, sr.)
* Outlook – The Elks have been one of the most consistent programs in Ohio under Ron Ullery, who returns for his 35th year at Centerville and 12th as head coach (86-30 career record). The Elks, who lost to rival Wayne in double OT last year in the regional semifinals, return a number of starters. Odenigbo (5.5 sacks last year) is one of the state’s Top 10 prospects and holds offers from over 30 schools (including Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon). McGowan is a Michigan State commit and Barr (Air Force) and Mastin (Miami, Ohio, Toledo, BG, Ball State and Buffalo) hold D-I offers. Gressel and Lisle are D-I prospects. Barr (813 yards, 10 TDs) is the top returning rusher. Mastin (62 tackles) was the team’s second leading tackler last year.
Colerain (11-1, D-I R4 Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – LB Jake Blust (6-1, 210, sr.), LB Joe Bolden (6-3, 220, sr.), OL Trae Clark (6-4, 330, sr.), DB Andre Jones (6-2, 195, sr.), LB David Moore (6-0, 180, sr.), RB Chris Davis (5-9, 170, jr.)
* Outlook – Head coach Tom Bolden has posted a 40-6 record in four seasons at Colerain and last year had arguably his most impressive team before. But a disappointing 24-23 loss to St. Xavier derailed the Cardinals state title plans. The bad news is Bolden has to replace a ton of talent. The good news is he’s got a ton coming back. Jones (61 tackles) has committed to Cincinnati and Bolden (considered one of Ohio’s Top 3 LBs) is headed to Michigan. Clark has offers from the likes of Michigan State, Arkansas, Kentucky, N.C. State and West Virginia. Davis (seven TDs) is one of the state’s best junior RBs.
Cincinnati Moeller (7-4, D-I R4 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – WR Monty Madaris (6-2, 185, sr.), TE John Tanner (6-4, 260, sr.), LB Dillon Kern (6-4, 225, sr.), LB Tyler Williford (6-3, 210, sr.), DL Kevin Robinson-White (6-1, 305, sr.), DL Eric Lalley (6-1, 285, sr.), DB Cody Elias (5-11, 190, sr.), OL Alex Gall (6-5, 285, jr.)
* Outlook – Head coach John Rodenberg has led Moeller to playoff berths in each of his first three seasons as the Crusaders coach and if he does it again Moeller will have conquered a tremendous schedule that includes meetings with the defending Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky state champs the final three weeks. Said Rodenberg: “The schedule will prepare us or break us.” Our guess is prepare. A stellar junior class will mesh with several returning starters giving Moeller the potential to be one of the state’s top teams. Madaris has over 15 offers (including Michigan, Nebraska, Florida State, Michigan State, Purdue, Virginia, UC and Louisville), while Tanner owns several from MAC schools. Kern and Gall are also legit D-I prospects. One key will be how junior QB Spencer Icavone rebounds from missing the final six games last year with injury. Junior QB Ricky Davis (Bowling Green, Akron offers) is also in the mix.
Cincinnati Elder (4-5)
* Players to Watch – OL Nick Custer (6-4, 275, sr.), OL/DL T.C. Klusman (6-4, 275, sr.), DT Rakhim Johnson (6-0, 215, sr.), WR Jeff Vorherr (6-2, 204, sr.), QB Ben Gramke (6-1, 180. Sr.)
* Outlook – The Panthers almost made the playoffs last year with a losing record but fell just short and finished ninth in computer points. Head coach Doug Ramsey is starting his 15th year at Elder and looks to have another team capable of adding to the program’s storied tradition. Elder won back-to-back state titles in 2002-03 and made the state final again in 2008. The Panthers advanced to the state semifinals in 2009. Klusman is a Louisville commit and Custer is headed to Miami (Oh). Johnson was first team GCL South last year. Gramke (1,488 passing yards, 12 TDs) and Vorherr (35 catches, 454 yards, two TDs) were second team GCL. Overall, Elder returns seven starters on each side of the ball, including four on the OL.
Middletown (10-1, D-I R4 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – WR Zach Edwards (6-0, 180, sr.), OL Kevin Henderson (6-2, 245, sr.), QB Jalin Marshall (6-0, 189, jr.), DB Cody Quinn (5-10, 160, sr.); RB/LB E.J. Junior (6-1, 205, sr.), QB Geovonie McKnight (6-4, 195, sr.),
* Outlook – After a 19-year hiatus, the Middies have made the playoffs two years in a row. If they make it a third time it will be under a new head coach. Former mentor Jason Krause resigned in winter to take over at Fairfield. Middletown named Troy Everhart his successor. Everhart led Winton Woods to the 2009 D-II state championship before becoming an assistant at UC last year. The Middies roster is loaded. Marshall is arguably the state’s top junior prospect (already has offers from UC and Pitt) and returns at QB after rushing for 1,426 yards and 17 TDs and throwing 693 yards and 12 more scores. Edwards and Quinn (30 tackles, three INTs, TD ) are among the Top 10 prospects in Ohio at their respective positions. Quinn has committed to Illinois. McKnight is a Division I basketball prospect.
Huber Heights Wayne (11-4, D-I State Runner-Up)
* Players to Watch – WR Armani Miller (6-0, 175, sr.); WR/DB Marcus Bonner (6-2, 190, sr.); Toney Peters (6-1, 190, sr.); DL Jonas Mims (6-1, 260, sr.); LB Darien Thornton (5-11, 190, sr.); OL Lovell Peterson (6-4, 280, jr.); QB Javon Harrison (6-1, 190, jr.); DB Jarrod Hardrick (6-0, 180, jr.); OL Cole Newsome (6-3, 260, jr.)
* Outlook – After finishing state runner-up for the second time under his lead, head coach Jay Minton (164-63 in 13 years) said the Warriors goal is easy. “We’re trying to not come in second anymore,” the coach said. Wayne lost in the 1999 state final and followed with a 6-5 record. Overcoming complacency Minton said will be key. A return trip won’t be easy. The Warriors, who play Middletown, Canton McKinley and Trotwood-Madison in the first four games, lost a lot from last year’s team, including superstar QB Braxton Miller (Ohio State). Harrison steps into the QB role and is another young talent. Miller (Toledo commit) is a D-I receiver and Peterson (Illinois offer) and Newsome might be the best 1-2 junior OL tandem in the state. The cupboard is far from bare. “There is not much to say when you come in second place,” Minton said. “We are either going to come at this thing hungry for another shot at it or satisfied with being runners-up. I have faith our guys will be hungry.”
Cincinnati Western Hills (7-3)
* Players to Watch – WR/DB Josh Smith (6-2, 185, sr.); OL Aliou Diouf (6-6, 305, sr.); TE/DE Charles Clark (6-4, 255, sr.); RB/LB Darius Baker (6-3, 230, sr.); RB Dion Dawson (6-1, 290, sr.)
* Outlook – The Mustangs have a game-changer in Smith (6-2, 185) and a game controller in Dawson. Smith had 32 catches for 590 yards and nine touchdowns last year and boasts 4.43-second speed in the 40-yard dash. He has several offers including Kentucky. Dawson is one of Ohio’s hidden gems. Used only in short yardage situations the first five games of the season, Dawson got 14 carries in a Week 6 win over Aiken and was the man after that. He finished with 683 yards and 10 TDs on just 74 attempts (averaged 9.2 yards per carry).
KEEP AN EYE ON
* Cincinnati LaSalle (9-2, D-I R4 Quarterfinalist) – The Lancers won a share of just their second GCL title ever last year (shared with Moeller) and could challenge for their third this season. LaSalle head coach Tom Grippa welcomes back a talented senior class that’s gone 9-1 (as freshmen in 2008), 10-0 (on JV in 2009) and 9-2 (on varsity in 2010). Senior LB Joe Burger (6-2, 228) has offers from Miami (OH) and Buffalo and was second team GCL South last year. Senior OL/DL Ryan Leahy (6-6, 254) is a Cincinnati verbal.
* Hamilton (7-4, D-I R4 Quarterfinalist) – After finishing just 2-8 in 2009, the Big Blue made the playoffs last year. Senior OL Adam Pankey (6-5, 290) has offers from Illinois, Pitt, West Virginia, Louisville and MAC schools.
* Fairfield (2-8) – The Indians made a huge hire in the offseason by signing former Middletown head coach Jason Krause. Krause is a proven winner who had led rebuilding projects at Stebbins, Monroe and Middletown. He’ll try to do it again.
* Springboro (7-3) – The Panthers are 15-5 the last two years under head coach Ryan Wilhite who is back for his sixth year. According to Wilhite the program’s next step is to earn the school’s first “D-I” playoff berth. Boro became D-I in 2006. This year might be the one in which they get it done. Senior RB Jalen Campbell (6-2, 175) and QB Josh Little (6-2, 200) will lead the charge. Little was the GWOC’s second leading passer last year (1,602 yards and 18 TDs), while Campbell ran for 925 yards and eight TDs. Other key contributors are senior DB Austin Rines (6-0, 185, 81 Tackles), junior WR Jake Johnson (5-11, 165, 25 receptions, 410 yards, 4 TDs) and junior OL/DL Sean Welsh (6-3, 275).
* Xenia (4-6) – Longtime coach Bob DeLong returns for his third year at Xenia and thinks this one could be special. “It takes a special group of kids to turn around losing and I think that this group of kids is that group for us,” DeLong said. Senior DB James Sanford (6-2, 180) is a high-major prospect (offers from Michigan State, Cincinnati and MAC schools) with 4.5 speed in the 40. Senior QB Zack Newsock (6-0, 200) is another player to keep an eye on.
* Cincinnati Withrow (6-4) – The Tigers have gone 14-6 the last two years. Senior WRs Sean Middlebrooks (6-3, 226) and Dionte Riley (6-0, 170) are ones to watch.
* Cincinnati Oak Hills (4-6) – The Highlanders have one of Ohio’s top lineman in Michigan commit Caleb Stacey (6-4, 285). A two-time All-Greater Miami Conference selection, Stacey had 114 knockdown blocks as a junior. In 20 varsity starts, Stacey has yet to allow a sack. He also had offers from Ohio, Toledo, Bowling Green, Illinois, Wake Forest, Boston College and North Carolina State.
* Milford (3-7) – Head coach Shane Elkin returns for his second season and will look to continue to work on a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2000. A large senior class (over 30 players) and experience (injuries led to several players logging minutes last year) are positives. Finding a new QB and RB are concerns for the Eagles whose non-league slate includes Turpin, Hamilton and Kings. Key players include OL Andrew Hannah (6-2, 250, sr.), FB/LB Ben Hittner (6-1, 200, sr.), DE Ryan Kroger (6-2, 210, sr.), TE/DE Rob Overbeck (6-7, 215, sr.) and OL Tyler Voth (6-2, 220, jr.). Overbeck could be a hidden gem.
* West Chester Lakota West (3-7) – After a 9-2 season in 2009, the Firebirds stumbled. Head coach Larry Cox returns for his 15th year and welcomes back key seniors in RB/DB Marcus Davis (5-9, 210), WR Tyler Williams (6-3, 200), LB Jordan Darland (6-2, 225), DB Peair Foster (5-9, 155), DB Dawson Fletcher (6-1, 178) and DL Blake Bell (6-0, 265).
* Fairborn (5-5) – The Skyhawks could be a sleeper in the GWOC South and D-I playoff race. Senior QB Kendrick Williams (6-0, 190) is back after throwing for 1,404 yards and seven TDs. Two of his favorite targets (and two of Southwest Ohio’s best WRs) are seniors Billy Jackson (6-2, 190) and Devon Hamilton (6-2, 180). Jackson caught 30 passes for 543 yards and three TDs last year, while Hamilton snagged 28 passes for 446 yards and three TDs.
Fairborn also returns its leading rusher in senior RB/LB Winston Childers (6-0, 175), who carried the ball 96 times for 472 yards and six TDs.
* Sycamore (6-4) – Just two years removed from a 2-8 record, the Aviators improved significantly last year when they lost to four playoff teams (Middletown, Springfield, Colerain and Hamilton). Senior TE A.J. Williams (6-6, 255) is headed to Michigan.
* Kettering Fairmont (2-8) – Second-year head coach and Fairmont alumnus Andy Aracri is looking to “change the culture, develop champions and build something great for the city of Kettering to embrace and be excited about.” He has his work cut out for him in the rugged GWOC Central, but according to the coach, his young team has responded in the offseason. Key contributors will be seniors Nick Bower (RB/LB, 5-11, 210), Nick Orr (P/DB, 6-3, 215) and Matt Silverman (OL. 6-5, 297) and juniors Robert Nsenga (DB, 5-10, 185) and Tom West (QB/DB, 6-2, 215).
* Mason (5-5) – The Comets will be led by a pair of D-I prospects in senior LB Josh Dooley (6-0, 210) and senior OL Joeseph Spencer (6-4, 280). Dooley, who had 50 solo tackles, 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles last year, has committed to Miami (Oh). Spencer holds offers from Illinois, Cincinnati, NC State, South Florida and several MAC schools.
* Lebanon (5-5) – The Warriors have a D-I recruit in senior OL James Bennett (6-6, 271) who has committed to Bowling Green.
* Miamisburg (1-9) – The Vikings are improving under head coach Tim Lewis (108-83) who is in his second stint at the school. The Burg averaged 23 points per game last year after averaging just six in 2009. Senior QB Cody Hamblin (5-10, 188) returns after throwing for 1,208 yards and rushing for 971 more. Senior OL Zach Myers (6-4, 277) has committed to Kentucky. Junior RB Zak Kruer (5-11, 175) will log a number of touches (800 yards rushing).
ALSO IN THIS REGION
Beavercreek (1-9), Cincinnati Glen Este (4-6), Lakota East (3-7), Loveland (4-6), Cincinnati Princeton (3-7), Walnut Hills (5-5)
Cincinnati St. Xavier
Dark Horses: Western Hills, Springboro