MVP Football Preview Excerpt:
A look at Division II, Region 7 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 7 Previews and Predictions
TEAMS TO WATCH
Marion-Franklin (11-1, D-II R7 Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – DL Terrell Jackson (6-3, 255, sr.), LB Leo Smith (6-1, 220, sr.), LB Deshannon Shaw (6-0, 210, sr.), OL Keith Hackworth (6-2, 250, sr.), OL Ralphael Eberhart (6-0, 245, sr.), OL/DL Za’Darrick Brooks (6-3, 225, sr.), QB Corry Benson (6-1, 185, jr.), OL/DL Damon Dillard (6-4, 330, jr.)
* Outlook – The Red Devils have been one of Ohio’s top teams the last two years and head coach Brian Haffele (51-9 in seven seasons) welcomes back plenty of talent. Benson, who accounted for nearly 30 TDs last year, returns at QB and is one of Central Ohio’s best (threw four TDs and ran for another against Zanesville in first round of playoffs). Jackson is a D-I prospect.
New Albany (10-1, D-II R7 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – WR/DB Kevin Collins (6-3, 200, sr.), QB/DB Darron Lee (6-3, 195, jr.), RB/DB Connor Wilson (5-9, 190, sr.), TE/DE Dan Britton (5-8″, 175, sr.), TE/DE Mark Schubert (6-3, 210, sr.), DE Jalynn Williams (6-3, 210, sr.), WR/CB Adam Brodrick (6-0, 175, sr.), TE/DE Shane Kriss (6-3, 225, sr.) K Jimmy Gammill (6-2, 180, sr.)
* Outlook – The Eagles and head coach Mark Mueller (49-18 in seven years) welcome back four All-OCC Capital performers in Collins, Wilson, Schubert and Brodrick. Look for Lee to win the QB job. Senior Zach Tomi (a DB starter) could take snaps as well. Replacing graduated RBs Jordan Gallegos and Alex Hake is key. Gammill is a solid kicker (18-of-24 career FGs). New Albany has made all for of its postseason trips in the last seven years.
Ashland (10-3, D-II R5 Finalist)
* Players to Watch – QB/LB/P Zach Bernhard (6-2, 208, sr.), K Greg Gallaway (5-10, 155, sr.), WR/DE Brandon Nardo (6-4, 200, sr.), WR/DB Josh Duewel (6-3, 190, sr.), TE/DE Adam Wolbert (6-1, 205, sr.), OL Steven Mowry (6-3, 260, sr.), OL Derek Ward (6-3, 255, sr.), WR Marquise Jones (6-0, 170, sr.), DB Jacob Wolfe (6-0, 170, sr.), LB Tyson Vogel (5-10, 170, jr.), LB Willie Moore (5-9, 170, jr.)
* Outlook – The Arrows make the move from Region 5 where they’ve played in two straight regional finals. Bernhard steps in at QB where he’ll try to replace record-setter Marcus Fuller. Berhand is a three-sport standout (basketball and baseball) who starred last year on defense (101 tackles). He’s also an exceptional punter. The Arrows special teams should be very good with the return of Gallaway as well (120-of-131 career PATs and 8-of-13 career FGs). Duewel (35 catches, 482 yards, four TDs), Nardo (16 catches, 208 yards, two TDs) and Jones (19 catches, 226 yards) lead the returning receiving corps. Wolbert (66 tackles, 5 sacks), Wolfe (53 tackles), Vogel (80 tackles) and Moore (130 tackles) anchor the defense. The Arrows non-league slate includes new games with Sandusky ad Wadsworth.
Canal Winchester (9-2, D-II R7 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – RB Antonio Whitfield (5-7, 160, sr.), WR Austin Whitlatch (6-5, 205, sr.)
* Outlook – The Indians have a new head coach in Shawn Hinkle who replaces Phil Mauro (a casualty of the district’s most recent failed levy who went to Trenton Edgewood). Under Mauro (and with Hinkle serving as an assistant), the Indians have gone to four straight postseasons. Whitfield will log a number of touches (31 carries, 295 yards and six TDs last year). Whitlatch is a receiving threat (30 catches, 400 yards, eight TDs.
Big Walnut (10-3, D-II R7 Finalist)
* Players to Watch – QB/DB Tyler Beam (n/a, sr.), RB Lucas Garcia (n/a, sr.)
* Outlook – Head coach Joe Weaver (third season) and the Eagles lose 10 starters from last year’s team but return several key pieces including Beam and Garcia. Beam threw for 694 yards and three TDs and ran for 783 yards and six TDs last year. Garcia carried the ball 152 times for 761 yards and seven TDs. The return of seniors Trent Fielding, Tyler McKenzie, Brandon Sholl on the OL is a huge plus.
Dresden Tri-Valley (9-3, D-II R7 Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – K Matt Amicone (5-8, 178, sr.), QB/DB Nathan Strock (6-3, 180, jr.)
* Outlook – The Scotties have made the playoffs four of the last five years and seem positioned for continued success with Strock under center. Last year as a sophomore, Strock threw for 1,800 yards and 22 TDs. He also rushed for 500 yards. Amicone is back after connecting on 48-of-49 PATs and 5-of-6 FGs last year. According to head coach Justin Buttermore: “We feel very good about the first group on both sides of the ball but building depth will determine how good we can become as the year progresses. With only two returning lineman we need our skilled players to perform very well as we gain experience up front on both sides of the ball.”
Zanesville (9-2, D-II R7 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – FB/LB Kole Buckley (6-1, 220, sr.), WR/DB Sean Franklin (6-4, 175, sr.), WR/DB Austin Craig (6-1, 181, sr.), WR Lucas Howard (5-11, 160, sr.), QB Wes Hudson (5-11, 181, sr.), WR/DB J.T. McFarland (5-11, 170, so.)
* Outlook – The Blue Devils made the playoffs for the second time in four years last year and are looking to make a return trip. Buckley (112 tackles, 23 TFL, eight sacks) anchors the defense, while Hudson returns to the lead the offense and has one of his favorite targets back in Howard (29 catches, 549 yards, six TDs). McFarland is one of the state’s top sophomores.
New Carlisle Tecumseh (7-4, D-II R8 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – DB Logan Crockett (6-1, 180, sr.), DE Chuck Buchanan (6-0, 165, jr.), WR Codi Frank (5-11, 160, sr.), LB Cody Snyder (6-1, 180, sr.), QB Tony Evans (6-1, 145, jr.), LB Jeremy Herdman (6-1, 180, sr.)
* Outlook – The Arrows have made the playoffs three straight years and are in position to make it four. Evans returns for his second year as a starter after accounting for 10 TDs. Frank (18 catches, 259 yards, three TDs) also returns. Defensively, Tecumseh brings back four of its top six tacklers, including Herdman (69 tackles), Snyder (65 tackles), Buchanan (50 tackles, eight sacks) and Frank (45 tackles). Crockett (37 tackles) will anchor the defensive backfield.
Vincent Warren (5-5)
* Players to Watch – QB Dylan Leffingwell (6-2, 210, jr.), WR/LB Jeremy Fivecoait (6-3, 205, sr.), LB Austin Henthorn (6-0, 220, sr.), OL/DL Joey Lane (6-2, 280, sr.)
* Outlook – The Warriors are thinking big. Second year head coach Andy Schob’s club returns seven starters on each side of the ball including every skill player on the two-deep hart but one. Warren will continue to execute the spread, no-huddle offense it ended last year with. Leffingwell is a budding star (1,960 passing yards and 19 TDs last year) who returns one of his favorite targets in Fivecoait (660 receiving yards, nine TDs). Henthorn has a nose for the ball (160 tackles).
KEEP AN EYE ON
* Columbus Northland (8-3, D-I R3 Quarterfinalist) – The Vikings drop down a division after making the big school postseason and must replace quite a bit, including nearly every skill position on offense. Senior RB Marquan Barnes (414 yards, six TDs) is the leading returning rusher. Senior LB/RB Sam Turay (5-5, 165, sr.) will also get carries.
* Hamilton Township (8-2) – The Rangers lost two games by a combined seven points last year and missed the playoffs. The bad taste lingers and so does a lot of talent. Head coach Nathan Hillerach (second year) will suit up 23 seniors, including six starters along the offensive and defensive lines. That’s the team’s strength. Replacing four skilled players who all moved onto college is a concern. Key contributors will be seniors: LB Ashton Evans (5-10, 215), OL B.J. Hedges (5-10, 240), OL T.J. Morrison (6-2, 205) and DE Caleb Brown (6-0, 215).
* Logan (3-7) – Kelly Wolfe starts his second season with a “young” team. Key returners include senior OL/FB Paul Wesselhoeft (6-3, 245; 74 tackles, eight TFL), junior RB/LB Corey McCarty (5-11, 180; 129 carries, 566 yards, five TDs) and senior WR/DB Issac Lindsey (5-11, 175; 36 catches, 408 yards, three TDs). The return of backyard rival Nelsonville to the schedule is big.
* Mount Vernon (6-4) – The Yellow Jackets experienced a resurgence under former coach Gary Keller who resigned in December after leading the program to its first winning season since 2003. New head coach Anthony Naples previously held head coaching stints at Westland and Brookfield. The Yellow jackets will reply heavily on senior RB Levi Stump (5-10, 160) who rushed for 875 yards and scored 17 TDs last year.
* Watkins Memorial (6-4) – Head coach Jeff Severino (14-16 in three years) and the Warriors have two studs to lean on in senior DL Reno Reda (6-5, 260) and junior RB Brenden Kemp (6-1, 190). Kemp accounted for 18 TDs last year, while Reda is a D-I prospect. Other good news includes the return of five of six OL. Additional strengths are the defensive line and backfield. Seniors Jake Hopson (6-0, 175) and Tyler Hodge (5-9, 175) will compete for the starting QB job.
* Worthington Kilbourne (4-6) – The Wolves and head coach Vince Trombetti (28-23 in five years) must replace 25 seniors and find four new starters on both the defensive and offensive lines. Senior lineman Chris Skura (6-7, 230) will have an impact on both sides of the ball. Junior DB Matt Wylly will help lead the defense after making 56 tackles as a sophomore. Senior Brian Miller steps in at QB after seeing limited duty last season. Other key contributors will be seniors Conor Flaherty (LB, 6-0, 190) and Evan Nordengren (6-0, 212). Kilbourne drops down to D-II for the first time since 1993.
* Beechcroft (7-3) – The Cougars will be led by senior DB Shaquille Minnifield (6-0, 193) who rushed for 998 yards and tallied 89 tackles and three INTs last year.
* Licking Heights (7-3) – Head coach Darren Waters (40-22 in six seasons) has some holes to fill but three key contributors will be senior QB David Cooper, junior RB Ronnie Dawson and senior WR Jeff Smith. Cooper ran for 484 yards last year and accounted for 11 TDs. Dawson (422 yards last year) also scored 11 TDs.
* Marion Harding (2-8) – The Presidents, under first year head coach John Cupps, are playing an independent schedule. Opponents include Akron SVSM, Jonathan Alder, St. Charles, Tiffin Columbian and Grafton Midview. The Presidents could surprise some people this year and the drop down from D-I puts the playoffs that much closer.
ALSO IN THIS REGION
Wooster (7-3), Brookhaven (5-5), Chillicothe (4-6), Bellbrook (4-6), Columbus Briggs (6-4), Franklin Heights (0-10), Marietta (3-7), Mifflin (5-5), Teays Valley (5-5), Walnut Ridge (8-2), Vincent Warren (5-5), Columbus West (4-6), Columbus Whetstone (4-6)
Dark Horses: Northland, Watkins Memorial