MVP Football Preview Excerpt:
A look at Division IV, Region 14 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 14 Previews and Predictions
TEAMS TO WATCH
Columbus Hartley (13-2, State Champions)
* Players to Watch – FB/LB Jarrod Zang (sr.), RB/LB JaWaun Woodley (jr.), TE/LB Jacob Matuska (jr.), OL/LB Napoleon Bell (sr.), RB/DB Alonzo Saxton (so.), DB Trevonn Brown (jr.), DL Solomon Grace (so.)
* Outlook – After a 37-16 loss at Ironton in Week 8, the Hawks won seven straight games last year, including victories over Amanda-Clearcreek, Kettering Alter, Heath, Chagrin Falls and a rematch with Ironton, en route to the state championship (their second overall and first since 1986). The bad news is standout RB Noah Key who rushed for 2,905 yards rushing and 41 TDs in 2010 is now at Toledo. The good news is that means Zang, Woodley and Saxton will get to see what they can do with more carries. Matuska is regarded as one of the top junior prospects in the state and has offers from Cincinnati and Toledo. Schedule-wise Hartley has one of the state’s toughest for a small school. If the Hawks get back to the playoffs they’ll have earned it after facing the likes of Amanda-Clearcreek, Elyria Catholic, Ironton, Coshocton and Ready. In Week 4 Hartley faces its toughest test against D-II power Akron Hoban. Hartley was in Region 15 last year. “What’s great about the tradition at Hartley is seeing how the next group carries the torch,” head coach Brad Burchfield (58-35 overall, 27-9 in three years at Hartley) said. “(This group is) chomping at the bit to lay the next generation of bricks in the wall of that great tradition.”
Elyria Catholic (10-2, D-IV R14 Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – OL Alex Nielsen (6-4, 260, sr.), OL Luke Williams (6-1, 270, sr.), LB/RB Joe Dempsey (6-1, 210, sr.), WR/DB James Baker (5-8, 155, sr.), DL David Smith (6-4, 250, jr.), DB Jacob Moore (6-1, 165, jr.), WR/DB Jordan Alpater (5-11, 170, jr.), QB Jeremy Holley (6-5, 210, so.) DL Dakota Tallman (6-4, 240, so.)
* Outlook – Former assistant coach Michael Polevacik takes over a program coming off its third postseason trip in six years and joining a new league (West Shore Conference). Nielson (Kent State recruit) and Williams anchor an OL that will open holes for Dempsey (700 yards rushing), who doubles as a standout LB (over 100 tackles each of last two years). Defensively, Baker (three-year starter), Smith, Moore, Alpater and Tallman are seasoned. Polevacik said he is expecting a “breakout season” from Holley.
Bellville Clear Fork (10-2, D-IV R14 Semifinalist)
* Players to Watch – RB/DB Dion Belamy (5-9, 190, sr.), QB Cole Pollard (6-3, 185, sr.), RB/LB Logan Dernbach (5-11, 205, sr.), OL Holden Oyster (5-11, 200, sr.), OL/DL Corey Deal (6-1, 260, sr.)
* Outlook – The Colts face the task of replacing two 1,000-yard rushers and seven first team All-Ohio Cardinal Conference players. There’s enough talent coming back though to have Clear Fork thinking playoffs again.
Kenton (11-2, D-IV R16 Finalist)
* Players to Watch – QB Maty Mauk (6-2, 185, sr.), OL/DL Issac Jeffers (6-4, 250, sr.), ATH/DB Brice Fackler (6-4, 205, sr.)
* Outlook –. The Wildcats fell to Alter in last year’s R16 final and are hungry to get another shot in the playoffs. Everyone knows about Mauk who has thrown for 13,519 yards and 151 TDs in 35 games. Mauk (who has whittled his final four down to Michigan, Notre Dame, Missouri and Ohio State) needs just 3,846 yards and 28 TDs to break his older brother Ben’s national records (17,364 yards and 178 TDs). Things won’t be a breeze for the Wildcats who return just three starters on offense and must break-in four new starters at receiver and on the line. Fackler and Jeffers anchor the defense, which lost seven starters.
“It’s going to be a tough, challenging year, but that’s what’s exciting about high school football,” head coach Mike Mauk said.
Genoa (12-1, D-IV R14 Finalist)
* Players to Watch – RB Kyle Nutter (5-10, 180, jr.), K Tyler Pickard (5-11, 190, sr.)
* Outlook – The Comets are coming off the best four years in school history. What can they do for an encore? That’s the burning question. One things for sure, though – they’ll ride Nutter whose coming off a sophomore season in which he gained 1,656 yards and scored 22 TDs on 268 carries.
Ottawa-Glandorf (8-3, D-IV R14 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – RB Brandon Kuhlman (5-11, 180, sr.), OL/DL Derek Rieman (6-5, 270, jr.), OL/DL Craig Rieman (6-1, 250, sr.)
* Outlook – The Titans have been to the playoffs six years in a row and should challenge to make it seven. Kuhlman is back after gaining over 1,000 yards last year (and five TDs).
Richwood North Union (10-1, D-V, R20 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – QB/DE Josh Sowder (6-5, 230, sr.), FB/LB Brandon Mercer (6-3, 220, sr.)
* Outlook – Tigers have been to back-to-back D-V postseasons, but are still looking for their first win. It won’t get any easier this season with a bump up to D-IV. Sowder (55 tackles, six sacks, 13 QB pressures) and Mercer (85 tackles, 16 TFL, seven sacks) are dominant.
Ontario (7-4, D-IV R14 Quarterfinalist)
* Players to Watch – RB Drew Boatwright (6-0, 185, sr.), FB/LB Zac Bartman (6-0, 200, sr.), OL/DL Cameron Snow (6-0, 230, sr.)
* Outlook – The Warriors will try to become the first team in program history to post back-to-back playoff appearances. Boatwright and Bartman will have huge impacts again. Boatwright ran for 1,146 yards and nine TDs on 170 carries and had 33 tackles, six TFL and three sacks last year. Bartman ran for 644 yards and 10 TDs on 142 carries and had 72 tackles.
Columbus Ready (4-6)
* Players to Watch – ATH/LB Guy Ferrelli (6-1, 228, sr.), QB/DB Bo Hardy (5-10, 185, sr.), K John Wright (6-0, 190, sr.)
* Outlook – The Silver Knights had a string of three straight playoff appearances snapped last year. Hardy returns to direct the offense after throwing for 1,043 yards and six TDs and rushing for 400 yards and seven TDs. Wright is one of the state’s top kicking prospects (71-of-73 PATs and 23-of-26 FGs the last two years).
KEEP AN EYE ON
* Galion (5-5) – Head coach Chris Hawkins (103-54 career record) welcomes back 15 starters, including nine on defense, from a team that started seven sophomores and a freshman last year. Defense and skill positions will be a strength. Developing the OL is a concern. Galion opens the season against D-II Mansfield Senior and moves from the Northern Ohio League to the North Central Conference.
ALSO IN THIS REGION
Sparta Highland (9-3, D-IV R15 Semifinalist), Lorain Clearview (7-3), Huron (7-4, D-IV R14 Quarterfinalist), Lima Bath (5-5), Delta (5-5), Pemberville Eastwood (6-4), Milan Edison (5-5), Fostoria (0-10), Springfield Greenon (4-6), La Grange Keystone (4-6), Millbury Lake (6-4), Springfield Northwestern (2-8), Springfield Northeastern (4-6), Oak Harbor (7-3), Paulding (3-7), Swanton (1-9), Upper Sandusky (1-9), Van Wert (5-5), Willard (5-5), Wellington (4-6)
Dark Horses: Galion, Highland, Clear Fork