Regional breakdown, top players, big games, big names, teams to beat, teams to watch and more…
Region 2 Preview
Playoff Teams: Our Predictions
Findlay, Hudson, Whitmer, Sylvania Southview, Twinsburg, Massillon, Canton McKinley, Toledo St. John’s
Dark Horses: Elyria, Avon Lake, GlenOak
10 Players To Watch
1. Brogan Roback, QB, sr., Tol. St. John’s: Thrown for 39 TDs the last two years, 25 as soph
2. Kyle Kempt, QB, sr., Massillon: Picked UC over Tennessee, Ole Miss and WVU
3. John Barton, RB, sr., Twinsburg: Has scored 44 TDs the last two years
4. Matt Miller, OL, sr., Tol. St. John’s: JJHuddle Top 100 prospect committed to Wisconsin
5. Marquise Moore, DL, sr., Whitmer: Toledo commit; Had 80 tackles, inlcuding 24 TFL, last year
6. Austin Niswander, LB, sr., Findlay: Toledo commit; 600 all-purpose yards, 8 TDs last year
7. Ben Gedeon, LB, sr., Hudson: Michigan commit also held offers from OSU & PSU
8. Tracy Sprinkle, DL, sr., Elyria: OSU commit had 9 sacks & 25 QB hurries last year
9. Gareon Conley, DB, sr., Massillon: Michigan commit is a JJHuddle Top 100 Prospect
10. Antoine Miles, DL, sr., Can. McKinley: Had 54 tackles, 12 TFL & five sacks last year
Elyria Catholic @ Elyria, Aug. 31 (Week 2)
Canton McKinley @ Wayne, Sept. 1 (Week 2)
Steubenville @ Massillon, Sept. 21 (Week 5)
Findlay @ Whitmer, Oct. 5 (Week 7)
Whitmer @ Toledo CC, Oct. 26 (Week 10)
Canton McKinley @ Massillon, Oct. 27 (Week 10)
Team To Beat
Findlay (9-2, Region 2 Quarterfinalist): The Trojans must replace eight starters on defense, but their offense will be powerful. QB Paul Cosiano (6-2, 200, sr./ 2,100 passing yards, 19 TDs) was first team All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference last year and will have a veteran receiving corps to throw to led by senior WRs Austin Niswander (6-1, 190/second team All-TRAC/eight TDs, Toledo recruit), Joe Davidson (6-7, 190/five TDs/second team All-TRAC) and Jim Orwick (6-0, 180/second team All-TRAC/six TDs). Senior LB Devin Dennard (6-0, 185/first team All-TRAC) anchors the defense (105 tackles, six caused fumbles). Said head coach Mark Ritzler: “We snuck up on people last year, but this year we will have a bulls-eye on our back and will have to kick it up a notch if we want to reach the playoffs and go deeper into them.”
Teams To Watch
Toledo Whitmer (13-1, State Semifinalist): The Panthers have won back-to-back regional titles but winning three in a row will be difficult. Whitmer has a new coach in alumnus Jerry Bell, who
assumes control after former coach Joe Palka (59-17 in six years at
Whitmer) left for Saline (Mich.) HS. Also gone is senior QB Tyler Palka (6-0, 180) who followed his dad to Saline. Palka set school records for TDs (16) and completion percentage (64-percent) in a season last year despite missing three games. He threw for 1,224 yards and ran for 400 (and six TDs). Another question mark is senior WR Nigel Hayes (6-7, 215) who is a big-time basketball prospect and may forgo football this fall. Offense is going to be an issue. The good news? Defensively Whitmer will be led by senior DL Marquise Moore (6-1, 275/first team All-TRAC) and senior LB Jack Linch (6-0, 210/second team All-TRAC). Moore (80 tackles, 24 TFL and six sacks last year) has committed to Toledo. Linch had 139 tackles as a junior (and 54 as a sophomore). Junior kicker Michael Baldwin (5-8, 140) is one of Ohio’s best.
Canton McKinley (9-3, Region 2 Semifinalist): The Bulldogs have been to the playoffs 19 times and would like to notch No. 20 this season. Senior DE Antoine Miles (6-3, 260) had 54 tackles, 12 TFL and five sacks last year and is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect. He holds offers from Pitt, Cincinnati and a slew of MAC schools. Senior OL Xzavier McAllister (6-6, 320) has offers from Pitt and Akron. McKinley has a new head coach in Todd Filtz, who went 41-10 and made two state finals (2010 champion) in four years at Maple Heights.
Canton GlenOak (9-2, Region 2 Quarterfinalist): The defending Federal League champions will have a more balanced attack this year with senior QB Reid Worstell (6-3, 210) back under center. Senior OL Steve Mathie (6-4, 290) is a big-time prospect. Keep an eye on sophomore RB/LB Jason Simon. Said head coach Steve Garcia (35-15 career record): “Our off-season program has been outstanding, we will be a very strong football team. Our focus needs to be on consistency and accountability on the field. Several Mistakes both on and off the field earned us an early exit from last year’s playoffs.”
Hudson (10-2, Region 2 Semifinalist): The Explorers made the postseason for the first time since 2004 last year and second year head coach Ron Wright returns a roster capable of making it again. Defense will be a strength. Senior LB/RB Ben Gedeon (6-3, 225) is one of the state’s top prospects and is committed to Michigan. Last year he had over 100 tackles and ran for over 1,100 yards. Senior DE Adam Coberly (6-3, 190) is a standout lacrosse player and one of the state’s top edge players. WR/DB/KR Leighton Antonio (6-1, 185, sr.), a state-caliber sprinter, returned three kicks for TDs last season. OL/DL Jason Idoine (6-4, 225, sr.) will anchor the OL. Creating excitement is a new 5,000-seat stadium that will host its first game Aug. 24 (against Kenston). The new Hudson Memorial Stadium was built thanks to $5.5 million of privately raised funds.
Sylvania Southview (9-2, Region 1 Quarterfinalist): According to head coach Jim Mayzes (144-56 in 18 years and two state finals), the Cougars “return a lot of talent with little experience.” Southview returns five starters on offense and four starters on defense. The offense will rely on Bowling Green commit and QB Austin Valdez (6-1, 200, sr.) to distribute the ball to a talented receiving corps. The OL returns three starters. The Defense will be led by LB Tino Vergeils (5-11, 205, sr.). The Cougars, who are going for their sixth straight Northern Lakes League title (record), should challenge for the postseason, where they hope to grab their first D-I win. Southview is a two-time D-II finalist and was the 2008 D-II champion.
Wadsworth (11-2, Region 2 Finalist): The Grizzlies were the surprise of D-I last year, riding the abilities of standout RB jack Snowball (over 2,000 yards) all the way to the regional final. This year Wadsworth must replace 10 All-Suburban League performers, but does return first team selection Daryk Maki (6-2, 274, sr., OL) and second team pick Nick Seme (6′ 3″, 226, jr., TE).
Avon Lake (8-2): After moving up to D-I for the first time last year, the Shoremen almost made the playoffs, finishing ninth. In their previous 13 years in D-II, Avon Lake made the postseason 12 times. Junior LB/FB Collin Lucas (6-1, 212) is one of Ohio’s top 2014 players. He had 90 tackles and ran for 589 yards and nine TDs as a sophomore.
Massillon Washington (7-3): The Tigers failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in head coach Jason Hall’s tenure (30-16 in four years at Massillon) last year and aim to get back. Senior QB Kyle Kempt (6-5, 200) is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect and has committed to Cincinnati, choosing the Bearcats over Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia and Indiana. Kempt threw for 1,643 yards and 14 TDs as a sophomore and 1,335 yards and 16 TDs as a junior. Senior DB Gareon Conley (6-1, 170) is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect as well and has committed to Michigan.
Twinsburg (7-3): The Tigers had a string of three straight playoff berths snapped last year (finished 10th in points) but the talent is there to start a new streak. Senior RB Jon Barton shared Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division Player of the Year honors with Mentor’s Mitch Trubisky last year after running for 1,307 yards and 27 TDs on 204 carries. He also had two TDs receiving and returned a kickoff for another. As a sophomore Barton ran for 667 yards and scored 17 TDs. Senior QB Jalen Washington (6-0, 175) is also back after throwing for 1,950 yards and rushing for another 430.
Toledo St. John’s (7-3): The Titans have two JJHuddle Top 100 prospects in QB Brogan Roback (6-4, 185) and OL Matt Miller (6-5, 250). Roback, who’s thrown for 39 TDs the last two years (including a school record 25 as a sophomore), has offers from Bowling Green, Toledo, Ohio and Miami (Oh). Miller holds offers from Michigan State, Purdue, Boston College, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana and others. Senior DB Tony Harper (6-4, 200/second team All-TRAC) is a D-I prospect as well. Harper made 64 tackles last year and is committed to Pitt.
Elyria (7-3): According to head coach Kevin Fell, the Pioneers “will be a much better total team this year in the second year of a new coaching staff. We are a big physical football team with 14 starters and 30 lettermen returning. This will be one of the better Elyria teams in the past several years.” The Pioneers have one of the state’s top 10 prospects in JJHuddle Top 100 DE Tracy Sprinkle (6-4, 250). Sprinkle (80 tackles, nine sacks, 25 QB hurries and five fumble recoveries) is headed to Ohio State. Other players of note are OT Damon Stewart (sr., 6-4, 275), RB Keon Neely (sr., 6-1, 195) and LB Conner Kamczyc (jr., 6-1, 210).
Keep An Eye On
* Anthony Wayne (8-3, Region 2 Quarterfinalist): The Generals snapped a seven-year postseason absence last year.
* North Ridgeville (8-2): The Rangers have had seven straight winning seasons and haven’t finished below .500 since 2003, but they’ve only been to the playoffs once (2009) in school history.
* Green (6-4): Senior TE Christian DiLauro (6-6, 260) is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect and has committed to Illinois. He caught 14 passes for 220 yards and a TD last year.
* Massillon Perry (2-8): The Panthers face another daunting schedule that includes seven playoff teams from last year. Head coach Keith Boedicker will lean on FB/LB Jo Jo Tayse, RB/SS Devon Allen, LB Jake Moore (second team All-Federal League), QB/P Adron Bealer (second team All-Federal League), OL/DL Joey Ehmer and OL/DL Ron Humphreys.
* Amherst Steele (1-9): Head coach Chad DiFranco enters Year 2 with the Comets with a senior class he says has “a bitter taste in their mouth from last season” and “(is) determined to help lead this program back to a level that enables us to compete for the Southwest Conference championship.” Key senior contributors include QB Eric Lamb (6-4, 185/1.068 yards, eight TDs), WR Tom Gula (5-10, 165/35 rec., 435 yards, four TDs), RB Jordan Irviin (5-9, 185/three TDs), OL Matt Hess (6-2, 280), OL Stephan Moody (6-0, 235), OL Gino Cioffi (6-4, 285), TE Kyle Kelly, LB Guy Schuler (6-2, 180/75 tackles, seven TFL), DL Jake Bruder (46 tackles) and DB/P Brian Young (5-11, 160/58 tackles).
* Macedonia Nordonia (2-8): New head coach Jeff Fox inherits a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2008. Said Fox: “There is great potential in this team because of a solid returning senior class and quite a few young players with a lot of talent. We are excited.”
* Massillon Jackson (6-4): The Polar Bears have a satr in senior LB Nathan Locke (6-1, 255) who has committed to Bowling Green.
Also In This Region
Brunswick (6-4), Lorain (5-5), Stow-Munroe Falls (4-6), Toledo Start (4-6), Medina (4-6), Toledo Waite (4-6), Toledo Bowsher 4-6), Cuyahoga Falls (1-9), North Canton Hoover (3-7)