Regional breakdown, top players, big games, big names, teams to beat, teams to watch and more…
Region 3 Preview
Playoff Teams: Our Predictions
Davidson, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North, Coffman, Gahanna, Westerville Central, Westerville South, Olentangy Liberty
Dark Horses: Reynoldsburg, Darby, Olentangy Orange
10 Players To Watch
1. Marcus Ball, DB, sr., Westerville South: Wisconsin, ND, Iowa & Penn State among suitors
2. Gary Brown, WR, sr., Westerville South: Caught 60 passes for 1,048 yards and 13 TDs last year
3. Jake Butt, TE, sr., Pickerington North: Michigan commit is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect
4. Donovan Wilson, RB, sr., Dublin Jerome: Georgia Tech commit has eclisped 1,000-yards…twice
5. Emmanuel Beal, DL, sr., Reynoldsburg: Had 22 sacks & forced four fumbles last year
6. Caleb Day, DB, sr., Hilliard Darby: JJHuddle Top 100 prospect committed to Illinois
7. Godwin Igwebuike, DB, sr., Pick. North: Has over 20 offers including Wisconsin, Iowa & MSU
8. Taco Charlton, DE, sr., Pick. Central: Michigan commit is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect
9. James Walsh, QB, sr., Dublin Coffman: Ohio commit; Had 2,158 total yards & 20 TDs last year
10. Thaddeus Snodgrass, WR, jr., Springfield: One of Ohio’s best jr. prospects, Ohio State offer
Liberty @ Orange, Aug. 24 (Week 1)
Pick Central @ Colerain, Aug. 25 (Week 1)
Davidson @ Coffman, Sept. 14 (week 4)
Pick North @ Pick Central, Sept. 28 (Week 6)
West. South @ West. Central, Oct. 12 (Week 8)
Gahanna @ Pick North, Oct. 19 (Week 9)
Team To Beat
Pickerington North (8-2): The Panthers have a loaded roster and appear ready to take the next step. The bad taste of last year’s finish (ninth in computer points) adds motivation. Pick North has three JJHuddle Top 100 players in TE Jake Butt (6-6, 230), OL Chris Huhn (6-6, 275) and DB Godwin Igwebuike (6-0, 190). Butt is committed to Michigan, while Igwebuike has over 20 offers including Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan State, Northwestern, Pitt, Wake Forest and Boston College. Huhn has offers from several MAC schools and Louisville. Also back is senior LB/FB Warren Stoddard (5-11, 200) who had 68 tackles and 6.5 TFL last year. WR/DB Mason Olszewski (6-2, 175) is back after earning second team All-OCC honors after making 37 tackles, 4.5 TFL and two INTs.
Teams To Watch
Dublin Coffman (8-3, Region 3 Quarterfinalist): Senior QB James Walsh (6-2, 186) is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect and has committed to Ohio. Last year he accounted for 2,158 total yards (1,837 passing) and 20 TDs. Senior C Tanner Zinni (6-0, 250/second team All-OCC) anchors the OL. Defensively, senior DE Miles McCollum (6-3, 240/first team All-OCC) is back after registering 60 tackles, 14 TFL, six sacks and three caused fumbles. Also back is senior DB Jacob Gilbert (5-9, 180/first team All-OCC/67 tackles and three INTs) and senior LB Ian Flinders (6-0, 205/HM All-OCC/99 tackles). Senior kicker Grant Coffman (5-10, 173/first team All-OCC) is one of Ohio’s best. He made 41-of-42 PATs and 9-of-10 FGs last year.
Westerville Central (8-2, Region 3 Quarterfinalist): Longtime head coach John Magistro (led Bellaire to two state finals) added a feather in his cap last year by leading Westerville Central to its first playoff berth in school history and its first winning season since 2006. For an encore the Warhawks want to win a playoff game. Senior DL/OL John Whitman (6-2, 245) anchors a talented OL that also includes seniors C.J. Naples (5-11, 209), Mohammed Sankoh (6-1, 220) and Justin Winrow (6-5, 300) and junior Nick Richardson (6-5, 285), one of Ohio’s top 2014 prospects. Also back are TE Jeremiah Shaw (6-4, 210, jr.) and FB Jordan Bratton (6-2, 230, jr.). Senior RB/DB Alfred Colson (5-11, 170) will makes plays on both sides of the ball (42 tackles). WC also received a boost when former Upper Arlington QB Jared Drake transferred in. Drake was second team All-OCC at UA last year. Drake listed Westerville Central as his home school at Ohio State’s Advanced Camp in June. New opponents include Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne. Said Magistro, who needs four wins to reach 200 for his career: “After accomplishing a few firsts last season, that’s something we want to use as a team builder and make sure it’s not a one time achievement.”
Pickerington Central (11-3, State Runner-Up): The Tigers rebounded from an 0-2 start last year to reach their second state championship game and first in D-I. Pick Central lost to St. Ignatius. This season the Tigers must replace 12 All-OCC Ohio Division performers. Senior DE Taco Charlton (6-6, 245) is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect and has committed to Michigan. Also back is senior LB Greg Basalyga (5-11, 215) who had 115 tackles last year. Head coach Jay Sharrett is 94-18.
Hilliard Davidson (11-1, Region 3 Finalist): The Wildcats have made the playoffs 10 of the last 12 years and own two state titles since 2006. This year there are question marks. “With only one returning starter on defense and three on offense, we have many shoes to fill from last season’s undefeated season,” head coach Brian White (138-43 in 13 seasons) said. White and the Davidson faithful can expect big contributions from seniors DL Nick Wright (5-10, 241), RB EJ Jennings (5-11, 205), ATH Nick Waters (5-8, 170) and OL John Browning (6-2, 230). New additions to the schedule include Marysville and Olentangy Liberty. Chief rivals Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Darby and Upper Arlington also loom.
Westerville South (6-4): The Wildcats are in limbo with JJHuddle Top 100 prospect Marcus Ball who transferred to Gahanna Lincoln in the spring. The QB continues to do WS workouts and expects to be back in a Wildcats uniform come August but that’s yet to be seen. If Ball (Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State offers) isn’t back, expect senior Nick Renzetti (6-4, 175) to step in under center after throwing for 753 yards and seven TDs last year. Senior WR Gary Brown (6-0, 187) is one of Ohio’s best at his position (60 rec., 1,048 yards and 13 TDs last year). Brown also had three INTs as a DB. Senior RB Noah Prentiss (5-8, 200) is also back after earning second team All-OCC Cardinal Division honors last year. Defensively, senior DB Myles Collier (6-0, 185) anchors the secondary after making 125 tackles, 15 TFL and 15 pass break-ups as a junior. Senior LB Jordan Rodriguez (6-3, 225/87 tackles) was second team All-OCC Cardinal Division.
Upper Arlington (9-3, Region 3 Semifinalist): The Golden Bears made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 last year and beat Troy before falling to Hilliard Davidson. This year UA must replace 11 All-OCC performers. Senior RB/DB Gus Ackley (5-10, 180/second team All-OCC) returns. Junior DL Noah Spielman (6-1, 240), the son of Chris Spielman, is one to watch. He had 34 tackles last year.
Olentangy Orange (8-3, Region 3 Quarterfinalist): Highly successful head coach Brian Cross (211-113 career record) led the Pioneers to their second playoff appearance in three years last season. Gone are several key components of that team but there is talent returning. Senior QB Kofi Hill (6-2, 210) will lead the charge for a team that will face two new opponents this season: Groveport (Week 2) and Worthington Kilbourne (Week 3). Said Cross: “Some of us can’t get it done for all of us.”
Gahanna Lincoln (9-3, Region 3 Semifinalist): The Lions lost three games last year and two were to state runner-up Pickerington Central. Gahanna has high expectations again and returns 19 lettermen. Head coach John Snoad (124-97 career record) begins his fifth season with the Lions (22-20) high on his offensive backfield. QB Alec Tuohy (6-0, 170, sr.) returns after getting hurt in the season opener last year against DeSales. He could be pushed by transfer Marcus Ball (6-3, 210) from Westerville South. Ball, a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect, could be back at South by the time the season begins, but if not he’ll likely look to join the Lions. RB/LB Geoff Helms (6-1, 225, sr.), LB/RB Mitchell Rowell (6-0, 215, sr.) and RB/DL Granyl Smith (6-0, 220, sr.) head an experienced backfield. Defensively, newcomers will have to plug holes on the edges and in the secondary. A deep senior class (25) should help. Scrimmages at St. Edward and against Dublin Coffman will test the Lions early.
Dublin Jerome (4-6): Senior RB Donovan Wilson (6-1, 215) is a tremendous talent and has rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the last two years. In 2010, Wilson ran for 1,206 yards and 15 TDs. Last year he had 1,430 yards and 16 TDs. He’s committed to Georgia Tech.
Reynoldsburg (6-4): The Raiders return a solid nucleus from a team whose four losses last year came to three playoffs teams (Pickerington Central, Gahanna and Findlay) and Pickerington North (8-2). This could be Reynoldsburg’s year. Senior WR Mykel Traylor-Bennett (6-3, 195) is a JJHuddle Top 100 Prospect and has committed to Cincinnati. First team All-OCC Ohio Division RB Kumar Collins (5-9, 200) is back as well. Other key contributors and returning All-OCC Ohio Division performers are DE Emmanuel Beal (6-2, 200, sr.), DB Grant Coleman (6-0, 160, sr.) and DL Jeff Jones (5-11, 279, sr.). Beal had 61 tackles, 22 sacks and four forced fumbles last year. Senior DB Tre Rowe (5-9, 175) has committed to Toledo.
Olentangy Liberty (6-4): The Patriots could shock some people. Liberty returns a solid squad. The Patriots have a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect in senior LB Ryan Seibert who has several MAC offers. Other standouts include TE Bryson Wray (6-2, 215, sr.), DB Tyler Welch (6-0, 185) and LB Grant Cartwright (6-4, 225, sr.). The key piece is returning senior QB Joey Longhino (6-0, 185). He threw for 1,881 yards and 19 TDs last year and ran for 452 yards and five TDs. Liberty also has the state’s top D-I kicker in Samuel Vucelich (5-11, 175).
Keep An Eye On
* Olentangy (5-5): Senior OL Austin Schmidt (6-6, 270) has committed to Illinois. Senior DB Buchi Okafor (6-1, 185) has an offer from Miami (Ohio).
* Marysville (6-4): The Monarchs return second team All-OCC DE Logan Burns (6-2, 217, sr.)
* Hilliard Bradley (7-3): After finishing 3-7 in 2010, the Jaguars improved four games. Keep an eye on junior OL Skylar Hartley (6-3, 295).
* Hilliard Darby (7-3): The Panthers have a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect in senior DB Caleb Day (6-1, 186). Day has offers from Ohio State, Arkansas, Illinois, Cincinnati and others. Senior LB Cameron Kohl (6-1, 225) has an offer from Bowling Green. Last year Kohl led Darby in tackles with 115, including 18 TFL. He also returned two INTs for TDs.
* Lancaster (5-5): The Golden Gales have a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect in senior TE Ryan Thomas (6-7, 230). Watch out for junior OL Kyle Trout (6-6280). He already has offers from Illinois, Cincinnati, Ohio and Toledo.
* Grove City (3-7): This is GC’s third year back after missing a season (2009) due to levy failure and the Greyhounds expect to have better success after going 7-13 the last two years. The OL is seasoned with two three-year starters back in seniors John Davis (6-2, 270) and Brandon Glover (6-4, 320). Senior TE Tyler Conner (6-2, 220) is a two-year starter. Junior OL Matt Brown (6-4, 260) will help anchor both lines. Senior OLB/RB Chad Moore (6-1, 190) heads the defense, while junior Jakub Sayres (5-10, 185) will impact all facets of the game. GC opens with Hilliard Davidson and plays Westerville South in Week 3 before OCC-Ohio play starts. Keep tabs on sophomores Brandon Skeen (6-6, 260) and Ryan Grooms (6-2, 225).
* Thomas Worthington (4-6): The Cardinals continue their quest for the program’s first winning season since 1999. Head coach Scott Gordan (16-34 in five years at the school) said TW has, “a team that gained a lot of experience last year and will be very fast. The defense should be solid. The question mark on offense is whether consistent play can be found by some talented skill position players.” Senior DL Jonathan Highley (6-1, 280) was All-OCC honors last season. A talented junior class includes ATH/DB Jalen Wells (6-1, 180), RB Tony Harvard (5-10, 175) and DE Richard Spernoga (6-4, 225).
* Westerville North (0-10): New head coach Rodger Elander inherits a program that’s lost 35 straight games.
* Springfield (1-9): The Wildcats have two of Ohio’s top junior prospects in WR Thaddeus Snodgrass (6-1, 170) and LB Davonte James (6-2, 220). Snodgrass has offers from Ohio State, Michigan State and Toledo. Springfield has a new head coach in Eric Gillespie who comes in after spending the last five seasons at Richmond (Ind.). Springfield is 22-21 in its four years since merging South and North highs.
* Troy (8-3, Region 3 Quarterfinalist): After 28 seasons, the Trojans will have a new head coach. Defensive coordinator Scot Brewer was promoted in December to replace longtime coach Steve Nolan who went 202-94 after taking over in 1984. Brewer has to replace nine All-GWOC North Division performers who helped lead Troy to back-to-back postseason berths.
* Dublin Scioto (2-8): The Irish have a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect in senior RB William Houston (6-0, 235).
* Groveport-Madison (3-7): The Cruisers have a formidable DL led by seniors Durrell Bristol (6-3, 320) and Dawuane Smoot (6-4, 220). Bristol holds MAC offers.
Also In This Region
St. Charles (3-7), Delaware Hayes (3-7), Westland (1-9), Central Crossing (1-9), Newark (0-10)