Regional breakdown, top players, big games, big names, teams to beat, teams to watch and more…
Region 9 Preview
Playoff Teams: Our Predictions
Chagrin Falls, Lake Catholic, Benedictine, Akron SVSM, Hubbard, University, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, Akron Buchtel
Dark Horses: Firelands, Akron Hoban, Brookside
10 Players To Watch
1. Tommy Iammarino, QB, sr., Chagrin Falls: Three-year starter accounted for 24 TDs last year
2. John Stepec,LB, sr. Lake Catholic: Made 80 tackles, including 28 TFL & 12 sacks, last year
3. Marshall Howell, WR, sr., Benedictine: Holds MAC offers; 900 all-purpose yards last year
4. A.J. Branisel, TE, sr. NDCL: JJHuddle Top 100 prospect is committed to Cincinnati
5. Zach Hofecker, LB, sr. Firelands: Registered 129 tackles last season
6. Jordan Hargrove, WR, sr., Akron SVSM: Had 51 receptions for 910 yards & 13 TDs last year
7. Kevin Smith, RB, sr., University: Ran for 1,125 yards adn 15 TDs as a junior
8. Matt McGlone, WR, sr., Norton: Caught 56 passes for 756 yards & seven TDs last year
9. Darshawn James, RB, sr., Akron Hoban: Ran for 1,269 yards and seven TDs as a junior
10. Elijah Bell, LB, sr., Buchtel: Made 115 tackles and scored 15 TDs last year
Benedictine @ Steubenville, Aug. 31 (Week 2)
Chagrin Falls @ NDCL, Aug. 31 (Week 2)
Hartley @ Akron Hoban, Sept. 14 (Week 4)
Aurora at Chagrin Falls, Sept. 14 (Week 4)
Mooney at Lake Catholic, Sept. 21 (Week 5)
Akron SVSM @ Massillon, Oct. 19 (Week 9)
Team To Beat
* Chagrin Falls (13-1, State Semifinalist): Over the past three
years the Tigers are 40-4 and have won three straight regional titles
(two in D-IV, one in D-III). They will challenge to extend that streak.
CF is especially healthy on offense where it returns a triumvirate of
three-year starters in the backfield. Senior QB Tommy Iammarino (6-0,
208/146-of-218 passes, 1,744 yards, 17 TDs, 7 TD rushing last year) and
senior RBs Jack Campbell (5-11. 205/1,112 rush yards, 12 TDs) and
Bradley Munday (5-9, 170/1,400 yards total offense) will lead an offense
that averaged 32 points in 14 games last season. Junior all-purpose
receiver/returner Matt Iammarino averaged 19 yards per punt return.
Seniors Ben Esterer and Ben Vandertill could also be in the mix for the
receiving corps. On the line of scrimmage, seniors Grant Lingafelter
(6-5, 255) and Wes Bomback (6-1, 260) will be the anchors. Lingafelter
has several D-I offers. Expect Will Hinman (sr.) and Daniel Herbener
(jr.) should add to that group. Graduation hit the defense hard as only
four starters return: Campbell (LB), Munday (CB), Matt Markley (6-4,
230, sr., DE) and Michael Munday (5-9, 165, jr., CB). Seniors Dan
Kuenzig (LB), Tommy Murtaugh (DE) and Ed Woods (NT) look to provide
depth up front.
Teams To Watch
* Mentor Lake Catholic (10-2, Region 9 Semifinalist): Last year the Cougars had to replace 21 of 22 starters from a state semifinalist team and made the playoffs. This year there are holes to fill but not as many. Senior FB/LB John Stepec (6-3, 250) is back after making 80 tackles, including 28 TFL and 12 sacks. He also ran for eight TDs. Stepec has offers from Minnesota, Cincinnati, Boston College, Syrascuse and several MAC schools. Other key contributors include seniors OL Evan Grosel (6-4, 310), DL Justin Kravchuck (6-0, 200), QB Mark Baniewicz (6-2, 195), OL Casey Davis (5-10, 240) and OL Sean Wynne (6-0, 280).
* Benedictine (7-4, Region 9 Quarterfinalist): The Bengals are set up for a solid run under second-year head coach Ben Malbasa (38-14 career record). Senior WR Marshall Howell (6-1, 180/900 all-purpose yards) and senior OL/DL Jaylen Funches (6-5, 295) are D-I prospects that hold several offers. Fellow seniors OL/DL Peter Cvijanovich (6-5, 275), QB/RB Dan Piascik (6-0, 175/1,600 yards, 11 TDs), DB/WR Jovon Dawson (6-0, 170) and LB Matt McCarthy (6-0, 210) are key components. Keep an eye on juniors LB/FB Antonio Robinson (5-11, 215) and OL/DL Nick DiGeronimo (5-10, 255) and sophomore WR/QB/LB Jerome Baker (6-2, 205). Benedictine opens with brutal back-to-back road games at Boardman and Steubenville. Overall the Bengals will play seven road games. That being said, there’s reason for excitement. Benedictine opens its first on-campus field (artificial turf) this fall and will hold freshman and JV games there. No varsity games will be played there yet.
* Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin (5-5): Head coach Byron Morgan has won 224 games over a 32-year career that includes successful stints at Mayfield and Solon (state runner-up). In his seventh season at NDCL, Morgan has some horses. Senior TE A.J. Branisel (6-4, 222) has committed to Cincinnati. Branisel caught 35 passes (six TDs) last year. Also back are senior QB Robbie Nash (6-0, 190/1,745 yards and 11 TDs), senior OL John Turk (6-1, 235/three-year starter) and senior LB Carl Blatnik (6-0, 190). Overall the Lions return seven starters on offense, six on defense and both their kicker and punter. A tough schedule looms with non-league games against Willoughby South, Chagrin Falls and University School and newcomers Canton Central Catholic and Erie Central Tech. In Week 6 North Coast League play begins. Siad Morgan: “We were in every game last season.”
* Firelands (10-1, Region 9 Quarterfinalist): The Falcons had a historic season last year when they won their first league titel since 1992, had their first winning season since 1997 and earned their first playoff berth ever. Said head coach Mike Passerrello: “Last we went with the motto ‘No Excuses, Pure Commitment’. This was designed to change the culture of the football program. With the great 2011 season we have added to the motto “No Excuses, Pure Commitment, Continuing Excellence.’” Key players this year will be senior LB Zach Hofecker (5-11, 215/129 tackles) and senior RB/DB Dakota Dodge (5-7, 165).
* Ravenna (9-3, Region 9 Semifinalist): The Ravens must find a replacement for RB D.J. Jones who went for over 2,000 yards last year. Senior DB Dylan Fox (5-9, 165) is back after making 50 tackles and five INTs.
* Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (10-3, Region 9 Finalist): The Irish have been in the playoffs four of the last five years but must replace a stellar senior class. Senior WR Jordan Hargrove (6-0, 175) is back after catching 51 passes for 910 yards and 13 TDs. Senior QB Clayton Uecker (6-5, 192) will take over for standout Kevin Besser (Walsh). Also back are senior WR/DB Joe Weber (6-4, 185) and senior WR/DB Franshon Bickley (5-7, 145). Junior LB Dante Booker Jr. (6-3, 210) is one of Ohio’s top junior prospects. Head coach Dan Boarman owns a career record of 158-86.
* University School (9-2, Region 9 Quarterfinalist): The Preppers have made the playoffs two years in a row. They must replace standout QB Tyler Eden and DB/RB John McKelvey (Minnesota), but talent remains. Senior RB Kevin Smith (5-8, 188) returns after earning All-Premier Athletic Conference honors last year when he ran for 1,125 yards and 15 TDs. Smith had 713 yards and eight TDs as a sophomore. Keep an eye on junior WR Kory Pearson (6-3, 183).
* Hubbard (7-3): The Eagles have been to the playoffs 10 of the last 13 years but had a string of five straight playoff berths snapped last season. This year Hubbard will challenge for a spot in Week 11 again. Senior DB Brandon Harb (5-11, 180) is back after making 96 tackles last year. Offensively, the Eagles will rely on junior WR Darnell Tate (6-0, 170) and sophomore RB Larry Scott (6-0, 205).
* Brookside (4-6): The Cardinals have never been to the playoffs but that could change this season. Several key players return from last year’s squad that started 4-2 last year but dropped its last four. Sophomore QB Cameron Drew is back after starting as a freshman. Also returning is junior RB Arin Pruitt (5-9, 165), junior LB Chad Metcalf (6-1, 200) and junior K Brandon Bellman (5-9, 135).
Keep An Eye On
* Norton (1-9): The Panthers have one of the state’s best receivers in Matt McGlone (6-5, 180) who caught 56 passes for 756 yards and seven TDs last year. He also had 37 tackles. Also back is senior QB Cameron Sheppard (5-11, 160) who completed 110-of-206 passes for 1,594 yards, 14 TDs and eight INTs a year ago. Shepard also ran for four TDs and was the team’s leading rusher (584 yards on 143 carries). Senior linebacker Tevin Peterson (5-10, 160) returns to lead the defense (61 tackles).
* Ravenna Southeast (9-3, Region 9 Quarterfinalist): After going 5-5 in 2012, Southeast earned the school’s third playoff berth and first since 2005.
* Akron Hoban (1-9): The Knights struggled last year and are looking to rebound. Key returners include seniors RB Darshawn James (5-8, 170/207 carries, 1,269 yards rushing, seven TDs), QB Dominick Orsini (6-3, 195), WR/DB Aaron Abernathy (5-10, 171/18 rec., 221 yards, two TDs, 24 tackles) and TE/DE Jimmy Martter (6-3, 236/16 rec., 250 yards, three TDs). Head coach Ralph Orsini is 129-75 in 19 seasons).
* Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (7-3): Senior QB Ray Carroscia (6-2, 196) returns after throwing for 508 yards and six TDs. He also ran for two TDs.
* Jefferson Area (7-3): The Falcons join the All-American Conference this season.
* Akron Buchtel (6-4): The Griffins will be led by senior LB/RB Elijah Bell (6-2, 190) who had 115 tackles and 15 TDs last year.
Also In This Region
Cleveland John Hay (6-4), Parma Heights Holy Name (7-3), Niles McKinley (5-5), Mogadore Field (5-5), Woodridge (5-5), Pepper Pike Orange (4-6), Bay Village Bay (3-7), Medina Buckeye (3-7), Rocky River (3-7), Warrensville Heights (3-7), Mantua Crestwood (2-8), Padua Franciscan (2-8), Akron North (1-9)