Regional breakdown, top players, big games, big names, teams to beat, teams to watch and more…
Region 11 Preview
Playoff Teams: Our Predictions
Mooney, Steubenville, Dover, Marlington, Canal Fulton Northwest, Granville, Licking Valley, Minerva
Dark Horses: Thornville Sheridan, Indian Creek, Poland
10 Players To Watch
1. Courtney Love, LB, sr., Mooney: JJHuddle Top 100 prospect is committed to Nebraska
2. Marcus McWilson, DB, sr., Mooney: JJHuddle Top 100 prospect is committed to Nebraska
3. Robert Hayden, LB, jr., Steubenville: Had 47 tackles as freshman & 50 last year
4. Jake Riley, LB/RB, sr., Minerva: Ran for 1,225 yards & 15 TDs last year, added 85 tackles
5. Tate Leavitt, OL, sr., Sheridan: Owns several MAC offers
6. Dymonte Thomas, RB/DB, sr., Marlington: JJHuddle Top 100 prospect is committed to Michigan
7. David Fraley, QB, sr., Granville: Three-year starter; 1,969 yards in seven games last year
8. Drew McArtor, RB, sr., Licking Valley: Has run for 1,300 and 1,500 yards the last two years
9. Tyler Peterson, WR, sr., Claymont: 162 receptions, 2,245 yards & 22 TDs the last two years
10. Brock Macaulay, OL, sr., West Holmes: Potential TE/DE recruit has several MAC offers
Mooney @ St. Ignatius, Aug. 25 (Week 1)
Steubenville @ Massillon, Sept. 21 (Week 5)
Granville @ Licking Valley, Sept. 21 (Week 5)
Akron SVSM @ Northwest, Sept. 28 (Week 6)
Minerva @ Marlington, Oct. 5 (Week 7)
Dover @ New Philadelphia, Oct. 26 (Week 10)
Team To Beat
* Youngstown Mooney (11-3, State Champions): The Cardinals have
accomplished a ton as a program, but this year they’ll try to do
something they’ve never done – win back-to-back state titles. Mooney has
been to the playoffs 25 times, won 56 playoff games, won 15 regional
titles, made 11 state finals and won eight state titles. They, however,
have never won two in a row. That could change. Mooney returns some
extensive firepower in the senior LB/RB duo of Courtney Love (6-1, 192)
and Marcus McWilson (6-0, 190). Both are headed to Nebraska. Other key
returning seniors are OL Jeff Harper (6-6, 270), WR Quincy Jones (6-0,
188), LB Aaron Fonderlin (6-2, 255), RB Justus Ellis-Moore (5-6,
175/nine TDs), OL Bobby Ballone (6-3, 310), OL Joesph DeCapita (6-1,
255) and ATH Kareem Ellis (5-9, 170). Mooney plays five D-I schools,
including St. Ignatius (Week 1) and St. Edward (Week 6). Tests at Mentor
Lake Catholic (Week 6) and Ursuline (Week 9) loom too.
Teams To Watch
* Steubenville (11-1, Region 11 Semifinalist): Big Red has made the postseason 11 straight years. Will they again? Should. A lot of big names are gone, but talent remains. This is Steubenville after all. Key returners are senior LB/RB Teshawn Luke (6-2, 180/62 tackles, eight sacks), senior WR/DB Matt Petrella (6-2, 190/21 rec., 330 yards, four TDs, 20 tackles), senior RB/LB Dashon Redman (5-10, 208/36 tackles, 300 yards rushing), senior WR/DB Evan Westlake (5-9, 165/247 yards receiving, two TDs), junior LB Robert Hayden (6-1, 180/52 tackles as a sophomore, 47 tackles as a freshman), ATH JaQuan Lavender (5-10, 150) and junior DL Arin Goldsmith (6-0, 215/38 tackles). As usual, Big Red plays a ton of home games (eight) and a ton of out-of-state opponents (D.C., New York, West Virginia and Pennsylvania). Steubenville also plays a Canadian team this season and only plays four Ohio teams (Benedictine, Massillon Washington, Ursuline and Akron Buchtel). Since taking over in 1983, OHSFCA HOF coach Reno Saccoccia is 302-53 with 22 playoff appearances, 13 regional titles, six state finals and three state titles.
* Indian Creek (8-3, Region 11 Quarterfinalist): The Redskins made their first playoff appearance since 1996 last season and were bounced by Steubenville in the first round. Key returners are senior OL Shane Winland (6-0, 230), senior DL Montel McClelland (6-2, 170) and senior DB Alex Young (6-1, 155).
* Dover (11-2, Region 11 Finalist): The Tornados have been to the playoffs seven straight years and have played in four straight regional finals under head coach Dan Ifft. This season they must replace standout QB Derek Swinderman (Ashland) who threw for over 6,000 yards and 60 TDs the last two years. Weapons return in senior WR Mason Mamarella (5-11, 165), senior WR Trey Wallick (5-11, 165) and senior DL Demetrius Farmer (6-2, 255).
* Minerva (11-1, Region 11 Semifinalist): The Lions are coming off the first back-to-back playoff appearances in school history. Can they make it three in a row? Senior RB/LB Jake Riley (6-3, 210) will play a large part. Last season Riley ran for 1,225 yards and 15 TDs. He also had 85 tackles.
* Thornville Sheridan (9-2, Region 11 Quarterfinalist): The Generals have been a playoff regular with 14 postseason appearances since 1993. Senior OL Tate Leavitt (6-7, 295) is one of Ohio’s top OL prospects. He has several MAC offers.
* Canal Fulton Northwest (8-3, Region 11 Quarterfinalist): The Indians and head coach Vic Whiting (201-71 career record) have been to the playoffs 10 of the last 11 years. Northwest returns eight starters on offense – including the entire OL – but it must replace several key skill positions (QB, RB and WR). Defensively six starters return including three three-year senior starters on the DL – Tyler Bowman (6-2, 230), Cody Grogan (6-0, 260) and Matt Schley (6-3, 230). Bowman doubles as a standout FB and senior OL Jordan West (6-2, 280) anchors the veteran line. Depth (23 returning letterwinners) is a strength.
* Poland (7-4, Region 11 Quarterfinalist): The Bulldogs are looking for their sixth straight playoff berth and will have to overcome some key graduation losses to do it. Senior TE/DE Alex Hubbell (6-2, 215) was first team All-AAC last year. Senior K Connor McFadden (6-2, 145) has made 13 FGs the last two years.
* Marlington (8-2): The Dukes had a disappointing season last year despite winning eight games. After making the playoffs in 2009 and 2010, Arlington finished ninth last year and failed to qualify. That bad taste lingers. Senior RB/DB Dymonte Thomas (6-2, 180) is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect and is headed to Michigan. He enters his senior season with 3,317 career rushing yards and has accounted for 31 TDs the last two years.
* Granville (9-1): The Blue Aces were left out of the postseason last year despite rebounding from a season opening loss to Johnstown-Monroe to win nine straight. Expect them to vie for Week 11 again this season. Senior QB David Fraley is a three-year starter and one of the D-III’s best QBs. In just seven games last year he threw for 1,969 yards and 23 TDs and ran for 465 yards and three TDs. His favorite target – junior WR Ajay Alderman (5-10, 165) – also returns after leading the team in receiving the last two years. Defensively Granville has some hammers in senior LB Clayton Plute (6-1, 195/111 tackles) and senior DB Josh Link (5-8, 155). Granville has been to the playoffs four times but is still searching for its first playoff win.
* Licking Valley (8-2): The Panthers have made the playoffs nine of the last 12 years but have only been once since 2009. This year expect another big dose of senior RB Drew McArtor (6-1, 195) who suffered a torn ACL in Week 8 last year against Columbus Academy. McArtor ran for 1,300 yards as a sophomore and had 1,500 yards last year before his season-ending injury. Also back is senior OL Jacob Cotrell (6-3, 240).
Keep An Eye On
* Philo (6-4): The Electrics have gone 6-4 in each of head coach Dirk Lincicome’s first two years and last year tied for third in the Muskingum Valley League. This year’s excitement revolves around the return of junior QB/DB Zak Sheridan (5-8, 165) and senior RB/DB Kaleb Wiseman (5-10, 195). Sheridan ran for eight TDs and 406 yards on 77 carries last year, while Wiseman had four TDs and 421 yards on 83 carries. Anchoring both lines are senior Elijah Talk (6-1, 250) and junior Choya Gill (6-1, 290). Said Lincicome: “We need to do a better job of coming out of the locker room ready to play ball. We have fallen into the habit of getting behind early and turning the ball over in the first half. This has created problems for us in each of the past two seasons. Playing well early in the game will be a focus of improvement for us this preseason.”
* Shelby (0-10): The Whippets had a coaching change in June last year and the poor timing showed during a winless season. This year, with head coach Steve McCoy and his staff being in place during the offseason, there’s reason for excitement. Shelby is celebrating its 118th season of football and returns 13 letterwinners. Key contributors will be seniors OL/DE Dylan Bailey (6-4, 240/58 tackles), TE/LB AJ Bihl (6-3, 220/42 tackles, 13 receptions) and QB/RB/DB Andrew Baird (5-10, 175/772 yards passing, four TDs, 601 yards rushing, 11 TDs, 91 tackles). Keep an eye on junior OL/LB Tristan Kehres (6-2, 235/74 tackles). Said McCoy: “This group of athletes seems poised, well conditioned and has the right balance between speed and strength. The best assets to this group is their work ethic and team cohesion. These guys never miss a workout and if they do they are making it up over the weekend. They live in the gym and on the practice field. Simply put, they want to win.”
* Cambridge (8-2): The Bobcats will rely on senior LB Chase Lanning (6-0, 190). Senior K Cody Engstrom (5-4, 135) is a good one.
* Claymont (8-2): The Mustangs went from 2-8 in 2010 to 8-2 last year. Quite a turnaround. To maintain the progression Claymont will have to find a replacement for record-setting QB Nick Merrick (Tiffin) who threw for 3.005 yards and 40 TDs last year. The good news? Ohio’s second-leading receiver in 2011 – senior Tyler Peterson (5-11, 185) – returns. A two-time first team All-ECOL selection, Peterson caught 74 passes for 1,076 yards and 10 TDs as a sophomore. As a unior he hauled in 88 passes for 1,169 yards and 12 TDs. Also back are senior WRs Taylor Wise (6-5, 180) and Blake Albaugh (5-8, 145).
* West Holmes (5-5): After going 1-9 in 2012, the Knights improved to .500. Can they keep climbing? Senior OL Brock Macauly (6-7, 240) is a D-I prospect with several MAC offers. Other key contributors are senior QB/LB Gabe Snyder (6-5, 210) and senior FB/DE Garrett Mackey (5-11, 205). Snyder threw for 10 TDs last year and made 80 tackles. West Holmes hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2000.
* New Lexington (7-3): Senior WR Jerald Spohn (6-1, 172) returns after catching 35 passes for 616 yards and eight TDs last year.
Also In This Region
West Branch (4-6), Struthers (5-5), Salem (5-5), Maysville (5-5), Buckeye Local (6-4), John Glenn (3-7), Carrollton (2-8), River View (2-8), Canton South (1-9), Beaver Local (1-9), East Liverpool (1-9), Morgan (1-9), Hebron Lakewood (1-9)