Regional breakdown, top players, big games, big names, teams to beat, teams to watch and more…
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Playoff Teams: Our Predictions
St. Clairsville, Coshocton, Johnstown-Monroe, Indian Valley, Ironton, Amanda-Clearcreek, Martins Ferry, Minford
Dark Horses: Heath, Fairland, Chesapeake
10 Players To Watch
1. Michael Ferns, LB, jr., St. Clairsville: Top 2014 prospect has offers from Ohio State & ND
2. Donyelle Simpson, RB, sr., Heath: Ran for 1,828 yards & 16 TDs as a junior
3. Tanner Cognion, LB, sr., Coshocton: ECOL Def. POY had 131 tackles & seven TFL
4. Corbin Grassman, LB, sr., J-Monroe: Registered 156 tackles as a sjunior
5. Jake Davis, RB, so., Indian Valley: Ran for 1,444 yards & 14 TDs as a freshman
6. Nick Culbertson, DL, sr., Ironton: Had 45 tackles and batted down 12 passes last year
7. Matt Kinnick, QB, sr., St. Clairsville: Threw for 2,768 yards and 30 TDs as a junior
8. Austin Smith, QB, sr., Amanda-Clearcreek: Accounted for 1,186 yards, 13 TDs & 54 tackles last year
9. Nathan Campbell, RB/DB, so., Fairland: Had 65 tackles, three INTs and eight TDs as a freshman
10. Jacob McCray, OL, jr., Minford: Already has offer from Akron, BCS schools interested
Amanda-Clearcreek @ Hartley, Aug. 24 (Week 1)
Johnstown-Monroe @ Heath, Aug. 31 (Week 2)
Akr. Manchester @ Indian Valley, Sept. 28 (Week 6)
Watterson @ Ironton, Oct. 5 (Week 7)
Martins Ferry @ St. Clairsville, Oct. 19 (Week 9)
Hartley @ Coshocton, Oct. 19 (Week 9)
Team To Beat
* St. Clairsville (10-2, Region 15 Semifinalist): The Red Devils
return more starters this season than they did last year when they won
10 games. Junior LB Michael Ferns (6-3, 242/112 tackles) already holds
offers from Ohio State and Notre Dame. Senior WR Dan Monteroso (6-3,
175/ 10 TDs) holds an offer from Ohio. Also back on offense are senior
QB Matt Kinnick (6-0, 180/2,768 yards passing, 30 TDs), junior RB Jaylon
Brown (5-8, 165/1,500 all-purpose yards, 14 TDs) and four OL starters
(Corey Ernest, sr., 6-2, 265; Cole Stephen, sr., 6-0, 195; Tom Parker,
sr., 6-3, 250; Joel Giffin, jr., 6-1, 225). Defensively, St. C returns
senior DBs Jerrid Marhefka (5-11, 170/8 INTs) and Luke Smith (5-9,
190/102 tackles). Junior K Zac Musilli (5-8, 145) was All-Buckeye 8. The
Red Devils, in the program’s 92nd season, are going for their sixth
playoff appearance in seven years. Head coach Brett McLean is 71-36 in
Teams To Watch
* Heath (3-7): Senior RB Donyelle Simpson (5-10, 165, sr.) is a beast. Last year he ran for 1,828 yards and 16 TDs on 315 carries. He also caught three TD passes and threw another. Against Hebron Lakewood, Simpson went for 232 yards and six TDs.
* Chesapeake (7-4, Region 15 Quarterfinalist): The Panthers made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 last year and came close to beating No. 1 seed St. Clairsville (lost 30-27) in the first round. Now what? Finding replacements for QB Austin McMaster (14 TDs), RB Patrick Hintz and LB Brandon Noble is a priority. Senior LB T.J. McCoy (5-11, 235) returns.
* Coshocton (10-3, Region 15 Finalist): The Redskins have been to the playoffs five years in a row but must replace eight All-ECOL performers to make it six straight. This season Coshocton will lean heavily on senior LB Tanner Cognion (6-2, 195) who had 131 tackles, seven TFL and two INTs en route to earning ECOL Gray Division Defensive Player of the Year honors last year. Also back are senior QB/DB Brock Bolden (6-1, 190) and senior WR/DB Curtis Blake (5-9, 160).
* Johnstown-Monroe (13-1, State Semifinalist): The Johnnies run to the state semifinals last year was fueled by senior RB Ross Franklin who ran for 3,472 yards and 49 TDs. Franklin has since graduated as has QB Matt Smith who chipped in 1,370 yards rushing and 19 TDs. The good news? There’s plenty coming back. Seniors Dakota Crawford (6-3, 315) and Tim Sayer (6-4, 215) anchor a talented OL. Expect senior RB Adam Carter (5-9, 210) to get his share of carries. Carter (398 yards, seven TDs) is the leading returning rusher. Defensively, Monroe will rely on senior LB Corbin Grassman (6-2, 215/156 tackles) and senior DBs Nick Sadinsky (6-0, 190/100 tackles, five INTs) and Tyler Thompson (5-11, 150/42 tackles, three INTs). Junior K Charles Benton (6-3, 200) also returns.
* Indian Valley (7-4, Region 15 Quarterfinalist): The Braves made the playoffs for the first time ever last year. IV has holes to fill but they do return standout sophomore RB Jake Davis (5-10, 200) who ran for 1,444 yards and 14 TDs last year. Defensively the Braves return their leading tackler in senior LB Brandon Fox (5-10, 180/100 tackles, 5.5 sacks)
* Ironton (7-5, Region 15 Semifinalist): The Tigers have been to the playoffs 29 times and four straight. Expect those marks to reach 30 and five, respectively, this season. Head coach Mark Vass steps into the gigantic shoes left by legendary coach Bob Lutz who retired in the offseason after 42 years and an Ohio-record 381 victories. Key returning seniors for Ironton include RB Tanner Schweickart (5-11, 210), TE Aaron Stephens (6-2, 190), DL Nick Culbertson (6-4, 255/45 tackles, 12 PBU, three sacks), DB/KR Patrick Lewis (5-10, 170) and LB Trevor White (6-3, 215).
* Martins Ferry (8-3, Region 15 Quarterfinalist): The Purple Riders have been in the playoffs 11 of the last 14 years and four straight. Defensively, senior LBs and first team All-OVAC selections Trent Neavin (5-11, 244) and Sean McGee (6-1, 235) return. Senior Zach Coole (5-10, 217) anchors the OL.
* Amanda-Clearcreek (8-3, Region 15 Quarterfinalist): The Aces have been to three straight postseasons but have been bounced in the first round two years in a row. This season A-C will lean heavily on senior QB Austin Smith (5-10, 160) who threw for 740 yards and seven TDs and ran for 446 yards and six TDs in eight games last year. As a DB, Smith registered 54 tackles and three INTs. The Aces’ kicking game will be better than average with the return of standout senior P Nick Brumfield (5-8, 172) and junior K Grant Brown (6-0, 155).
Keep An Eye On
* Utica (2-8): The Redskins are coming off their worst season since 1988 and longtime head coach Randy Felumlee (124-110 in 23 years) expects this year’s senior class to rebound with a vengeance. He also promises that a “pass happy spread offense will run the ball more in 2012.” Keep an eye on junior RB Travis Baldwin and senior DB Ben Hays.
* Proctorville Fairland (4-6): The Dragons and head coach Dave Carroll (14-16 in three years) are looking for a breakout year. Keep an eye on sophomore RB/DB Nathan Campbell (5-7, 150). Last year he ran for 621 yards and eight TDs and also had 65 tackles and three INTs. Columbus Hartley is new to the non-conference schedule.
* Unioto ( 4-6): The Shermans haven’t had a winning season since 1996 but third-year head coach Jerry Hudnell (7-13) is hoping to change that. Unioto will be led by seniors John Vanderpool (QB, 5-10, 170/500 yards rushing, 500 yards passing), Brandon Henkle (OL, 5-10, 27) and Derek Henkle (DL, 5-10, 275).
* Minford (4-6): The Falcons bumped up to D-IV last year and had a string of four straight playoff berths snapped. They lost four of their last five. Expect a significant rebound this year. Minford should challenge for a SOC II title and its fifth playoff berth in six years. Keep an eye on junior OL Jared McCray (6-4, 296). He’s picking up interest from BCS schools, including Ohio State, and already holds an offer from Akron.
Also In This Region
Waverly (3-7), Meigs (6-4), Wellston (5-5), Piketon (5-5), Zane Trace (5-5), Tuscarawas Valley (4-6), McDermott Northwest (3-7), Harrison Central (4-6), Portsmouth (3-7), Richmond Edison (3-7), Cheshire River Valley (2-8), Bloom-Carroll (2-8), Meadowbrook (2-7), Johnstown Northridge (2-7), South Point (1-9), West Muskingum (1-9), Union Local (0-10)