Regional breakdown, top players, big games, big names, teams to beat, teams to watch and more…
Region 17 Preview
Playoff Teams: Our Predictions
Kirtland, Cuyahoga Heights, Sugarcreek Garaway, Columbiana, Crestview, Monroe Central, St. Thomas Aquinas, Beverly Fort Frye
Dark Horses: Ursuline, Campbell Memorial, Waterloo
10 Players To Watch
1. Damon Washington, RB, sr., Kirtland: Ran for 1,618 yards last year; 81-yard TD in state final
2. Tyler Walter, QB, sr., Garaway: Thrown for 4,993 yards & 54 career TDs
3. Nick Blower, RB, sr., Crestview: Scored 20 TDs & ran for 1,872 yards as a junior
4. Spencer Badia, QB, jr., Bellaire: Threw for 505 yards & seven TDs in a game last year
5. Korey Lafferre, WR, sr., Monroe Central: Caugbht 31 passes for 417 yards & six TDs last year
6. Joel Rich, TE/DE, sr., Aquinas: Two-way standout committed to Boston College
7. Chris Durkin, QB, jr., Ursuline: Already owns offers from Illinois, Toledo & BG
8. Tommy Saviers, RB., sr, Waterloo: Ran for 1,390 yards & 19 TDs as a junior
9. Chandler Lang, QB/LB, jr., Fort Frye: Made 76 tackles & had 1,089 total yards last year
10. Shaquon McWilson, OL., sr., Memorial: One of the region’s tops in the trenches
Crestview @ Columbiana, Aug. 23 (Week 1)
Marlington @ Aquinas, Sept. 7 (Week 3)
Garaway @ Mavern, Sept. 16 (Week 4)
Monroe Central @ Fort Frye, Sept. 21 (Week 5)
Kirtland @ Cuyahoga Heights, Sept. 21 (Week 5)
Ursuline @ Steubenville, Oct. 5 (week 7)
Team To Beat
* Kirtland (15-0, State Champions): The defending state champions return arguably the state’s most explosive small school back in senior Damon Washington (5-11, 175). Washington ran for 1,618 yards last year, including 147 (and two TDs) in the state championship game. His 81-yard fourth quarter TD punctuated the Hornets 28-7 win over Coldwater. Washington doubles as a tremendous defensive back. Kirtland also returns starting quarterback Scott Ellerman, a 6-3, 178-pounder who threw for 1.043 yards and 12 TDs last year. He also ran for four scores. Defensively the Hornets are led by a pair of standout juniors in DL Cannon Schroeder (6-2, 215) and DB Ryan Loncar (5-10, 175).
Teams To Watch
* Sugarcreek Garaway (9-3, Region 17, Semifinalist): The Pirates are coming off just the second playoff berth in school history and look poised to earn the program’s first back-to-back postseason appearances. Garaway returns seven starters on offense including record-setting senior QB Tyler Walter (6-0, 185) who threw for 3,011 yards and 33 TDs last year. Walter has 4,993 career yards and 54 TDs. Three of his main targets are also back in seniors WRs Duane Troyer (6-1, 170/60 rec., 950 yards, seven TDs), Winston Mullet (5-11, 165/45 rec., 559 yards, six TDs) and Matt Riednour (6-2, 190/28 rec., 3754 yards, four TDs). Troyer and Mullet will battle for several Garaway career receiving records. Both are already among the Top 3 in most. Defensively Garaway returns five starters including LB Kellan Mutschelknaus (5-11, 195, sr./116 tackles), LB Logan Wilson (6-1, 195, jr./95 tackles), DB Cody Mullet (5-9, 160, sr./75 tackles) and DB AJ Frey (5-10, 165, jr./46 tackles). Head coach Jason Wallick (66-46 in 11 years) should become Garaway’s All-Time winningest coach this season. He’s currently tied with Don Hertler. Said Wallick: “We look forward to the challenge of repeating our success from last year. If all works out, we should be able to once again platoon 9 to 11 kids one way, which we feel has helped our success in the past. We are blessed with an extremely athletic and skilled senior class on both sides of the ball.”
* Columbiana (8-3, Region 17 Quarterfinalist): The Clippers have to replace the school’s all-time leading rusher in QB Austin Barbato who ran and passed for more than 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons. Expect senior RB Brandon Hacker (136 carries, 795 yards, nine TDs last year) to get plenty of carries. Senior WR Jake Dejong (16 rec., 336 yards, three TDs) and senior OL Jacob Theil also return. Defensively, senior DB Britton Steiginga (115 tackles, four INTs, three forced fumbles) and junior DL Mike Buzzard (106 tackles) are stalwarts.
* Columbiana Crestview (11-2, Region 17 Finalist): The Rebels return one of the region’s top player sin senior RB Nick Blower (5-6, 150). Blower ran for 1,872 yards and 18 TDs on 177 carries last year. He also had eight receptions for 154 yards and two TDs and totaled 2,210 all-purpose yards (averaged 10.6 yards per touch).
* Monroe Central (9-2, Region 17 Quarterfinalist): The Indians made the playoffs for the third time in a row last year and this season’s senior class (2013) will try to become the first in school history to make the playoffs all four years. The Seminoles are also riding a 23-game Pioneer Valley Conference win streak. Replacing graduated QB Tyler Kitchen is a huge hurdle, but there’s plenty of talent still in place. Senior WR Korey Lafferre (5-10, 150) returns after catching 31 passes for 417 yards and six TDs. Senior Josh Guiler (6-0, 191) anchors the OL. On defense, Monroe Central will build around senior DL Dylan Shapley (5-11, 180/team’s second leading tackler) and DB Curtis Nixon (6-0, 160/four INTs).
* St. Thomas Aquinas (7-5, region 17 Semifinalist): The former state champions (1984) made the playoffs for the first time since 1988 last year and would like to reach Week 11 again as an encore. Aquinas has a two-way standout in senior TE/DE Joel Rich (6-4, 230) who has committed to Boston College. Last year Rich made 76 tackles (eight sacks) and had 16 QB hurries. He also caught 14 passes for 275 yards and two TDs. Also back is junior RB/LB Bryan Wilkins (6-1, 194) who ran for 765 yards and 11 TDs last year.
* Cuyahoga Heights (9-2, Region 17 Quarterfinalist): The Redskins have made the playoffs 14 of the last 15 years. This year they’ll rely heavily on senior LB Jason Kleppel (6-1, 172).
* Youngstown Ursuline (4-6): The Irish failed to reach the state finals – and the playoffs – for the first time since 2006 last year. An ambitious schedule did them in. This year Ursuline has a new head coach in longtime assistant Larry Kempe who takes over for Dan Reardon. Kempe has some pieces in place in junior QB Chris Durkin (6-4, 216), senior OL Khallid Pierce (6-2, 215) and junior DL Sha’Haun Williams (6-2, 225). Durkin holds offers from Illinois, Bowling Green, and Toledo.
Keep An Eye On
* New Middletown Springfield (8-3, Region 17 Quarterfinalist): The Tigers are coming off their first playoff appearance since 2002.
* Salineville Southern (9-1): Despite going 9-1, the Indians finished ninth in computer points and failed to follow up the program’s first playoff berth (2010) with another.
* Campbell Memorial (7-3): The Red Devils have a good one in senior OL Shaquon McWilson (6-4, 330). Memorial also returns senior QB Brandon Reyes (5-11,165).
* Atwater Waterloo (7-3): The Vikings will rely heavily on senior RB Tommy Saviers (6-1, 180) who ran for 1,390 yards and 19 TDs last year.
* Beverly Fort Frye (5-5): The Cadets own just one playoff berth (2000) in history but that could change. Fort Frye returns several key pieces including senior RB Spencer Lang (5-10, 160) who ran for 582 yards and four TDs on 122 carries last year. Also back is junior QB Chandler Lang (5-10, 158) who threw for 607 yards and ran for 482 last season. Lang (LB) added 76 tackles (including 10 TFL) on defense. Also back is senior DB Justin Massey (5-10, 150) who had 23 tackles and four INTs last year.
* Bellaire (5-5): Junior QB Spencer Badia (5-9, 150) threw for 2,346 yards and 26 TDs as a sophomore.
Also In This Region
Barnsville (7-3), Rootstown (5-5), North Lima South Range (5-5), Independence (5-5), Sarahsville Shenandoah (5-5), Bedford Chanel (3-7), Burton Berkshire (5-5), Newcomerstown (3-7), Hanoverton United (3-7), East Palestine (2-8), Lisbon David Anderson (1-9), Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (1-9), Garfield Heights Trinity (1-9), Buckeye Trail (1-9), Belpre (0-10)