Team To Beat
*Shadyside (12-1, Region 25 quarterfinalist): The Tigers have been to the playoffs nine years in a row and 13 of the last 14. Expect both streaks to continue. Senior QB Austin Dorris (6-5, 215) is a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect and projects as a TE in college. Dorris was All-Ohio and All-OVAC last season when he ran for 1,380 yards, passed for 700 and accounted for 30 TDs. He has offers from Ohio, Toledo, Kent State, Marshall, Western Michigan and Buffalo. Also back are seniors RB Eric Howell (6-2, 200), OL Colton Campbell, OL Jacob Spencer (5-9, 290) and OL/DL Scott Hammond (6-1, 190).
Teams To Watch
*Bainbridge Paint Valley (8-3, Region 26 quarterfinalist): Head coach Pete Hollon (110-77-1 in 18 years at PV) and the Bearcats are coming off the program’s first playoff berth since 2003. Expect them to contend for another postseason trip. Key returners for a team that led the SVC in offense (34.7 points) and defense (15.7 points) last year include seniors Corey Freeman (DB, 5-8, 165; 51tackles, three INTs), Clay Archer (OL, 6’2, 235), Gavin Carter (OL/DL, 6’3, 245) and Mason McCloy (WR/DE, 6’4, 230); and juniors Teagan McFadden (RB/DB, 5’10, 185; 782 yards rushing, 54 points), Anthony McFadden (QB, 5’9, 160; 13 TDs) and Caleb Johnson (TE/DE, 6’1, 190). Freeman and both McFaddens were first team All-Scioto Valley Conference.
*Caldwell (8-3, Region 25 semifinalist): The Redskins went from eight losses in 2012 to eight wins in 2013. Expectations linger with the return of standout junior RB Bricker Lori (5-9, 180; AP All-Ohio and All-OVAC), junior QB/DB Tanner Clark (6-0, 165) and senior TE Tanner Baker (6-3, 190).
*Danville (9-3, Region 23 semifinalist): The Blue Devils are looking to make the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and return one of the state’s top small school QBs in junior Ridge Durbin (6-3, 228). Durbin had over 3,600 yards of offense last year and accounted for 48 TDs (threw for 33). Senior DB/WR Austin Morehouse (5-11, 175; 34 rec., 503 yards, nine TDs; six INTs) is a playmaker on both sides of the ball. The DL returns junior Jordan Wilson (6-2, 225; 11 TFL, seven sacks) and sophomore Freddie Hart (6-2, 185; six TFL, 4.5 sacks).
*Glouster Trimble (14-1, State Runner-Up): The Tomcats are coming off an incredible two-year run that ‘s produced a 24-3 record and the program’s first state final. Trimble has plenty to replace (including two-time TVC offensive and defensive players of the year Konner Standley and Jacob Koons), but talent remains. Senior WR Austin Downs (6-0, 185) is as good as they get and senior linemen Micah Couch (6-5, 22) and Tanner Koons (6-4, 280) anchor the OL and DL, respectively. Senior LB Terry Simerly (5-5, 160) returns. Trimble has made the playoffs five of the last six years and four years in a row. Expectations are rightfully high again. Trimble has won 15 straight TVC Hocking Division Games and is 26-1 in its last 27 regular season games.
*Malvern (8-3, Region 25 quarterfinalist): The Hornets have made the playoffs seven years in a row. Senior DL Eddie Zinn-Turner (6-3, 280) and senior TE Jalen Graves (6-1, 215) are two good ones.
*Racine Southern (8-3, Region 24 quarterfinalist): The Tornadoes earned the program’s first playoff berth ever last year and return senior QB and All-TVC performer Tristan Wolfe (6-1, 165). Also back are senior LB Paul Ramthum (5-10, 156) and senior P Ryan Billingsley (5-10, 255).
*Tuscarawas Central Catholic (5-5): After 4-6 and 5-5 seasons, the Saints are ready to challenge for their first playoff berth since 2009 and just fourth overall. Senior QB Max Fragasse (5-10, 140) returns after completing 94-of-166 attempts for 1,190 yards and eight TDs. He also had TDs rushing and receiving. Fragasse has two outstanding targets to throw to in senior WRs Cade Cummings (6-2, 190) and Michael Teater (5-11, 170). Cummings has caught 106 passes for 1,582 yards and 22 TDs the last two years, while Teater’s caught 56 passes for 718 yards and 11 TDs. Teater also threw for seven TDs last year and ran for one. Defensively, senior DL David Herman (6-0, 165) and senior DB Alex Milleman (6-2, 185) headline the unit.
Keep An Eye On
*Beallsville (6-5, Region 25 quarterfinalist): The Blue Devils reached the postseason for the ninth time last season.
*Bridgeport (2-8): After three straight playoff appearances from 2008-10, the Bulldogs are 8-22 since with back-to-back 2-8 seasons. Optimism is high with the return of senior QB/DB Bailey McGrath (5-9, 185), senior DL Jared Heslop (6-0, 260) and senior LB Pat Britton (5-9, 165).
*Canal Winchester Harvest Prep (4-6): New head coach Milan Smith (previously the defensive coordinator) will look to lead the Warriors to a couple of program firsts this season – seven wins and a playoff berth. HP has seven home games and some solid talent returning. Senior LB Hunter Pharis (5-9, 180) holds the school record for tackles in a game (22) and had 125 stops, 13 TFL and six sacks last season. He’s visited Princeton, Cornell and Penn. Other key contributors will be senior WR/FS Judah Tutt (6-3, 180), senior RB Terrene Walton (5-10, 180), senior oL/DL James Johnson (5-11, 225; second team All-MSL), junior TE/DE Melvin Thomas (6-1, 195), junior ATH Curtis Jones (5-8, 170; six INTs, six TDs) and junior Teshawn Colvin (5-8, 170; six INTs and four TDs).
*Grove City Christian (4-6): Head coach Andrew McCampbell starts Year 2 at GCC where expectations are building. “This team has a lot of talent this year and I am excited to see how things go,” McCampbell said. “The senior class has a chance to do a lot of good things but will need to be leaders and become a team and work together. We have a good group of freshman coming in and I think they will help us a lot.” Key returners are seniors Tre Roberts (DB , 6-0, 180), Kylar Hunt (OL, 5-9, 220), Tristan Taylor (WR, 5-8, 150), Alec Poling (DB/HB, 6-0, 185), Logan kohl (OL, 5-9, 220), Will Whinham (LB, 5-11, 185), Aaron Whitaker (TE, 6-1, 165).
*Lancaster Fairfield Christian Academy (7-4, Region 25 quarterfinalist): The Knights are coming off the program’s first Mid-State League title and second straight playoff berth (third in four years). There are plenty of holes to fill with the loss of a standout senior class. Key returners include senior LB Caleb Walz (5-10, 190) and junior WR/DB Josh Heeter (5-11, 185).
*Lancaster Fisher Catholic (4-6): The Irish, former state runners-up (1998), are looking for their first winning season since capping four straight playoff berths in 2006. Senior RB Ben Kerns (5-10, 185) returns after rushing for 1,039 yards and 15 TDs in only eight games last season. Defensively, senior Hayden Muckensturm (5-8, 150) headlines the unit.
*Portsmouth Notre Dame (8-3, Region 26 quarterfinalist): The Titans are coming off the programs second playoff berth since 2000. Senior OL C.J. Smith (6-4, 185) is a building block.
*Sciotoville East (3-7): The Tartans feature one of the state’s biggest and best offensive line prospects in junior Tyler Gerald (6-5, 300) who holds offers from Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Toledo and Kent State. He’ll open holes for sophomore RB Akia Brown (5-10, 165) who ran for over 1,000 yards as a freshman. “We are very excited about the upcoming season,” head coach Todd Gilliland (17-24) said. “We have a good group of seniors returning with a mix of underclassmen that have a lot of experience. We are focusing on playing fast and physical on both sides of the ball.” Other key contributors will be senior OL/DL Nick Basham (6’4″, 270), senior TE/DE Jeremy Toller (6’2″, 220), sophomore TE/DE Shauntavian Martin (6’4″, 240) and freshman FB/LB Taylor Appling (6’1″, 190).
*South Gallia (4-6): The Rebels will lean heavily on senior DB Brayden Greer (5-7, 135).
*Symmes Valley (6-4): The Vikings had a string of four straight playoff berths snapped last season. They return junior LB Tyler Dement (6-0, 200) who was first team All-SOC last year.
Also In This Region
Millersport (0-10); New Matamoras Frontier (4-6); Waterford (2-8); Bellaire St. John Central (0-10); Conotton Valley (1-8); Corning Miller (2-8); Zanesville Rosecrans (0-10); Columbus Africentric (0-10); Reedsville Eastern (2-8); Strasburg-Franklin (3-7), Franklin Furnace Green (2-8)