Team To Beat
*Oak Hill (8-3, Region 21 quarterfinalist): The Oaks have been to the postseason four times in the last five years. This season they’ll attempt to reach the playoffs and win the SOC I title three straight years for the first time in program history. The OL returns four starters and four seasoned RBs return. The big question is who will play QB – senior Clayton Christensen (6-2, 205), who missed last year with an injury, or junior Lane Burdine (5-10, 150). Oak Hill returns six All-SOC players, including first team selections senior DB Jonathon Harrison (5-9, 140), senior OL/DL Griffen Jenkins (5-10, 285) and junior RB/DB Willy Harris (5-9, 155). “Last year’s small senior class (seven) permitted many juniors and sophomores to receive lots of varsity experience,” head coach Nathan Dugan (17-6 in two years) said. “The important question for the season is who will step into the QB position. All other positions return players who saw quality minutes last season. Defensively our 3/4 returns two starting defensive linemen and four linebackers who have varsity experience.”
Teams To Watch
*Belpre (5-5): The Eagles are looking to challenge for their first playoff berth since 2007 and just their second since 1988. Senior RB Manney Tullius (5-9, 140) is a two-time All-TVC Hocking Division selection. Also back is All-TVC junior QB Tavian Miller (5-11, 175).
*Centerburg (10-1, Region 21 quarterfinalist): The Trojans lost some key players off last year’s playoff team but return nine individuals who earned some sort of postseason honor last season, including the outstanding senior trio of WR/DBs Jeremay Sesma (5-10, 165), Jake Stewart (5-11, 160) and Brendan Mapes (5-8, 170). Said head coach Jim Stoyle (26-15 in four years): “There are some big shoes to fill both on the field and in the leadership category but we have a solid senior class with loads of experience who have been part of a 23- 8 record over the last three years.” Line play will be a strength with the return of seniors Reece Craker (5-10, 215), Michael Schmitt (6-3, 205) and Anthony Tucker (6-2, 170). Junior WR/DE Blake Bramer (6-4, 205) is one to watch.
*Columbus Ready (12-2, Region 21 champion, state semifinalist): The Silver Knights won their third regional title last season and must replace some serious talent. Senior LB Alvin Knox (6-0, 201) returns.
*Fredericktown (5-5): After a state semifinal appearance in 2010, the Freddies have gone 16-14. This should be the year they make another deep run. Senior QB Austin Hathaway (5-11, 160/1,146 yards rushing, 19 TDs) and senior RB Tyler Ruhl (5-8, 155/1,237 yards, 18 TDs) for a formidable rushing tandem.
*Lucasville Valley (11-1, Region 21 semifinalist): The Indians must replace six first team All-SOC performers and will lean heavily on junior QB/DB/P Bryan Rolfe (6-2, 165), senior DL Zlex Loop (5-10, 190) and senior WR/DB Ryan Brown (6-2, 176).
*Newark Catholic (11-2, Region 21 finalist): The Green Wave owns nine state titles. This year’s group will be led by senior DB Blake Baker (6-1, 170).
*Woodsfield Monroe Central (8-4, Region 21 semifinalist): Head coach Jay Circosta returns for year No. 44 at Monroe Central (and before that Woodsfield). He carries a career record of 315-128-5. Expect senior RB Levi Brown (5-5, 160) to log plenty of carries. Brown ran for 1,021 yards and 18 TDs last year. He also caught 23 passes for 348 yards and three TDs. Other key contributors will be senior WR/DE Gavin Morton (6’4″, 175), junior G/T Tanner Potts (6’0″, 265), junior T/T Justin Kilburn T/T (5’10”, 260) and sophomore WR/QB/LB Jarett Hooper (5’9″, 165). Replacing QB Curtis Nixon, who threw for 1,558 yards and rushed for 994 more is a concern. Said Circosta: “We lost outstanding seniors, including five starters on offense and five on defense. Numbers are low, depth will be a concern. We must find a QB.”
Keep An Eye On
*Bellaire (7-4, Region 21 quarterfinalist): The Big Reds are looking to stretch their playoff streak to three years but they must find a replacement for standout QB Spencer Badia among others. Defense will carry the load early with the return of All-OVAC LBs and seniors Dom Vinka (5-8, 165) and Austin McConville. Also back is seasoned senior DL/OL/K Cody LaRoche (6-0, 255/All-OVAC).
*Beverly Fort Frye (8-3, Region 21 quarterfinalist): The Cadets earned the school’s second playoff berth in a row and third ever last season. There are holes to fill. Junior FB/TE/DE Derek Layton was All-OVAC last year.
*Columbus Academy (6-4): The Vikings will lean on senior DL Reed Clark (6-2, 220/44.5 tackles).
*Dawson-Bryant (5-5): The Hornets have two horses on the line in senior OL/DLs Austen Pleasants (6-4, 290 and Joe Akers (5-10, 200).
*Grandview Heights (4-6): The Bobcats graduated just seven seniors. They return senior LB Rhodes Jump (5-9, 205), senior RB Joe Pinney, junior WR Andre Readey and sophomore DB Joey Landusky.
*Hannibal River (4-6): The Pilots will lean on the senior duo of Brok Cross (6-1, 170/All-OVAC) and K Colton Wright (6-1, 155).
*Nelsonville-York (4-6): After making the playoffs seven times in eight years, the Buckeyes are riding a two-year postseason slide. The good news is N-Y returns two good ones in sophomore LB Noah Andrews (5-10, 180/All-TVC Ohio Division) and senior DL Jay Elliott (6-0, 270).
*Old Washington Buckeye Trail (4-6): Junior RB/LB Tristen King was named All-OVAC last year.
*Shenandoah (1-9): The Zeps return one of the region’s top RBs in two-time All-OVAC junior Michael Vanfossen (5-10, 185).
*Stewart Federal Hocking (5-5): The Lancers will lean on returning All-TVC Hocking Division junior WR Devan Maxey.
Also In This Region
Berne Union (1-9), Crooksville (4-6), Galion Northmor (4-6), Cardington-Lincoln (31-9); Chillicothe Huntington (0-10); Barnsville (2-8); East Knox (3-7), Worthington Christian (0-0 first year varsity program)