Team To Beat
*Defiance Tinora (10-2, Region 20 semifinalist): The Rams snapped a two-year playoff absence and made the postseason for the eighth time in 13 years last season. Expect them to reach Week 11 again. Senior LB/OL Justin Flory (6-2, 190; first team All-Green Meadows Conference at both positions last year) and junior RB Riley Nagel (5-10, 165; first team All-GMC) are players of note. The return of two all-conference offensive lineman – junior Logan Bailey and senior Casey Helton –bodes well for the O. Defensively, senior DE Hunter Vogel (second team All-GMC) leads the unit. Senior K Josh Camp (first team all-conference) is a big special teams weapon. Look for a pair of juniors and returning starters – FB/DE Mathias Grube (6-0, 180) and QB/DE Brevin Renollet (6-2, 180) – to have huge impacts.
Teams To Watch
*Bucyrus Wynford (6-4): A year after having their 63-game regular season win streak snapped, the Royals saw their eight-year playoff streak end. Senior OL Cyle Skidmore (6-0, 235) is a good one.
*Colonel Crawford (9-2, Region 20 quarterfinalist): The Eagles are coming off the school’s first ever playoff berths (back-to-back) and have their sights set on running the streak to three. They’re also looking to win a third straight league title, albeit this one will be in a new affiliation – the Northern 10 Athletic Conference. Head coach Ryan Teglovic (35-27 in six years) must replace four-year starter Nate Klingenberger at QB, but he’s expecting solid things out of junior QB Will Kirkpatrick (6-0, 175). Kirkpatrick led the CC JV to a 6-1-1 record last year. Senior RB/LB Eli Reffey (6-1, 200) returns after rushing for 610 yards and 10 TDs last season. Also back is senior WR/DB Dylan Gulley (5-10, 150) who caught 30 passes for 703 yards and six TDs. Senior LB Kam Landin (6-0, 190) heads the defense. He had 105 tackles, including five TFL, last season.
*Convoy Crestview (9-3, Region 20 finalist): The Knights had a historic season last year as they won the school’s first playoff game and second conference title. “We return some experienced players that have a good grasp of our program’s identity in goals,” head coach Jared Owens (19-13 in three years) said. “It will be critical that we continue to stay hungry to improve each day.” The workhorse will be senior RB/DB Malcolm Oliver (6-1, 215) who was first team All-NWC on offense and second team defense last year. Also back are senior LB Jordan Roop, senior QB Preston Zaleski, senior TE/DB Nate Owens, senior OL/LB Seth Moser and junior DB Jordan Miller. The non-conference slate is tough with Parkway, Hicksville and Wayne Trace.
*Gibsonburg (5-5): After 4-6 and 5-5 finishes, rival coaches think the Golden Bears are on the cusp of a big season.
*Haviland Wayne Trace (13-2, State Runner-Up): A year after missing the playoffs with a 9-1 record, the Raiders went all the way to the state title game. Gone from that squad are a group of seniors that earned 10 first-team All-Green Meadows Conference honors. Senior DL Chuckie Chastain returns after being named first team all-conference.
*Lima Central Catholic (8-3, Region 20 quarterfinalist): The Thunderbirds return senior DL Malik Laws (5-9, 190).
*Northwood (8-3, Region 20 quarterfinalist): The Rangers are looking to extend a couple streaks. Northwod is looking to a) make the playoffs for the sixth year in a row, b) win a fourth straight TAAC title, and c) record a 10th straight winning season. If they do, expect senior RB/DB Dominik Bermejo (5-10, 167) to play a large part – again. The two-way standout (named first team All-TAAC on both sides of the ball the last two years) ran for 1,380 yards, scored 20 TDs and had 94 tackles last season. As a sophomore he scored 18 TDs and had eight INTs. Defensively, Northwood will be stout with the return of senior DL Myles Habel (6-2, 287; 59 tackles), senior LB Dylan Napier (5-8, 191; 93 tackles), senior CB Derek Florez (5-8, 140; 51 tackles), senior FS Jacob Zieroff (5-9, 167) and sophomore LB Trevor Mack (5-9, 156; 61 tackles). “With only six seniors on our roster last year, we played a large number of underclassmen, including a handful of freshmen,” head coach Ken James (160-129 in 28 years) said. “We also played an upgraded JV schedule, with games against Clyde, Rossford, and Lake because many of our league schools do not have JV teams. We survived that with a 4-4 record and were competitive in every game. With this experience, a large senior class, and good depth with a roster in the low 50s, we should be able to contend for league title and a sixth straight playoff berth. Our two biggest concerns are depth on our offensive line and a lack of size at many of our perimeter positions.”
*Patrick Henry (6-3): The Patriots did something last season they rarely do – they missed the playoffs. PH had been to the postseason 11 straight times, but late season home losses to Bryan and Wauseon put the Patriots tenth in computer points. PH graduated nine All-NWOAL players but returns two-time all-league senior DL standout Caleb Carrizales (6-3, 250).
Keep An Eye On
*Ayersville (7-3): The Pilots return junior RB Hunter Stark and senior DL Patrick Gerken. Both were second team All-Green Meadows Conference last year.
*Bloomdale Elmwood (4-6): The Royals are in Year 3 under head coach Brian Cooper and continue to build. “We’re still a building team with a good mix of young kids with experience and some young talent coming up.” Cooper said. “Being in Year 3 with this staff and having gotten to know the kids a little better each year (this season) could turn into a solid foundation for Elmwood football to get back into the top echelon of the league.” The resurgence will be led by sophomore QB Noah Baker (5-10, 170), senior FB Austin Jasso (5-11, 190), senior OL Devin Uzelac (6-0, 250), senior LB Dylan Benschoter (5-10, 140), junior LB Noah Smith (6-1, 200) and junior DB Dylan Hall (5-11, 160). Top newcomers are sophomore OL Ryan Krouse (6-2, 250) and Kyle Dibling (5-10, 190).
*Bluffton (6-4): The Pirates will lean heavily on senior DB/WR Robbie Stratton (5-11, 160). Keep an eye on junior QB Mitchell Ault and senior TE Levi Kistler. Bluffton finished last season 4-1 the final five weeks.
*Carey (7-3): The Blue Devils rebounded from a 0-2 start to win seven of their final eight games. Senior standout duo of OL Brady Mullholand (5-8, 185) and DB Jared Wentling (6-2, 173) returns.
*Delphos Jefferson (6-4): The Wildcats return a talented trio in senior DL Jordan McCann (6-0, 192), junior LB Dalton Hicks and junior OL Noah Illig.
*Hopewell-Loudon (5-5): The Chieftains started 4-1 but dipped the second half of the season. H-L returns senior QB Derek Runion who was second team All-MAL last year.
*Elmore Woodmore (6-4): The Wildcats feature a solid senior pair in RB Austin Isaacs (948 yards, 10 TDs) and LB Dylan Benchoter.
*Sherwood Fairview (3-7): The Apaches return three senior All-GMC players in WR/DB Christian Hugg (5-11, 175), OL/LB Jeffery Kunesh (5-11, 180) and OL/LB Damon Coressel (5-11, 235).
*Spencerville (5-5): The Bearcats will feature returning first team All-NWC selection Logan Vandemark at DL. Also back are junior LB Zach Goecke and senior OL Eli Hawk.
*Van Buren (4-6): The Black Knights return senior and first team All-BVC DB Cole Martin (six INTs). Senior OL Isaac Sexton (6-2, 260) is a good one.
Also In This Region
Ashland Crestview (5-5), Kansas Lakota (4-6), Seneca East (5-5), Montpelier (2-8); Metamora Evergreen (0-10); Harrod Allen East (4-6)