Team To Beat
*Alter (11-2, Region 14 finalist): The Knights have been to the playoffs 13 years in a row and won back-to-back state titles in 2008-09. This season could end with another state championship. Alter returns seven All-GCL North players including Notre Dame DB/RB commit Nick Coleman (6-0, 170) and Pitt DE commit Kraig Howe (6-3, 265/119 career tackles). Other key contributors will be senior QB Dusty Hayes (5-11, 190/first team All-GCL), senior DL Dean Lemon (6-3, 235/first team All-GCL, 109 career tackles), senior DB Phillip Drayton (5-11, 205), senior OL Bailey Shancey (6-3, 200) and senior P Alex Craft (6-1, 220). Hayes ran for 1,248 yards and 14 TDs last year, while Coleman went for 1,168 yards and 13 TDs.
Teams To Watch
*Carlisle (7-3): The Indians won the SWBL Buckeye Division title last year but finished ninth in computer points. The workhorse is senior RB Jason Sandlin (5-8, 160) who is a two-time All-SWBL selection. Sandlin’s rushed for 1,732 yards and 16 TDs the last two years. Also back is junior RB/LB Nick Svarda (5-11, 210) who ran for 664 yards and eight TDs last season. Senior DB Parker Topp (6-0, 175) had seven takeaways last year (six INTs, FR).
*Cincinnati McNicholas (9-3, Region 14 semifinalist): The Rockets have been in the playoffs three of the last four years and are coming off their first back-to-back appearances since 2000-01. Now they’ll try to make it three straight for just the second time in program history (1999-01). McNick returns two first team All-GCL players in senior QB Luke Sulken (5-11, 170/1,088 yards rushing, 13 TDs) and senior LB Elliott Higgins (129 tackles). Also back are two-time All-GCL senior RB Sean Byrne (16 TDs last two years), junior RB Adam Hirsch (nine TDs), senior OL Nate Gorman, junior DB Sam Browning (48 tackles, five INTs) and junior DL Ryan Byrne (31 tackles).
*Clinton-Massie (14-1, D-IV state champions): The Falcons defended their 2012 state title with a 27-21 victory over Mooney in the state final. Massie beat Alter and Kenton in the regional final and state semifinals, respectively. Now begins life-after Bayle – as in Bayle Wolfe, a freshman at Army that finished his career with the fifth most TDs (111) in state history. The good news is the cupboard is far from bare. Key senior returners include RB/LB Chayse Wolfe (6-2, 185), QB/LB Zack Santoro (5-11/190), RB/DE Sam Burnham (6-2/210), RB/LB Jared Halley (6-0, 200), DB/WR Issaih Stiverson (6-2/190) and K Callum Jones (6-0/170). Jones set the state kicking record for PATs in a season (over 100) as a sophomore. Head coach Dan McSurely is 182-67 in 18 years.
*Miami Trace (7-4, Region 16 quarterfinalist): The Panthers are a team to take seriously. Senior DE Cedric Pettiford (6-5, 200) and senior DT Dalton Henness (6-4, 280) are a formidable duo. Other key senior contributors include LB Travis Grooms (5-10, 190), RB Jeremiah Jones (6-0, 200), RB/DE Russell Miller (5-10, 180), LB Johnny Cambell, OL/DL Todd Foster (6-1, 235), DB Brad Warnock (6-0, 175) and WR/DB Derrick Marrcum (6-3, 175). Key newcomers include sophomores Deandre (QB/DB, 6-2, 175) and Tyrae Pettiford (WR/DB, 6-3, 175). Said veteran coach Steve Bartlett (183-98 career record), “We have a chance to be decent.”
*Middletown Fenwick (6-4): The Falcons played five playoff teams last year and went 1-4 with a 13-12 victory over Mount Healthy in Week 2 the lone W. Senior LB Billy Hinton (6-1, 215/87 tackles, 23 TFL) and senior OL Ben Stegbauer (6-1, 250) were first team All-GCL last year. Line play should be a strength for the Falcons with three All-GCL OL returning.
*Minford (7-3): The Falcons lost two of their last three games last season and missed the playoffs for just the second time in seven years. Head coach Brent Daniels (52-21 in eight years) returns just eight seniors and will have a young roster. “Even though we have a young team , we will have one of the more physical teams we have had in awhile,” Daniels said. “(It’s a) very unselfish group that likes to play the game and we expect good things from them this year.” Key returners for the Falcons will be seniors Zach Justice (DB/RB, 5’9, 195), Matt Joyce (QB/RB, 5’9, 175), Tate Hall (DB/RB, 5’9, 186) and Alex Parker (OL/DL, 5’10, 240) and juniors Cain Madden (OL/DL, 6’3, 315), Eli Daniels (OL/LB, 6’3, 223), Aron Alley (FB/LB, 5’10, 205), Jared Alley (TE/DE, 6’3, 227) and Sean Gamble (WR/DB, 6’0, 200).
*Pomeroy Meigs (7-3): The Marauders improved by four games last season after finishing 3-7 in 2012. Another improvement could be on the horizon. Talent returns. Senior TE/WR/LB Ty Phelps is a two-time All-TVC Ohio Division selection and is rejoined in the offensive huddle by fellow All-TVC players QB Kaileb Sheets (jr.) and RB Michael Davis (sr.).
*Urbana (10-1, Region 14 quarterfinalist): The Hillclimbers have won 19 straight Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division games and six of the last seven titles, including four straight. Expect those streaks to continue. Senior QB Nathan Mays (6-3, 200) is a three-time CBC Mad River Division Player of the Year whose thrown for 7,521 yards and 94 TDs in three years. The Hillclimbers also return three All-CBC WRs in seniors Ethan Edwards (6-0, 180/46 rec., 775 yards, eight TDs) and Cody Grimm (5-11, 160/69 rec., 874 yards, 11 TDs) and junior Sam Niswonger (6-1, 195/37 rec., 562 yards, seven TDs). Defensively, Grim had 46 tackles and five INTs, while Niswonger had 52 and three, respectively.
Keep An Eye On
*Batavia (5-5): After reaching the regional semis in 2012, the Bulldogs slipped to .500 last season. The outlook is optimistic this season with first year head coach Caleb Corrill taking over and senior QB Keshawn Foley (6-3, 225) returning. Foley threw for 1,489 yards and rushed for 1,511 last season en route to accounting for 42 TDs. He’s on pace to break the program’s records for career starts, TDs, rushing yards and passing yards. “We will be junior and senior heavy with one of the best players in the city, but it will all come down to adaptability and sacrifice from the group,” Corrill said. “We’re aided by several key pickups, athletes from other sports with great potential, who give us four more varsity players/starters to an already potent group. Making the playoffs two years ago gives this group the format for how they must conduct the selves in order to be special. We will face our toughest schedule in 4-5 years and will have all eyes on our QB, in an attempt to stop him. This group has the ability to be special, but lots of changes places this group in the ‘remained to be seen’ classification.” Those key additions are senior Darnay Foley (5’9, 230, HB/LB), junior Seth Steele (6’3, 175, WR/DB), senior Caleb Smith (6-0, 215, DE/OL) and sophomore Stephen Trainor (5’9, 200, OL/LB).
*Chillicothe Unioto (4-6): The Sherman Tanks are looking for their first winning season since 2002 and head coach Jerry Hudnall (16-24 in four years) has a solid nucleus back in junior QB Erique Hosley (6-4, 190) and senior RB Dillan Binegar (6-0, 180). Hosley threw for 700 yards, ran for 648 more and accounted for 17 TDs last season, while Binegar ran for 1,001 yards, had 400 yards receiving and scored 11 TDs. Junior OL Austin Houser (6-6, 255) is a beast.
*Circleville (8-3, Region 14 quarterfinalist): The Tigers are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances. Key senior returners include WR/DB Justin Hill (6-0, 160), OL/DL Logan Hess (6-1, 265) and OL/DL Will Giffin (6-3, 180).
*Dayton Oakwood (5-5): The Lumberjacks could turn the corner under veteran head coach Rick Robertson this season. Oakwood returns three first team All-SWBL Southwestern Division selections in junior WR/DB Sam Banke (5-9, 155; 10 total TDs pass, run and return), senior K Hayden Peake (6-2, 170/4-for-4 FGs, 35-37 PATs) and senior OL/DL Pat Roberts (6-1, 265). The defense will be bolstered by the return of senior starters and second team All _SWBL selections LB Austin Payne (6-2, 200/two defensive TDs) and DL Nathan Erbe (6-1, 175).
*Eaton (7-3): The Eagles have holes to fill. “We’re looking to replace 18 seniors from last year’s squad,” veteran head coach Ron Neanen (187-80 in 26 years) said. “Among the graduating positions were QB, Kicker, Punter and entire LB crew. We will be looking to rebuild the defense that was a strength of our team last year. Kickers and punters will also be a focus early in our camp.” The offense will build around junior RB Damon Willard (5-8, 175; 1,395 yards, 12 TDs) who was first team All-SWBL Southwestern Division last year. First team All-SWBL performer and senior DL Garrett Eiler (6-2, 200) leads the defense.
*Greenfield McClain (4-6): The Tigers return senior TE/DB standout Ryan Faulconer (6-3, 215).
*Indian Hill (4-6): The Braves have a new head coach in Tony Arcuri. Senior OL/DL Sammy Szames (6-2, 235) was first team all Cincinnati Hill League last year, while senior RB/LB Kyle NeCamp (5-9, 190) is a three-year starter.
*Jonathan Alder (3-7): After making the playoffs 11 years in a row, the Pioneers are on a rare losing streak, having gone 7-12 the last two seasons. Senior DL Troy Caldwell was first team All-MOAC last season. Also back are senior skill players Luke Nees and Cody Rankin.
*Springfield Northwestern (6-4): Head coach Seth Whiting has turned the tide for the Warriors in just two years. Northwestern is coming off just its third winning season since 1979 and is coming off back-to-back non-losing seasons (went 5-5 in 2012) for the first time ever. “This school has been the doormat of the league (Central Buckeye Conference) for years and we are changing that day by day, win by win,” Whiting said. “I’m extremely proud of how far we have come in just 2 short seasons.” An increase in roster size as helped the growth. Whiting said the program averaged 35 players in the 1990s and 2000s and is now up to 66. Among those are a talented junior class led by WR Cole Brewer (6-4, 200) who caught 33 passes for 550 yards and six TDs last season. Other key congtributors will be junior WR/RB Cole Baldwin (5-6, 180;), junior WR/WB/DB Logan Vorhees (6-2, 200), senior LB Andrew Franzen (5-8, 150; team’s leading tackler) and junior DE Jamie Mullin (6-1, 230). Keep an eye on junior two-way lineman Justin Rayburn (6-2, 285) who missed last year with an early season injury.
*Valley View (10-2, Region 14 semifinalist): The Spartans snapped a three-year playoff drought last season and now own 17 playoff berths in the last 22 years. This season they’ll have to replace 15 starters and nine All-SWBL players. “We will be a young team in 2014 and will look for many new faces to step into those starting roles and perform at a high level,” head coach Kris Ketron said. “As a young team I anticipate us making some mistakes that young teams make: missed assignments, turn overs, etc. However I would say the true measure of our success this season is how quickly we are able to correct those mistakes and mature as a team. If we have all the bugs worked out by the end of 2-A-Days we can be a very competitive team.” The good news is that the Spartans lone returning all-league player is senior QB Clay Smith (6-0, 185) a three-year starter and two-time All-SWBL selection who had over 2,100 total yards last year. Other key contributors will be senior DL Austin Warner (5-9, 180) and junior RB/LB Kole Smith (6-1, 200).
*Wyoming (8-3, Region 14 quarterfinalist): The Cowboys must replace seven first team All-CHL selections. Key senior returners include DB Parker Chalmers (5-11, 170), OL Devon Davis (6-3, 300), K Tucker Marty (6-3, 200) and DL Hudson Rogers (6-3, 225).
Also In This Region
Monroe (1-9); Greenon (1-9); North Bend Taylor (6-4); London (2-8); Dayton Dunbar (5-5); Gallipolis Gallia Academy (5-5); Norwood (5-5)