Team To Beat
*Zanesville Maysville (8-4, Region 13 semifinalist): The Panthers are coming off the school’s first playoff win (35-14 over Bexley), the team’s first home playoff game and the program’s first playoff berths (2012-13). There’s more history to be made. A standout senior group returns in DB Couger Clarke (5-11, 160), QB, Jacob Miller (6-4, 200), OL Alec Shook (5-9, 214) and K Nate Vallee (5-8, 145). The junior duo of RB Chase Roberts (5-11, 165) and DL Tahlor Macenko (6-3, 191) is a special one.
Teams To Watch
*Claymont (6-3): The Mustangs are celebrating the program’s 50th season of football and would like to cap it with a playoff berth. The talent is there. “We were in all of our games last year but we didn’t finish and it cost us a spot in the playoffs,” head coach Eric Henry said. “Once again our non-league schedule is very tough. We have some holes to fill up front. If we can have a few guys step up and take those spots we can be competitive.” The nucleus includes senior RB/DB Keaton Herron, senior QB Timmy Zurcher, senior OL/LN Mitchell Ueltschy, senior OL/DL Nate Gray, junior WR/DE Justice Avery and junior WR/DB Hunter Miles. Big games with St. Clairsville and Indian Valley kickoff the season.
*Columbus Watterson (3-6): The Eagles have missed the playoffs just four times in 22 years, but last season was one of those rare occurrences. Head coach Dan Bjelac (86-44 in 11 years) said, “We need to grow up early and be ready as challenges await every week starting Week 1.” Watterson returns a solid senior nucleus in OL/DE Jon Pirrmann (6-4, 235; 20 tackles), FB/LB Jack Haley (5-10, 195; 37 tackles), QB Sam Maglicic (6-1, 190; six TDs), WR Alex Loscko (6-1, 185; 11 rec.), DB/WR Teddy Walter (5-11, 175), RB/SS Ben Kaminski (5-11, 192) and WR/DB Tyler Bair (6-0, 165). Keep an eye on junior LB/FB Sam Lewis (6-1, 215).
*Indian Valley (10-3, Region 13 finalist): The return of senior RB Jake Davis (5-9, 210) has elevated expectations for the Braves who are coming off back-to-back-to-back playoff appearances. The program picked up its first postseason wins last year (over Bloom-Carroll and Philo) and would like to add a couple more this season. Davis is a good reason why they can. Davis is looking to rush for over 1,000-yards for the fourth time and enters 2013 with 4,898 career rushing yards and 71 career rushing TDs. Anchoring the lines will be senior standouts Brock Weber (6-1, 240/103 tackles, 10 TFL) and Brandon Anderson (5-11, 235/62 tackles). Overall, Indian Valley returns its top three tacklers from last season in senior LB Kyle Contini (5-10, 205/141 tackles), junior DB Brady Cotsmire (5-11, 170/109 tackles, three INTs) and senior LB Will Love (5-10, 180/103 tackles).
*Johnstown-Monroe (5-5): After playing in two straight regional finals, the Johnnies missed the playoffs last season. They have the horses to get back. Senior RB Cody Farley (6-0, 175) returns after rushing for 1,576 yards and 21 TDs last year. He ran for 1,792 yards and 17 TDs as a sophomore. Up front, senior OL Joey Norris (5-10, 200) leads the way. The Johnnies defense will be led by the senior trio of LB Ethan Clift (5-11, 165/89 tackles), DB Brendan Barasch (5-8, 165/80 tackles) and DB Zackry Fleming (6-1, 190).
*Meadowbrook (7-3): The Colts are coming off their first winning season since 2005 and looking for more. Expectations loom. Junior QB Dalton Wiggins (6-0, 170/All-OVAC) returns as does senior OL Darin Neff (6-4, 320), senior TE Jason Quinn (6-3, 205/All-OVAC) and junior DB Andrew Stine (5-8, 155).
*Newark Licking Valley (8-3, Region 13 quarterfinalist): The Panthers earned the regiona’s No. 1 seed last year and then lost a tough one on the first round to Steubenville 21-14. Head coach Randy Baughman (271-89-1 in 32 years) said a lack of numbers and too many players going both ways are concerns this season. Key contributors will include seniors Tyler Nethers (QB, 6’0, 170), Damon Hupp (WR/DB, 6’1″, 175), Hayden Walpole (OL/DL, 6’1″, 260), Bo Redman (OL/DL, 6’2″, 245), Mason Brehm (FB/LB, 5’10”, 190) and Nathan Loper (RB/DE, 5’10”, 195) and juniors Bailey Hayden (RB, 5’9″, 165; 540 yards rushing) and Garrett Robinson (LB, 5’10” 185).
*Steubenville (9-5, Region 13 champion, state semifinalist): Big Red will be led by senior DL William Harvey (6-4, 210).
*Wintersville Indian Creek (6-4): The Redskins have been to the playoffs twice in three years and are looking for a program record sixth straight winning season. Head coach Andrew Connor (61-49 in 11 years) welcomes back a good one in senior LB/FB Zach Connor (6-0, 220) who had 90 tackles, eight TFL, three sacks and three TDs last season. Also back are senior TE/DE Christian Getsey (6-1, 225; 46 tackles, seven TFL, seven sacks), senior RB Michael Puorro (5-10, 185; 382 rushing yards, TD), senior OL/DE Luke Carroll (6-0, 230; 26 tackles, five sacks), junior LB Isaiah Pavlik (5-10, 170; 74 tackles), junior LB Zach Cole (6-0, 195; 67 tackles, six TFL, five sacks), junior DE/FB Jonathan Dailey (5-11, 185; 20 tackles) and junior LB Zach Williams (18 tackles).
Keep An Eye On
*Amanda-Clearcreek (3-7): After three straight playoff appearances, the Aces have gone 3-7 two years in a row.
*Bexley (7-4, Region 13 quarterfinalist): The Lions made a huge turnaround last season when they went from 2-8 to a playoff team. Replacing holes on the lines (graduated three OL starters and two DTs) will be key. Head coach John Smith is 31-44 in seven seasons. Senior LB Jeff Nicosia was the team’s leading tackler last season and is a three-year starter. Keep an eye on senior QB/DB Andre Stewart and sophomore OL/DL Wade Randle.
*Bloom-Carroll (6-5, Region 14 quarterfinalist): The Bulldogs started 4-0 last year before going 2-5 in their last seven games. Still, despite an 11-11 record the last two years, B-C owns two playoff berths over that span.
*Columbus Linden McKinley (1-9): The Panthers have a good one in senior LB Nick Battle (6-2, 20).
*John Glenn (7-4, Region 13 quarterfinalist): The Muskies snapped a five-year absence from the postseason last year. Key senior returners are OL Zack Dicken (5-11, 210) and LB Tanner Morton (5-9, 190).
*New Lexington (5-5): The Panthers return a good one in senior RB Tommy Russell (6-1, 188).
*Philo (9-3, Region 13 finalist): The Electrics earned the program’s fifth postseason berth and first since 1995 last season en route to making the regional finals. Heading into last season Philo had never won a postseason game. Graduation hit hard. “(There are) many holes to fill due to the graduation of the winningest class at Philo in over two decades,” head coach Dirk Linciome (28-14 in four years) said. “Really pleased with the progress of our young kids. (There will be) many opportunities for those kids to step up and contribute for us on Friday night.” Key returners include senior OL/DL Payton Henderson (6-3, 240), senior WR/DB Wyatt Harrop (5-8, 180), senior OL/LB Jacob Newlon (5-10, 205) and junior Cody Wickham (5-9, 175).
*Richmond Edison (4-6): Senior LB/RB Ethan Shannon (5-10, 180) returns.
*Tuscarawas Valley (4-6): The Trojans will feature senior standout WR/DB Jordan Felgenhauer (6-4, 190).
Also In This Region
Morgan (1-9), Fairfield Union (1-9), Utica (3-7), Vincent Warren (3-7), Buckeye Local (1-9), River View (1-9); Columbus East (2-8); Columbus South (3-7); Heath (2-8)