Team To Beat
*Wooster Triway (9-3, Region 12 semifinalist): The Titans lost 46-6 to Kenton in the postseason, but head coach Tony Lee (34-20 in five years) said it was a positive experience. “Getting beat by Kenton was an eye opener for our kids,” Lee said. “We know we have to get bigger in the off-season and better conditioned as well (many of our kids go both ways). Although we are relatively a small team, our overall team quickness and athleticism are our strengths.” So is the passing game. Senior QB Parker Carmichael (5-10, 160) is back for his final season under center and already has 7,473 career passing yards and 71 TDs. He’s also rushed for 21 TDs the last two years. Carmichael holds numerous school and Wayne County passing records (including completions in a game with 44 against Kenton). In addition to Carmichael, Triway returns its top four receivers, including senior Troy Haven (5-9, 180). Haven set school records for receptions in a season (109) and game (16) against Kenton last year. He had 965 receiving yards, 13 TDs and a school-record 91-yard TD catch against Wauseon in the playoffs. Senior WRs Jordan Miller (5-7, 155; 84 rec., 1,163 yards, 11 TDs) and Dillon Kopp (6-0, 155; 41 rec., 610 yards, five TDs) are weapons too. Defensively, Haven (106 tackles), Miller (42 tackles, three INTs), senior DL Bryce Garman (5-10, 220; 59 tackles, seven TFL) and senior DE Jesse Shircliff (6-1, 180; 64 tackles) headline the unit. Senior OL/DE Tyson Cook (6-0, 190; 56 tackles) and senior Stephen Shock (6-0, 205; 74 tackles) are three-year starters at both positions. Overall the Titans return eight starters on both sides of the ball, including three OL. The non-league slate of Akron Manchester, Indian Valley and Fairless is a touch one.
Teams To Watch
*Bryan (12-1, Region 12 finalist): The Golden Bears are on one of the most impressive runs in school history (two straight undefeated regular seasons, NWOAL titles and playoff berth) and are 23-2 the last two seasons. A memorable 46-43 regional final with Kenton last season still reverberates. Some noticeable talent and leadership has graduated (lost 10 first and second team All-NWOAL performers), but players remain including senior OL Zach Phillips (6-0, 250/first team All-NWOAL).
*Caledonia River Valley (11-1, Region 12 semifinalist): The Vikings are coming off the first three-year playoff streak in history and want to extend it to four. RV is also riding the momentum of winning the school’s first ever playoff game (36-25 over Millbury Lake) and completing the program’s fourth ever undefeated regular season. There are some holes, however. “After graduating 15 seniors, we will have a lot of competition for starting spots,” head coach Doug Green (31-13 in four years) said. “We are relying on this competition to breed the best team we can put on the field. Our younger players have playoff experience and that will be counted upon to lead this team.” Key returnees include seniors OL/DL Anthony Schuster (6’0, 210), RB/DB Efren Silva (6’0, 175; ,three TDs, two INTs), LB Skyler Lane (5’11, 205; 25 solo tackles), OL/DL Josh Lanier (6’4, 270), RB/LB Kyler Keene (5’11, 180; 30 tackles) and TE/DB Blayne Voorhees (6’0, 180; two INTs). Top juniors include DB Zach Hill (5’10, 170; 24 tackles) and RB/DB Bailey Cole (6’0, 170; three TDs).
*Genoa (10-1, Region 12 quarterfinalist): The Comets have made the playoffs six years in a row. Speaking of six, that’s how many first team All-NBC defensive players Genoa has to replace. Cushioning that blow is the return of seniors Blake Traver (DL), Jay Nino (LB) and Cody Pickard (DB). Offensively, the Comets return Pickard (K), Traver (OL), Nino (OL) and senior OL Tyler Baird.
*Kenton (13-1, Region 12 champion, state-semifinalist): The Wildcats made the playoffs for the 10th time in history and improved to 25-8 in those appearances. The only sour note was dropping their state semifinal record to 4-1 all-time with a 21-20 loss to eventual state champion Clinton-Massie. This season look for defense and line play to be the Wildcats strengths. The DL returns standouts in seniors Jake Hale (6-1, 285/62 tackles, 11 TFL), Austin Phillips (6-5, 225/35 tackles, nine TFL) and Sylas Smith (5-11, 210/55 tackles). All three were All-WBL last year. Also back are senior LB Tristan Reichelderfer (6-3, 210/180 tackles, three INTs, Air Force offer) and senior DBs Trevor (6-0, 180/109 tackles, nine TFL, three INTs) and Travis Downing (6-1, 175/68 tackles, four INTs). Offensively the Wildcats return senior WR Kollin Stollar (5-9, 165/77 rec., 1,206 yards, 20 TDs), senior OL Larry Wells (6-7, 290/Kentucky commit), senior OL Mason Treen (6-2, 230) and senior WR Colyn Blackford (5-11, 175/89 rec., 1,105 yards, 10 TDs). Look for sophomore Trent Hites (5-9, 160) to take over at QB.
*Keystone (7-3): The Wildcats have never been to the playoffs, but that could change this year. Senior TE/DB C.J. Conrad (6-5, 225) has committed to Kentucky after catching 47 passes for 579 yards and six TDs last season. Senior RB Tyler Polen (6-0, 200) also returns after rushing for 759 yards and 10 TDs.
*Lorain Clearview (4-6): The Clippers return one of Ohio’s best pass-catch combos in senior QB Robert Engle (6-2, 205) and junior WR Lance Billings (5-11, 160). Engle threw for 2,655 yards and 27 TDs last season, after throwing for 1,491 yards and 15 TDs as a sophomore. Billings caught 57 passes for 881 yards and nine TDs.
*Marengo Highland (7-3): The Scots will lean on a pair of sturdy senior OL/DLs in Jacob Brown (6-0, 210/three-year starter) and Dustin Baker (6-1,240/two-time All-MOAC). Other key returners include a trio of juniors (Shane Carney, Jake Christman and Jacob Ware). Brutal opening slate of Loudonville, Mount Vernon and River Valley awaits.
*Millbury Lake (8-3, Region 12 quarterfinalist): The Lakers return one of Ohio’s top QBs in senior Jared Rettig (6-2, 180) whose thrown for 5,180 career yards and 63 TDs. He’s also rushed for 11 TDs and was first team All-NBC at DB last year. In addition, a couple of Rettig’s favorite WRs are back in junior Adam Duncan (6-0,180/78 career rec., 1,419 yards, 20 TDs) and senior Todd Walters (6-2, 195/52 career rec., 929 yards, 17 TDs). Lake also returns its top two rushers in junior RB Brandon Short (903 yards, 12 TDs) and senior RB Marcel Bryan (440 yards, seven TDs). Seniors Austin Hess and Andrew Abbey anchor the OL.
Keep An Eye On
*Bellevue (6-4): The Redmen will lean heavily on two-way senior standout Joey Marin (RB/LB). Other key returners are senior DB Quinton Brimmer and senior OL Jake Strayer.
*Ben Logan (1-9): The Raiders return a solid nucleus that includes six All-CBC Mad River Division players including first team senior selections RB/LB Brady Bechtel (5-10, 185/915 yards rushing, nine TDs, 46 tackles), LB Kyle Ackley (6-2, 195/82 tackles) and OL Saul Boysel (6-0, 240). Other key returners are sophomore LB Austin Vanbuskirk (6-1, 200/38 tackles), sophomore DB Josh Whitten (5-10, 165/46 tackles) and senior QB/RB/DB Mack Horton (5-8, 150/32 tackles).
*Brookside (3-7): The Cardinals will lean heavily on senior OL Casey Huhn (6-1, 276) and junior WR Dudley Taw (6-0, 175).
*Clear Fork (7-3): The Colts return standout senior QB/DB/K Kadin Chrastina (6-2-180).
*Galion (9-2, Region 13 quarterfinalist): The Tigers are coming off back-to-back playoff berths after visiting the postseason once prior since 1989. Galion will lean heavily on senior OL/DL Tristan Schroeder (6-4, 275).
*Indian Lake (5-5): The Lakers finished 4-1 last year and four of their five losses were to playoff teams. Indian Lake must replace six first team All-CBC Mad River Division selections this year. Key returners include junior O/LBL Cody Winegardner (5-11, 185/59 tackles as junior, 53 tackles as soph.), junior TE/LB Joey Davidson (6-0, 180/82 tackles), sophomore QB/DB Alex Jacobs (6-0, 175/22 tackles, three INTs) and senior LB/RB Hunter Vance (5-11, 170/214 yards rushing, three TDs, 25 tackles).
*Ontario (5-5): The Warriors will feature senior DL Bronson Krull (6-3, 250/73 tackles, nine TFL) and senior LB Aaron Baker (6-0, 205/ 59 tackles each of the last two seasons).
*Rossford (6-4): The Bulldogs return standout senior Toledo commit Nathan Childress (6-3, 265/237 tackles) who was second team All-NBC last year at both TE and DL. Other key returners are senior OL Steven Carey and senior LB Cody Igo.
*Toledo Scott (4-6): The Bulldogs started 1-6 but win three straight to end the season. Scott will feature senior RB Kevin Banks (6-1, 200) who has committed to Toledo.
*Vermillion (2-8): The Sailors started 2-1 last year but dropped seven straight to finish 2-8 for the second year in a row. Senior OL/DL Ethan Griffith (6-3, 260/46 tackles) is a good one.
*Wauseon (9-2, Region 12 quarterfinalist): The Indians must replace eight first and second team All-NWOAL performers. The good news? They return a good one in two-way senior TE/DE star Noah Castle (6-4, 230).
Also In This Region
Oak Harbor (5-5), Fostoria (0-10), Shelby (1-9), Port Clinton (0-10), Firelands (0-10); Lima Bath (4-6); Otsego (4-6); Upper Sandusky (7-3)