Team To Beat
Athens (12-1, Region 9 finalist): The Bulldogs have made history the last two years by reaching regional finals. Now they want to make more by winning a regional title. They have the horses. Senior QB Joe Burrow (6-4, 200) has committed to Ohio State and is one of the state’s most prolific passers ever (6,971 career passing yards). His 94 career passing TDs ranks No. 9 in state history. Burrows has also rushed for 1,425 yards 22 TDs in his career. Also back are Burrow’s top three targets – senior WRs Ryan Lueherman (6-4, 195; 97 career receptions, 2,035 yards and 28 TDs) and Adam Lueherman (6-4, 195; 52 rec., 869 yards, 16 TDs) and junior WR Heath Wiseman (5-11, 175; 57 rec., 755 yards, 14 TDs). If that wasn’t enough, the Bulldogs also return their leading rusher and one of the state’s top RB prospects in senior Trae Williams (6-1, 195; 323 career carries, 3,146 yards, 52 TDs). Williams has committed to Ohio. Head coach Ryan Adams is 52-25 in seven years. A big non-league game with Zanesville looms in Week 2.
Teams To Watch
*Beechcroft (6-4): The Cougars are expected to get an influx of talent from Brookhaven, which closed its doors following last school year. That coupled with the talent already coming back could lead to big things for Beechcroft. Expect the following seniors to have big impacts for the Cougars: OL Steffan Banks (6-2, 270/33 tackles, 10 TFL at Brookhaven), LB Takeyvion Simmons (5-10, 175/64 tackles, 15 TFL in nine games at Brookhaven), DL Chaquez Fair (6-0, 300/50 tackles, 11 sacks) and RB David Peoples (5-10, 180/Brookhaben transfer). Junior QB/P/DB Macyah Fleming (6-2, 195) threw for 614 yards, ran for 313 and accounted for 11 TDs in five games last year.
*Carrollton (4-6): The Warriors will again ride the talents of seniors Zade Deitz (QB, 6-0, 175) and Tyler Dodd (RB, 5-11, 220). Deitz threw for 1,045 yards and seven TDs and ran for 500 yards and nine TDs last year. He threw for 789 yards and nine TDs and ran for 444 yards and seven TDs as a sophomore. Dodd ran for 1,129 yards and six TDs last year after rushing for 942 and 12, respectively, as a sophomore.
*Chillicothe (9-2, Region 9 quarterfinalist): Led by veteran head coach Ron Hinton (multiple state titles at Amanda-Clearcreek), the Cavaliers made their first playoff appearance in five years last season.
*Columbus DeSales (5-4): After making 18 straight playoff appearances, the Stallions have missed the postseason two straight years. Expect junior RB Austin Andrews (5-10, 165) to get several touches this fall.
*Dover (7-4, Region 9 quarterfinalist): The Tornadoes have been to the playoffs 14 of the last 16 years. Senior WR Cory Contini (6-1, 175) returns after catching 88 passes for 1,468 yards and 19 TDs. He caught 69 passes for 995 yards and eight TDs as a sophomore. Also back for Dover are senior DL Jake Armstrong (6-3, 200), senior QB Merrick Mamarella (5-10, 170) and senior LB Alex Bowman (5-11, 180).
*Marion-Franklin (12-2, State Semifinalist): The Red Devils have been one of Central Ohio’s top program’s over the course of the last decade. M-F has won 10 straight Coulmbus City League titles and has qualified for the playoffs 10 straight times. The Red Devils have also been regional champions three of the last five years. This year head coach Brian Haffele returns a solid senior nucleus in LB/FB A.J. Tarvin (6-0, 250), LB Thomas James (5-11, 210), LB David Wellborn (5-10, 215), DE Shemar Moss (6-2, 225), QB Justin Tyler (6-1, 175), DL Rayshawn Dixon (6-2, 200), WR Michael Winfrey (6-3, 205) and DB Michael Champion (5-9, 170). Junior OL/DL Jamari Walker (6-1, 270) will contribute too. Bolstering the roster is the addition of two notable transfers. Senior LB Anthony McKee (6-2, 205) comes over from Walnut Ridge and has over 20 offers including West Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Arkansas. Senior DL Tyaun Taylor (6-2, 255) comes over from Hamilton Township where he had 60 tackles and 15 TFL last year.
*New Philadelphia (9-2, Region 9 quarterfinalist): The Quakers made the playoffs for the third time in a row and seventh time in school history last year but failed to win the program’s first postseason game. New Philly is 0-7 in Week 11. If the Quakers get their first playoff win this season defense will play a large part. NP returns a soild senior nucleus on that side of the ball in DB Logan Geib (6-0, 175), DL Blake Burgess (5-9, 185), DL Jeff Virden (6-1, 240/40 tackles, six sacks) and LB Boston Waltz (5-11, 190).
*Tri-Valley (9-3, Region 9 finalist): The Scotties made the playoffs for the fifth year in a row and for the seventh time in head coach Justin Buttermore’s 10 seasons (82-32). Expect a sixth straight trip. Tri-Valley returns three players who rushed for over 800 yards last season, including senior QB Brock Fargus (6-2, 190) who ran for 1,100 yards and threw for 1,500. Senior RB Daniel Scott (6-0, 208) ran for 1,200 yards last season, while senior RB Logan Bash (5-9, 190) went for 800. The Scotties also return four OL starters and their leading receiver in senior Hunter Mohler (6-2, 200; 50 rec., 800 yards). Mohler (five INTs) leads the defensive backfield, while senior lineman John Alford (6-2, 270) anchors the front seven. “We have a lot of experienced players that return this season,” Buttermore said. “We return four offensive lineman with excellent size and athleticism. We also return the bulk of our skill players. Defensively we should be very strong in our front seven. We need to improve on our pass defense from a year ago and overall depth especially at back up positions is a concern.” Tough non-league games with Licking Valley and Zanesville loom.
Keep An Eye On
*Big Walnut (2-8): Junior DB Isaac Lucas (6-0, 180/78 tackles, seven INTs) returns for the Eagles, as do senior QB Jordan Wall (1,131 yards passing) and senior WR Joe Muench (6-0, 175/23 rec., 379 yards, two TDs).
*Buckeye Valley (3-7): The Barons defense will be led by junior DB Nick Cooper (5-8, 140/five INTs) and senior DL David Praul (5-10, 270/32 tackles, eight TFL).
*Cambridge (5-5): The Bobcats are looking to earn their first playoff berth since 2006. Senior QB Caleb Tingle (5-10, 175) returns for his third year as a starter and has thrown for 2,038 yards and accounted for 31 TDs the last two years. Also back for head coach Kevin Gunn (11-9 in two years) are seniors Errik Snell (WR/DB, 5-11, 170/365 rec. yards), Riley Hayhurst (WR/DB, 5-10, 170/33 rec. for 320 yds), Maurice Lathan (RB/LB, 460 rushing yds, 9 TD), Brock Cline, (OL/DL, 6’0, 260), Jack Robertson (WR/DB, 6’0, 175) and Tyler Huffman (OL/DL, 6’0, 190) and junior Josh Lewis (LB/RB, 5’10”,185).
*Centennial (4-6): Improved from 1-9 to 4-6 last season and will look to continue climb with return of senior QB Jeremy Johnson (6-5, 185; 1,500 yards passing, 18 TDs; 400 yards rushing, four TDs). Other key returners are fellow seniors RB Darsean Watts (5-11, 190; 700 yards rushing, 10 TDs), WR Anthony-Jamal Slappy (6-3, 175; 25 rec., 250 yards, two TDs) and DE Hunter Waits (6-4, 230; 64 tackles, seven sacks). Brookhaven is replaced on the schedule by Columbus DeSales.
*Granville (7-3): The Blue Aces defense will feature senior LB Patrick Oehlman (5-6, 185).
*Jackson (6-4): The Ironmen return a solid pair of seniors in DB/RB Gabe Griffiths (5-11, 195/627 yards rushing, nine TDs) and TE/LB Reagan Williams (6-3, 235/84 tackles, 19 TFL/Offers from Kent State, Ohio, Indiana, Purdue, Toledo, Boston College, Marshall and Miami).
*Logan Elm (7-4, Region 9 quarterfinalist): The Braves are coming off their fourth playoff appearance in six years. Senior LB Michael Cline (6-2, 193) leads the defense.
*Mifflin (5-5): The Punchers will feature senior WR Stanley Jackson (6-3, 180/29 rec., 541 yards, nine TDs), senior OL/DL Miake Gause (6-2, 230)and junior LB Melik Scott (5-9, 210/81 tackles).
*West Holmes (6-4): The Knights will ride senior RB/LB Luke Ogi (6-0, 210) who ran for 1,400 yards and 15 TDs and had 90 tackles and three forced fumbles last season. Also back is senior K Logan Gallion (5-7, 155).
*Whitehall-Yearling (5-5): The Rams finished .500 last year but lost three games by a total of four points. Head coach Jake Kuner believes this could be the season Whitehall breaks through for a playoff berth and MSL title. “We have strong leadership in the senior class and a bigger senior class than what we have had in the past,” Kuhner said. “Our players are becoming very competitive, and are hungry for the season.” Seniors Cameron Barker (LB/OL, 6’0, 225, two-time All-MSL), Tristen Ritchie (WR/DB, 6’3, 195), Dassan Jefferson (DB/WR, 5’10, 205), J.D. Hornberger (OL/DL, 5’10, 230, All-MSL) and Brandon Buchert (LB/OL, 5’11, 235) will contribute heavily.
*Vinton County (5-5): The Vikings will feature senior LB Tim Ousley (6-0, 225).
Also In This Region
Hebron Lakewood (1-9), Thornville Sheridan (6-4), Marietta (2-8), Washington Court House (5-5), Columbus Independence (6-4), Eastmoor (6-4)