Team To Beat
*Norwalk (9-2, Region 8 quarterfinalist): Securing their first winning season since 1977 in 2011, the Truckers are 23-8 the last three years. Last season was just the program’s second playoff berth in history and first since 1974 (when they won the state title). More history could be made this fall. Senior RB Breck Turner (6-0, 200) holds offers from eight MAC schools, Minnesota, Illinois and Navy. He ran for 1,910 yards and 31 TDs last season after rushing for 970 yards and 14 TDs as a sophomore. Other key senior returners include DL Zachary Heald (6-5, 240), LB Jared Cook (6-0, 185/155 tackles, 28 TFL) and P Griffin Renner (5-9, 165).
Teams To Watch
*Clyde (12-2, Region 8 champions, state semifinalist): The Fliers return one of the division’s best defenders in senior LB Kade Long (6-1, 220) who had 136 tackles and was a unanimous first team All-Sandusky Bay Conference selection last year. Headlining the secondary is senior DB Collin Rieman (6-1, 170).
*Mentor Lake Catholic (3-7): The Cougars missed the playoffs for just the third time in 15 years last season.
*Napoleon (6-5, Region 8 quarterfinalist): Senior Seth Gerken (6-5. 260) anchors the OL.
*Rocky River (4-6): The Pirates have one of the state’s most prolific offensive players in senior QB Matt Lowry (5-9, 170) who accounted for 43 TDs in nine games last year. Lowry threw for 2,171 yards (30 TDs) and ran for 976 yards (13 TDs). Also back is standout senior WR pat Connors (5-10, 148) who caught 48 passes for 1,085 yards and 16 TDs last year.
*Tiffin Columbian (10-2, Region 8 semifinalist): The Tornadoes have been to the playoffs 11 of the last 14 years. Expect them to make it 12 in 15. “We will be very good up front on both sides of the ball,” head coach Brian Colatruglio (42-8 in four years at TC/126-36 overall) said. “We are a little inexperienced at WR and in the defensive backfield. How those two position groups progress will determine how good our team will be. We have a large senior class and return a good group of letterman. We expect to be in contention to win our league and put ourselves in position to host a play-off game.” TC returns four starters on the OL, including seniors Austin Thallman (6-3, 292) and Ian O’Donnell (6-2, 295) and juniors Frazier Daniel (6-2, 297) and Andrew Lucius (5-10, 280). Senior TE Derek Dryfuse (6-5, 210), junior WR Cody Kimmet (5-8, 145) and junior QB Stone Simmons (6-3, 200) also return. On defense the Tornadoes bring back six of the front eight.
*Toledo Central Catholic (12-1, Region 8 finalist): The Irish are 26-2 the last two years and were state champions in 2012. Graduation has cost TCC several players from those rosters, but the cupboard is not bare. Senior OL Ramone Miles (6-5, 260) has committed to Toledo. Senior DL/OL J’Quan Fisher (6-1, 270) helps anchor both lines. Other key contributors for the Irish are junior RB Tre’Von Wade (5-10, 170), senior WR Jeremiah Braswell (6-0, 180) and senior OL Christian Ward (6-0, 290).
Keep An Eye On
*Cleveland Collinwod (1-9): The Railroaders won their first game since 2010 when they beat Cleveland Whitney Young 30-8 in Week 4 last year. This season third-year head coach Greg Wheeler Jr. expects the program to take another step. “Collinwood is poised to make significant strides in 2014,” Wheeler Jr. said. “We’re a veteran team with 15 seniors poised to return. Our numbers are up. We expect to field 40 or more players this year. An offseason conditioning program has been added and the returning players are now fully acclimated to the offensive and defensive systems. The program has been stabilized and is now ready for growth.” Collinwood returns five All-Senate League players, including All-Stars David Ballew III (QB/DB, 6-1, 185) and De’Andre McClain (RB, 5-7, 165).
*Defiance (6-5, Region 8 quarterfinalist): The Bulldogs must replace nine All-Western Buckeye League players from last year’s playoff team.
*Elida (5-5): The Bulldogs will feature senior WR Clark Etzler (6-0, 175). .
*Lodi Cloverleaf (2-8): This will be the final season for veteran head coach Bob Lake who plans to retire after 37 seasons. Lake is 72-88 at Cloverleaf. The Colts return senior QB Garrison Flora (6-2, 205) who threw for over 1,300 yards and ran for 325 last season. The line is anchored by senior Jon Keene (6-4, 238). This is Cloverleaf’s last season in the Suburban League. It will join the Portage Trail Conference in 2015.
*Sandusky Perkins (11-1, Region 8 semifinalist): After going 5-15 in head coach Jason Ziegler’s first two seasons, the Pirates are 21-3 since with two trips to the regional semis. This season Perkins will feature senior RB/LB Treyvon Moore (5-10, 170; 466 yards rushing, nine TDs), junior QB/DB Matt Schweinfurth (5-11, 185; 30 tackles, two INTs) and senior OL/DL Jacob Yaratch (6-0, 250; 88% blocking grade).
Also In This Region
Lima Shawnee (2-8), Brooklyn (2-8), University School (2-8), Parma Padua Franciscan (4-6), Sandusky (3-7), Painesville Harvey (2-8), Toledo Waite (2-8), Toledo Rogers (2-8), Toledo Woodward (2-8), Medina Buckeye (6-5, Region 8 quarterfinalist), Lexington (1-9), Bowling Green (3-7), Maumee (2-8), Mansfield Madison (3-7)