Team To Beat
*Hubbard (11-1, Region 7 semifinalist): The Eagles return arguably the state’s top RB duo in senior Larry Scott (6-1, 218/Michigan State commit) and junior George Hill (6-0, 182/Offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, UC and West Virginia). Other key returners for Hubbard include senior DL/OL Matt Jones (6-4, 290/West Virginia commit), senior LB Tyler Taafe (6-2, 200/Toledo commit), senior LB Isiah Scott (6-3, 188/Cincinnati and Kentucky offers) and senior DL Zach Hover (5-11, 270/65 tackles, 14 TFL).
Teams To Watch
*Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (15-0, D-III State Champion): The Irish improved to 6-1 in state finals and won back-to-back championships with a 24-0 victory over Trotwood-Madison. Graduation took its toll but talent remains. Senior DB Vince Lockett (5-10, 185) headlines the defense. Head Coach Dan Boarman (185-90 career record) is entering his ninth season at SVSM.
*Aurora (10-2, Region 7 semifinalist): The Greenmen have made the playoffs nine straight seasons and are looking to win their eighth Chagrin Valley Conference title in 10 years. Of note, it’s also Aurora’s last run in the CVC. The Greenmen join the Suburban League next year. In it’s swan song, Aurora will go out swinging. “We are excited about our numbers, we will dress close to 90 players grades 10-12,” head coach Bob Mihalik (112-42 in 13 years) said. “Our defense is a veteran group and they will have to carry us early on as we break in a new QB and all new RBs. We will have a lot of competition for starting positions, which will make the summer very exciting.” Defensively, senior leaders will be DLs Brandon Zamary (6-2, 255) and Brian McNamara (6-2, 225) and LBs Ryan Devine (5-11, 170) and Michael Stratton (6-2, 180). Overall, Aurora returns seven starters on D and four on O. Mihalik is excited about the influx of talent from an undefeated JV team. The Greenmen’s senior class (29 players) is the largest they’ve ever had.
*Chardon (6-4): The Hilltoppers return a trio of talented seniors in DB Justin Oh (5-7, 162), WR Patrick Sullivan (6-0, 170) and WR Ben Cyvas (5-10, 180).
*Geneva (4-6): The Eagles feature one of the division’s top RBs in senior Aaron Rossi (5-9, 190) who ran for 1,500 yards and 18 TDs last year. Rossi ran for 1,300 yards as a sophomore. Senior WR Austin Clutter (6-0, 180/576 yards receiving) is a good one too.
*Howland (4-6): The Tigers will look to build on the return of 16 starters.
*Kenston (7-4, Region 7 quarterfinalist): The Bombers have reached the playoffs both years under head coach Jeff Grubich and are primed to make it three-for-three. Kenston returns a solid senior nucleus that includes WR/DB Jeremy Wyers (6-0, 165), OL Carmen Gianguzzo (6-0, 210), DL Mike Kruger (6-4, 235), LB Zach Silberman (6-0, 210) and DB Josh Hummer (6-0, 180).
*Louisville (10-1, Region 7 quarterfinalist): The Leopards return a good one in senior QB/P Connor Zwick (5-10, 168). Zwick threw for 1,412 yards and 15 TDs and rushed for 780 yards and eight TDs last season. Lousiville also returns senior RB Walter Schrock (5-8, 162) who ran for 774 yards and eight TDs last year.
*Marlington (8-3, Region 7 quarterfinalist): The Dukes are coming off back-to-back 8-3 seasons.
*Poland (10-2, Region 7 semifinalist): The Bulldogs have made the playoffs seven years in a row. Senior OL Liborio Ricottilli (6-4, 280) has committed to Lehigh. Senior LB Adam Wollet (6-1, 225/111 tackles, 11 TFL) headlines the defense.
Keep An Eye On
*Akron Buchtel (6-4): The Griffs will challenge for their second playoff berth in nine years. Senior WR Deric Rucker (6-2, 180/44 rec., 831 yards, eight TDs) holds offers from Toledo and Cincinnati.
*Akron Garfield (5-5): Head coach Bob Sax (66-55) feels like this season could be a special one. “We have been in a rebuilding process the last three years and I have been excited about this class since their freshmen year in 2011,” Sax said. “Our top two classes have a lot of playing experience during the past couple of years. We have a lot of kids that are dedicated and have been working hard this offseason and participating in combines. We return 8 starters on offense and 7 on defense.” Senior RB Darrion Powers (6-0, 175) returns after back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Other reasons for Sax’s excitement include senior WR Noland Plamer (6-2, 185), senior DL Sean Calhoun (6-0, 280) and junior QB/DB Jatairis Grant (6-1, 175). Senior K Benson Bonyo (5-9, 135) is reliable.
*Archbishop Hoban (5-5): Senior OL Ted Stieber (6-6, 300/Minnesoata commit) will anchor a line that hopoes to open holes for standout sophomore RB Todd Sibley (5-10, 188).
*Canfield (3-7): The Cardinals will lean on senior LB Nick Annichenni (5-9, 180/60 tackles).
*Canton South (6-4): The Wildcats will feature senior WR D.J. Wilson (5-8, 160).
*Ravenna (2-8): The Ravens will feature senior RB Warren Bradley (6-0, 170).
*Tallmadge (6-4): The Blue Devils are looking for their eighth Suburban League title and ninth playoff berth since 2004. Head coach Joe Vassalotti (96-44 in 12 years) will lean heavily on the senior trio of OL Ben Cipa (6-7, 305; Ashland offer), QB Joseph Vassalotti (6-2, 202; 1,500 yards passing, 14 TDs) and WR/DB/KR Latrele Moore (5-8, 160; 18.7 yards per catch). “We return a relatively large number of players with varsity experience,” Vassalotti said. “A concern will be replacing three staring offensive linemen and our leading tackler on defense.”
*West Geauga (7-4, Region 7 quarterfinalist): The Wolverines are coming off their third playoff appearance in five years (all on odd years).
Also In This Region
Richfield Revere (3-7), Akron Kenmore (3-7), Akron North (1-9), Coventry (2-8), Akron East (2-8), Akron Springfield (3-7), Alliance (6-4), Norton (8-2), Niles McKinley (5-5)