Team To Beat
*Loveland (15-0, State Champions): The Tigers capped an impressive run last season with the school’s first state title and a big win over Glenville in the D-II final. For an encore expect another deep postseason jaunt. The Tigers feature two outstanding RBs in senior Nate Slagel (6-1, 205/1,340 yards, 19 TDs/ECC Off POY) and sophomore Luke Waddell (5-8, 160/1,593 yards, 19 TDs). Slagel only played in the first eight games. Senior OL Ian Leever (6-6, 290) has committed to Miami. Other key returners for Loveland include junior QB Drew Plitt (1,501 yards passing, 14 TDs), senior ATH Zecchaeus Williams, senior K Evan Burig (6-0, 160), senior WR Evan Deever (two return TDs), senior DL Jake Junod (3.5 sacks), senior LB Jeff Prifti (5-10, 170/six INTs), and junior DL Jake Saunders (4.5 sacks).
Teams To Watch
*Cincinnati Northwest (9-3, Region 6 semifinalist): The Knights will feature senior DL Julian Daniels (6-1, 175/eight sacks, two FF), senior LB Cortez McGinnis (6-3, 200/two INTs, TD) and senior RB DeVohn Jackson (5-10, 185/262 yards rushing, three TDs; 17 rec., 388 yards, eight TDs).
*Harrison (7-4, Region 6 quarterfinalist): The Wildcats feature one of Southwest’s Ohio’s most dynamic players in senior QB Jake Weber (5-9, 190) who is the reigning SWOC Offensive Player of the Year. Weber threw for 1,868 yards and 19 TDs and ran for 785 yards and 17 TDs last season. Also back for head coach Kent McCullough (18-14 in four years) are senior OL Connor Brown (6-3, 265), junior LB Mason Brunner (6-0, 215; 44.5 tackles), junior WR Mitchell Hogue (5-10, 180; 53 tackles, six TDs), junior OL/DL Nathan Silcox (6-2, 230; 12 TFL) and junior OL/DL Brandon Littleton (6-0, 210; 27.5 tackles). “The 2014 season has the potential of being a successful year, but with the loss of several playmakers from the 2013 playoff roster, we will need people to fill those very important roles,” McCullough said. “Returning Weber is huge. The addition of some young talented juniors and the leadership of our senior class will determine if Harrison is playing in November or not.”
*LaSalle (3-7): The Lancers return a solid nucleus of five All-GCL South players in junior RB Jeremy Larkin (5-10, 175/127 carries, 666 yards, eight TDs/30 rec., 5-07 yards, four TDs), junior OL Luke Doerger (6-3, 298/Akron, Toledo and Buffalo offers), senior DL Jordan Thompson (6-3, 250/Northwestern commit/62 tackles), senior DL Quinton Herbert (6-1, 225) and junior QB Nick Watson (6-0, 170/130-246, 1,864 yards, 22 TDs). Also keep an eye on senior WR Kevin Ferguson (5-10, 195/36 rec., 517 yards, six TDs), senior DB Avery Larkin (5-11, 160) and junior punter Drue Chrisman (6-3, 170).
*Lima Senior (5-5): The Spartans made huge strides under veteran coach Mike Fell last season, improving from 0-10 in 2012 to 5-5, and hope to continue the climb in Year 2 under the former Ada coach. “Lima Senior has five returning starters at skill positions who accounted for over 2,000 rushing yards and 2,500 receiving yards last season,” Fell said. “There are three offensive lineman returning. The key will be finding a QB.” Senior RB Juniel Liles (5-8, 170) ran for 1,500 yards last season, while junior WR Rueben Flowers (6-4, 185) had 1,000 yards receiving and holds an offer from Toledo. Other key weapons include junior WR Demontay Liles (5-8, 165; 1,400 yards rec. and returning), senior WR Marquis Graham (6-0, 200; 700 yards rec., six TDs) and senior WR Ilias Wright (5-10, 170; 500 yards rec.). The defense returns seven starters and the Spartans will completely two platoon. Tough non-league games include Piqua and Mansfield Senior. Said Fell: “We are excited about the upcoming season and our goals are to compete for the TRAC Championship and make the playoffs.”
*Mount Healthy (11-2, Region 6 finalist): The Owls return a solid dual-threat QB in junior David Montgomery (5-11, 205) who ran for 1,783 yards and 22 TDs and threw for 685 yards and 11 TDs last season. MH also returns senior RB Hjavier Pitts (5-9, 170/584 yards rushing, eight TDs) and senior DL Milan Lanier (6-4, 230).
*Piqua (4-6): Senior Trent Yeomens (5-11, 185) became the first Piqua player since former Mr. Football Brandon Saine to rush for over 2,000 yards when he produced 2,007 and 23 TDs on 218 carries last season. The Indians also return their leading receiver in senior WR Tate Honeycutt (5-11,160) who had 443 yards and six TDs on 20 receptions. Senior LB Austin Hall (6-3, 200) was second on the team in tackles (with 78) last year. Keep an eye on junior DB Alex Nees (5-10, 170/61 tackles, two INTs).
*Winton Woods (9-3, Region 6 semifinalist): The Warriors don’t lack talent. The OL features two JJHuddle Top 100 prospects in seniors Noah Listerman (6-8, 275/Michigan State commit) and George Brown (6-6, 249/Florida commit). Those two will open holes for senior RBs Marcus Davis (5-11, 221/1,700 yards, 20 TDs) and ATH Christian Lumpkin (5-10, 175/445 yards rushing, seven TDs/Offers from Ball State and Eastern Michigan). Senior LB David Long (6-0, 218/100 tackles/offers from Illinois, Ohio, Cincinnati, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Western Michigan, West Virginia, Kent State, Louisville and Georgia Tech) anchors the defense.
*Vandalia Butler (6-5, Region 6 quarterfinalist): The Aviators were one of Ohio’s biggest surprises last year as they made the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Two of their losses were to D-II state champion Loveland. Head coach Greg Bush (entering his sixth season) believes this team can make it back-to-back playoff berths. “We return a lot of experienced players this year,” Bush said. “If guys step up and lead there is no reason we can’t win the GWOC North or be a playoff team again. We play in one of the toughest conferences in the state for a D2 school, so we have to stay healthy in order to compete.” Butler returns seven All-GWOC players including junior QB Chandler Craine (6-0, 190; 1,300 yards, 13 TDs), senior RB Michael Hutchinson (5-8, 195; 541 yards rushing, eight TDs) and senior WR Ben Slanton (6-3, 190; 20 rec., 224 yards, two TDs). The defense is anchored by senior DE Ricky Herbst (6-3, 240), senior LBs Quentin Rucker (6-3, 190; 44 tackles) and Tain Satterlee (6-0, 210; 42 tackles) and junior DL Vinnie Fiori (5-10, 205; 45 tackles). The schedule gets a huge makeover with the additions of Springfield Shawnee, Springfield, Wilmington and Xenia.
Keep An Eye On
*Fairborn (2-8): Junior RB/DB Aron Childers (5-11, 175) will impact both sides of the ball. Last season Childers threw for 327 yards and five TDs and ran for 224 yards and six TDs. He also had 97 tackles and four INTs. Junior LB Dusty Johnson (6-1, 210) ranked third on the team in tackles last year with 92.
*Glen Este (5-5): The Trojans will feature junior QB Tyler Pilcher (6-0, 180) who returns for his second season as a starter after throwing for 1,632 yards and 19 TDs as a sophomore.
*Kings (7-4, Region 6 quarterfinalist): The Knights will ride senior RB DeAndre Barnett who ran for 1,140 yards and eight TDs last year. Senior K Adam Woeste (5-10, 160) connected on 8-of-10 FGs last year. Senior DL Kyle Handorf (6-1, 185) anchors the front seven.
*Princeton (4-6): Senior WR Elijah Ball (6-2, 172) is one of the state’s top receiver prospects and holds offers from Ohio, Cincinnati, Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Akron, Connecticut and Bowling Green. Ball caught 58 passes for 1,037 yards and seven TDs last season.
*Sidney (4-6): After going 0-10 in 2011, the Yellow Jackets have gone 4-6 in back-to-back seasons. Head coach Adam Doenges said, “The off-season goal for this team was to figure out how to finish games. We lost 4 of the 6 games last year after leading or tied at half time. If this improves, we are capable of finishing above .500 for the first time in over 10 years.” Key returners include senior WR/P Anthony Yates (6-0, 177), junior OL Lorenzo Taborn (6-3, 270), junior WR/DB Darryl McNeal (5-10, 175), senior OL/DL Brian Taborn (6-1, 200), junior WR Tyren Cox (6-4, 185) and senior RB Eric Barnes (5-8, 190/663 yards, six TDs).
*Tecumseh (4-6): The Arrows had a streak of five straight playoff berths snapped last season and missed the postseason for just the second time in eight years. Head coach Kent Massie (64-36 in nine years) returns three first team All-Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division performers in senior RB/LB Cameron Moore (6-3, 220; 88 tackles), senior OL/DL Seth Martin (6-3, 240; 43 tackles) and junior QB/DB Malik Quisenberry (6-0, 165; nine total TDs). Senior ATH/DB Conner Henry (5-11, 170; 48 tackles, three INTs) was second team All-CBC.
*Trenton Edgewood (1-9): After going to the playoffs in 2012, the Cougars stumbled last season. Consider it a hiccup. “We have a lot of returning players this season nine on offense and seven on defense,” head coach Scott Clemmons (9-12 in two years) said. “We also have a very strong sophomore class that will push for playing time and starting positions. We will have a big team as far as numbers go. Weight room attendance has been excellent this off-season and the players are working very hard.” Senior QB Trace Reynolds (6-0, 175) returns after throwing for 1,126 yards and 13 TDs. Senior WR Tanner Wright (6-2, 210) caught 13 passes for 141 yards and seven TDs last season, while junior WR/P Zach Smith (5-11, 180) caught 23 passes for 310 yards and three TDs.
*Troy (3-7): Senior DL Marco Anverse (6-1, 230/112 tackles, six sacks, three FF) anchors the front seven.
*Turpin (4-6): The Spartans return leading rusher Adrian Baker (5-9, 155) who ran for 526 yards and five TDs on 137 carries last year as a sophomore. Senior DB Zach Bernard (6-2, 170/three INTs) anchors the secondary.
*Walnut Hills (4-6): The Eagles finished with four wins and were ninth in computer points in the region. WH returns senior QB Kevin Blount (6-2, 190/110-222, 1,281 yards passing, seven TDs/546 yards rushing, eight TDs) and senior WR Reid Finley (6-0, 145/35 rec., 387 yards, TD).
*Withrow (8-3, Region 6 quarterfinalist): Tigers offense will be led by senior QB Travon Barnes (6-0, 215/1,000 yards passing, 450 yards rushing) and senior WR Doryan Beach (6-3, 181/12 rec., 23o yards, six TDs).
*Xenia (4-6): The Buccaneers will celebrate season No. 115 (started program in 1899) by welcoming Moeller to town for a Week 3 non-conference clash. Junior QB Danny Naylor (6-5, 175) is a rising prospect who threw for over 1,200 yards last season. Also back are an additional trio of All-GWOC South performers in senior returner Khalil Capers (5-9, 175; three RETs for TDs), senior DB BoBo Jones (6-1, 185/Bowling Green commit) and junior WR/DB Rocky James (6-2, 170). “We have many inexperienced players that are going to have to play key roles for us especially on the Offensive and Defensive lines,” head coach Bob DeLong (fifth year at Xenia) said. “Danny Naylor had a good sophomore year but will have to improve if we are to continue to get better. Off-season emphasis was on improving the running game and simplifying the defense so that we can play faster.” The Bucs will feature a female kicker in senior Sabrina Gregory (9-for-9 PATs, FG).
Also In This Region
Anderson (3-7), West Carrollton (0-10), Little Miami (0-10), Amelia (2-8), Stebbins (3-7), Western Hills (6-4)