Team To Beat
*Nordonia (8-3, Region 4 quarterfinalist): The Knights started 8-0 last year before losing three straight to end the season. Included in that slide were narrow defeats to Medina Highland (28-25) and Wadsworth (34-33). The good news is plenty of talent returns from a roster that has a little bit of a bad taste in its mouth. “Our team has the potential to do great things this season. But we have a great challenge ahead of us with a grueling schedule and an elite playoff region,” head coach Jeff Fox (15-7 in two years) said. “We are working to develop the discipline and toughness it takes to win close games.” Nordonia has several senior standouts including WR/DB Denzel Ward (5-11, 165) and DE/OL Justice Alexander (6-5, 235) who have verballed to Ohio State and Michigan State, respectively. Senior OL Cameron Bell (6-8, 340) is committed to Toledo, while senior WR/LB Alex Alders (6-1, 205) holds offers from Toledo, Ohio, Western Michigan and Air Force. Other key seniors include LB Nick Grayson (6-3, 205/Offers from UMass and James Madison), QB David Murray (6-2, 185) and WR/DB Dylan Mabin (6-2, 170/Offers from Fordham and Duquesne). “We return a dynamic defensive line, some great secondary players and the core of our passing game,” Fox said. “It will be a very exciting year.”
Teams To Watch
*Avon (12-1, Region 4 finalist): The Eagles are entering their final season in the West Shore Conference and would like to leave with a fifth straight title. Avon has won 28 straight WSC games and will head to the Southwest Conference next season. The Eagles would also like to reach the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Key seniors will be TE Chris Maxwell, LB Cory Ohradzansky, WR/FS Zak Tolbert, DE Jacob Kules, DL Bryson Golini and OL Pat Baeder. Junior contributors will be QB Jake Sopko and RB Gerret Choat.
*Avon Lake (8-3, Region 4 quarterfinalist): The Shoremen will feature senior DL Danny Disbrow (6-1, 215) and senior OL Matthew Pechaitis (6-3, 285).
*Massillon Washington (9-3, Region 4 semifinalist): The Tigers are always in the conversation for a regional title and this year is no different. Massillon will feature sophomore QB Danny Clark (6-3, 205) who accounted for 39 TDs last year and has already committed to Ohio State. He’ll be surrounded by a plethora of talent including senior WR Reggie Rogers (6-1, 185/Offers from Toledo, Cincinnati, Kentucky and Rutgers), senior K Andrew David (5-8, 162/Michigan commit), senior DL JD Crabtree (5-10, 205) and senior LB Danny Robinson (6-0, 210).
*Medina Highland (13-1, State semifinalist): The Hornets made the Final Four last season but have some holes to replace on offense. The good news is the defense should be stout again. “We have a strong nucleus on defense back with seven returning starters from a unit that gave up 13 points a game last year,” head coach Tom Lambardo said. “We have four of six offensive lineman back, but we lose our best WR and RB and All-State QB.” Cushioning the loss at the skill positions will be the return of senior WR Coltin Kinsey who had 638 yards and nine TDs on 57 catches last season.
*North Ridgeville (6-4): The Rangers went 1-9 in 2012 and finished above .500 last year. Look for continued improvement, especially with the return of junior RB Demario McCall (5-11, 180) who ran for 1,562 yards and 25 TDs last season.
*Perrysburg (8-3, Region 4 semifinalist): Ready to take the next step after back-to-back playoff appearances. The Yellow Jackets return one of the state’s top QBs in senior Gus Dimmerling (6-0, 180) who broke two ribs in last year’s playoff win over Akron Ellet. Dimmerling threw for a school-record 1,688 yards and 15 TDs last season. He also ran for 1,207 yards and 14 TDs. Senior OL Cale Bonner (6-2, 278) will protect Dimmerling.
*Toledo St. Francis (8-3, Region 4 quarterfinalist): Knights had a dramatic turnaround after going 3-7 in 2012. St. Francis welcomes back a good one in senior RB Lamar Carswell (5-8, 170) who ran for 1,283 yards and 13 TDs last year. He set school records with 411 yards and six TDs in a win over Lima Senior. Senior Andrew Dymarkowski anchors the OL.
Keep An Eye On
*Akron Ellet (10-1, Region 4 quarterfinalist): The Orangemen are 18-4 with back-to-back playoff berths the last two years.
*Anthony Wayne (5-5): The Generals will feature a good one in senior OL Mason Zimmerman (6-5, 275/Maryland commit).
*Holland Springfield (5-5): The Blue Devils went .500 last year after going 1-9 in 2012 and expectations are high for a program that led the Northern Lakes League in total offense and set 27 school records last season. Junior QB Scott Seymour (5-10, 180) returns after leading the Northern Lakes League in completions (146) and yards (1,837). He threw 12 TDs and ran for 455 yards. Also back are senior WR AJ Harrison (6-3, 195; 33 rec., 483 yards, five TDs), senior OL London Edwards (6-6, 295), senior RB Aren Harris (5-9, 180; 735 yards, eight TDs) and senior DE Jesse Ochoa (6-2, 235; 38 tackles, five TFL, six sacks). “It has been a challenge to change the culture over the past two years, but I feel we are making major strides in the right direction,” head coach Pat Gucciardo said. “Our players are becoming mentally and physically tough and are also enjoying the process of preparing to win. We are no longer the doormat of the league, however, we need to take that next step to achieve what Southview and Perrysburg have done.”
*Midview (7-3): The Middies will lean on senior DB Dante Redwood (5-9, 175) and junior QB/WR Logan Bolin (6-2, 180).
*Sylvania Southview (7-3): The Cougars will build around a senior nucleus of DB JaQuan Bowers (5-10, 160/35 tackles, two INTs) and LB Leon Eggleston (6-0, 194/70 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 10 TFL/two-time all-league).
*Toledo Bowsher (8-2): The Rebels have a couple good ones in senior OL/DL Justus Satterfield (6-3, 285) and senior WR/DB Vincent Hill (6-1, 170).
*Toledo St. John’s (2-8): Key returners for the Titans are senior WR Maxwell McCormick (6-3, 192) and junior OL Sean Rattay (6-2, 264).
*Uniontown Lake (6-4): Senior RB/DB Anthony Cistone (5-9, 170) will lead the Blue Streaks who enter Year 2 under head coach Dan DeGeorge. Other key seniors include DB/WR Chase Champagne (5-10, 165), DE/TE Dalton Davis (6-0, 195) and WR/DB Riley Sommers (6-0, 175).
*Walsh Jesuit (7-3): The Warriors have been to the playoffs 16 times but are looking for just their second postseason berth in six years this fall. Senior DB Anthony Rozum (5-6, 160) will lead the secondary.
Also In This Region
Akron Firestone (2-8); Toledo Start (4-6); Oregon Clay (2-8), Amherst Steele (1-9); Barberton (2-8); Canton Timken (3-7); Sylvania Northview (2-8); Fremont Ross (5-5), Copley (4-6), Twinsburg (2-8)