Teams To Beat
*Moeller (14-1, State Champions): The Crusaders are 26-4 the last two years with two D-I state titles. Quite a run. And it could continue. Moe has to replace seven first team All-GCL South players, but it does return senior DL Elijah Taylor (6-3, 275/Notre Dame commit), senior TE Doug Bates (6-4, 240/Cincinnati commit), senior DB Noah Able (5-11, 165), senior WR Chase Pankey (6-1, 180/Offers from Boston College, Marshall, Buffalo and BG) and junior TE Hausmann (6-5, 230/Offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Florida State, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame). Look for senior Matt Crable (6-4, 205) to take over at QB. Senior RB Sterling Noes (5-9, 180/46 carries, 363 yards, TD) is the team’s leading returning rusher. Junior K Matt Coghlin (5-10, 175) is a good one.
*St. Xavier (5-6, Region 1 first round): The Bombers are 11-11 the last two years, both of which have ended with trips to the playoffs. Expect another postseason berth this season. St. X will feature a tenacious defense led by the senior quartet of LB Justin Hilliard (6-2, 210/Ohio State commit/56 tackles), LB Cole Jones (6-0, 210/Eastern Michigan offer/86 tackles), DB David Leisring (6-1, 180/81 tackles) and DL Simeon Lane (6-1, 300/Offers from Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan, Kent State, Army, Miami of Ohio, Navy, Buffalo and Air Force/47 tackles). Offensively, senior RB Ben Glines (6-1, 200/Boston College commit) returns after rushing for 715 yards and seven TDs in eight games.
*Wayne (11-2, Region 2 semifinalist): The Warriors won the GWOC Central for the first time in three years last season and made the playoffs for the 11th time in 15 years. They hope to duplicate both feats. The Warriors return a bevy of talent on both sides of the ball and nine All-GWOC players. Senior QB D’Mitrik Trice (6-0, 170) is back after throwing for 3,103 yards and 34 TDs. Two of Trice’s favorite targets return in senior Chad Swanson (6-3, 200; 44 rec., 486 yards) and sophomore Matt Wilcox (5-10, 185; 24 rec., 344 yards, five TDs). The defense will be led by reigning GWOC Central Defensive Player of the Year and Michigan DB commit Tyree Kinnel (6-0, 195). The line features two good ones in senior Robert Landers (6-1, 285) and junior Andre Douglass (6-0, 215). The most impressive thing about Wayne’s success? Perhaps that it comes (and is sustained) at a time of financial hurdles for the district. “Wayne has gone through some amazing road blocks here of late,” head coach Jay Minton (189-71 in 16 years) said. “Our participation fees are the highest they have ever been and our players and families continue to ‘press on.’ Our student-athletes understand the responsibility in wearing the Wayne Warrior uniform. ‘Together We Will.’”
Teams To Watch
*Centerville (8-3, Region 2 first round): New head coach Rodney Roberts takes over after a successful stint at Franklin (55-30 in eight years/108-83 overall). The Elks return the reigning GWOC Central Division Offensive POY in senior RB Damian Popp (5-10, 190) who ran for 1,982 yards and 20 TDs last season. Also back is seasoned senior QB Will Vance (6-1, 165) who ran for 496 yards and eight TDs in eight games. Defensively, senior LB Blake Zeller (6-0, 200/73 tackles) and senior DB Jack Disser (6-1, 190/70 tackles) headline the unit. Senior OL/DL Alejandro Charette (6-2, 230) anchors both lines.
*Colerain (12-1, Region 2 semifinalist): The Cardinals are coming off back-to-back 12-1 seasons and must replace the GMC’s offensive (DeTuan Smith) and defensive (Tegray Scales) players of the year. Those two were part of a senior class that produced nine first team All-GMC players. Defense will again be a strength for the Cardinals with the return of senior DL Demetrius Colbert (6-0, 235/Eastern Michigan commit) and senior DBs Jeff Christian (5-11, 168/Offers from Toledo, Ohio, Ball State, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Minnesota and Purdue) and Mayne Williams (6-0, 180/Eastern Michigan offer). Christian and Maybe return from a unit that had 17 INTs last season. Colerain’s O will lean heavily on senior RB Jordan Asberry (5-10, 171) who ran for 653 yards and nine TDs last season.
*Dublin Coffman (8-4, Region 2 quarterfinalist): The Rocks return a solid senior nucleus in RB Dre Kendrick (5-8, 180/1,342 yards rushing, 12 TDs), OL Sam McCollum (6-4, 273/Miami commit), WR Kyle Marcinick (6-1, 185/Youngstown State, Yale offers) and DB Reagan Malas ( 6-1, 193).
*Elder (9-3, Region 2 quarterfinalist): The Panthers feature a solid junior class led by OL Tommy Kraemer (6-5, 305/Offers from Illinois, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Ohio State, Duke, Penn State, Wake Forest, Louisville, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Boston College), DL Joe Schroer (6-3, 230/40 tackles) and QB Peyton Ramsey (6-2, 180/144-224, 1,641 yards, eight TDs; four TDs rushing). Senior LB Kyle Orloff (6-1, 190/99 tackles) was the team’s leading tackler and first team All-GCL last year.
*Fairfield (9-2, Region 2 first round): The Indians made a dramatic turnaround last year, going from 2-8 in 2012 to the D-I playoffs. Gone from that team are nine All-GMC players, including seven first teamers. The good news? Plenty remains. Head coach Jason Krause welcomes back a solid senior trio on defense in DL Marquis Jarman (5-10, 242), DL Richard Rhodes (6-4, 330) and LB Elijah Scott (5-9, 205). Junior Hunter Krause (6-3, 190) will assume QB duties after splitting time last year when he threw for 1,021 yards and nine TDs. Fairfield must replace its top three WRs but brings back junior standout TC Wells (6-1, 240/27 rec., 516 yards, four TDs) at the position.
*Hilliard Davidson (13-1, Region 2 finalist): The Wildcats have had one of Ohio’s best runs in any division recently, but there is cause for concern. Davidson returns just four starters. “(We) will be hit as hard as ever by the graduation of one of the best senior classes over the past 15 years,” head coach Bran White (151-36 in 15 years) said. “With only three (starters) back on defense and one back on offense, experience will be sorely missing. A run of six straight regional final appearances appears to be in jeopardy. And double-digit wins in nine of the last 10 years might be unlikely unless many inexperienced players step up quickly.” Davidson’s roster and brand of football always produce results, so don’t feel too bad for the Wildcats. Senior LBs Marcus Bailey (6-1, 219; offers from Northwestern, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Pitt, WVU and BC) and Ben Brooks (5-11, 195) and junior DL Zac Uphouse (6-1, 198) will lead the defense.
*Lakota West (9-2, Region 2 first round): The Firebirds must replace 12 All-GMC players but that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent. In fact, they have a lot. Senior OL George Asafo-Adjei (6-5, 295) is one of Ohio’s top recruits and has committed to Kentucky. His teammates – senior WR Brandon Neal (6-4, 183) and senior DL Donte Horton (6-4, 210) – are headed to Cincinnati and Western Michigan, respectively. Other standouts are senior LB C.J. Stalker (6-2, 217/Offers from (Kentucky, Western Michigan, Massachusetts Minutemen, Virginia, Bowling Green, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville and Indiana) and senior OL Nolan Ulizio (6-5, 261/Offer from Youngstown State). Key contributors include senior OL Brady Bowling (6-2, 255) and senior DL Troy Jones (6-1, 250). Look for seniors Kole Gentry (5-10, 190) and Blake Darland (6-1, 170) to step in at RB and QB, respectively.
*Lebanon (7-3): The Warriors should have one of Ohio’s better defenses with the return of 10 starters and five All-GWOC South Division seniors on that side of the ball. The all-conference players include LB Nick Bauer (6-2, 23051 tackles), DL Dylan Gambill (5-11, 220/78 tackles), DB Jon Kirby (6-0, 185/34 tackles), DL Jared Burton and LB Ryan Perkins (6-1, 210/98 tackles). Other key contributors will be senior TE Joey McDonald (6-5, 240), senior WR Alex Stotts (6-3, 180/21 rec., 333 yards, three TDs), junior RB Mitch Turpin (5-11, 160/535 yards rushing, six TDs) and junior LB/RB Jango Glackin (6-2, 215/46 tackles). Glackin is a standout prospect that owns offers from Buffalo, Bowling Green, Kent State, Akron, Indiana, Ohio, Eastern Michigan and Miami.
*Miamisburg (7-4, Region 2 first round): Veteran head coach Steve Channell has made a huge and immediate impact on the Vikings program. The Burg has gone 14-7 the last two years after winning four games total from 2008-2011. The Vikings playoff appearance last year was just their second ever. For an encore the Burg will try to do it again. Defensively, nine starters return, including D-I senior prospects LB Chris Young (6-2, 200/Eastern Michigan and Toledo offers) and DB Chris Fobbs (DB/Toledo offer). The offense loses four of five OL starters, but the one it returns is huge – literally. Sophomore OL Josh Meyers (6-6, 280) already holds offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, Penn State and others. The schedule gets an upgrade with Wayne and Springfield replacing Franklin and Vandalia Butler.
*Northmont (8-3, Region 1 first round): The T-Bolts snapped a four-year absence from the playoffs last year and don’t expect to wait that long to get back again. Offensively Northmont returns three first team All-GWOC Central Division performers in senior TE Jonte Broski (6-2, 245), OL Josh Perry (6-3, 290;Ball State, Ohio and Toledo offers) and RB Ryan Smith (5-11, 175). Junior Lamar Florence (6-2, 180) steps in at QB. Keep an eye on sophomore OL Kameron Thurmond (6-7, 290). Junior LB Jimi Saul (5-10, 190) was All-GWOC last year. He’ll lead the front seven along with senior LB Jalen Christian (5-11, 215) and senior DL Sean Richards (6-2, 240). The non-league slate is Hilliard Darby, Fairfield and Lakota East. “For us to be successful, we will need to fill many defensive holes created through graduation,” head coach Lance Schneider (103-57 in 15 years) said. “We have the pieces to the puzzle, we just need to get them in the right situations for them to be successful. With Darby, Fairfield, and Lakota East being the first three games, the learning curve is going to be very steep.”
*Oak Hills (5-5): The Highlanders are coming off back-to-back 5-5 seasons and are looking to break out in Year 3 under head coach Dan Scholz. That’ll be tough against a schedule that opens with Elder and closes with Colerain, but Oak Hills has talent. “We have a very strong senior class, who has helped lead the culture change for our program,” Scholz said. “We were very close to having a great year, and being close is not good enough for our returning players.” The Highlanders must replace seven All-GMC players but they do return five all-conference players including four seniors on defense. That quartet consists of DB Connor Swanger (6-0, 200), DL Montell Brown (6-1, 245; seven sacks), LB Davonte McGhee (6-3, 230) and DL Brian Kurtz (6-2, 240). On offense, junior WR Jason Walters (5-10, 175; 49 rec., 614 yards, two TDs) is a seasoned target.
*Pickerington Central (8-3, Region 2 quarterfinalist): The Tigers have won the OCC Ohio Division title nine of the last 11 years and have been in the playoffs 10 of the last 11 seasons. They’ll start this year be facing tough out-of-state opponent Goose Creek (S.C.) at Centerville. Senior DB Brad Morris (6-2, 200), senior LB Clayton Glasco (6-1, 215/Ohio commit) and senior DL/OL DaVon Hamilton (6-4, 280/Pitt commit) spearhead the defense. The Tigers are deep and ready for a lengthy run.
*Pickerington North (10-2, Region 2 quarterfinalist): The Panthers have won 22 games the last two years. Expectations linger. Key returners include the All-OCC senior trio of WR Jaye Williams (5-9, 150), WR Frankie Weirick (5-10, 165) and OL Kyle Beemiller (6-0, 275). Keep an eye on junior OL Nick Huhn (6-3, 270).
*Springboro (9-2, Region 2 first round): The Panthers are on a run. Boro is 19-3 the last two years with back-to-back D-I playoff berths. This season the gal is to become the first GWOC South team to win three straight divisional titles. Head coach Ryan Wilhite (54-28) returns one of Southwest Ohio’s most versatile player sin senior WR/DB D.L. Knock (5-10, 185). The reigning GWOC South Player of the Year, Knock caught 53 passes for 1,026 yards and 17 TDs last season. He also had a rushing and return TD. Senior LB Kevin Earles (6-3, 195; 76 tackles, two FF, two INTs) holds offers from xx. Other key contributors will be senior OL/DL Kyle Campfield (6-3, 255), junior QB Elijah Cunningham (6-2, 185; 1,138 yards passing, 12 TDs) and junior RB Evan Bowman (5-11, 185; 257 yards rushing, two TDs). “Our schedule is a major challenge with the addition of Beavercreek and Northmont out of the GWOC Central,” Wilhite said. “The playoff points are certainly out there, we just have to take care of business at the front end of our schedule. Winning the GWOC South for a third straight year will be no easy task either. Our league is as competitive as it’s ever been. We embrace the challenge.”
*Westerville South (5-5): The Wildcats will feature a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect in senior OL Rob Dowdy (6-5, 260) who holds offers from Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, West Virginia, Georgia Tech, Arkansas, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Louisville and Boston College. Senior DB/WR/KR Abu Daramy (5-10, 175/81 tackles) is a special talent.
Keep An Eye On
*Beavercreek (5-5): Nic Black takes over at head coach after spending the last three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Springboro. Black also previously served as head coach at Graham. In addition to a new head coach (former mentor and highly successful Scott Clodfelter left for Bethel), the Beavers will have to replace eight All-GWOC Central Division players from an outstanding senior class. Look for senior Logan Turben (6-3, 175) to take over at QB. Creek must replace its top seven tacklers.
*Central Crossing (2-8): The Comets are coming off back-to-back 2-8 seasons and are still looking for the first winning season in program history. Head coach Chris Harr (7-33 in four years) is optimistic it’s coming. “We’re very excited about the future of our program,” Harr said. “It has taken some time, but the foundation is set for CCHS to begin turning the corner. It is critical that we compete for four quarters.” CC will lean on senior DE Shane Maxey (6-3, 255) a four-year starter and captain with close to 200 career tackles. Other standouts include junior WR Noah Stephens (6-4, 210; 60 rec., six TDs) and junior LB Rob Fusner (6-0, 255; four-year starter at FB, five TDs). Sophomore QB Deric Williamson is one to watch.
*Fairmont (2-8): The Firebirds are in Year 5 under head coach Andy Aracri and have gone 2-8 each of the previous four seasons. This is the 93rd season of Firebird football and the team is looking for its first winning season since 2008. The non-league schedule includes the annual opener with Alter and a Week3 contest against Toledo St. John’s. Senior DB/QB Alec Fontaine (6-1, 190) is a two-time All-GWOC selection, while senior ATH/WR KeiVante Turner (6-3, 215) was second team All-GWOC last year.
*Gahanna Lincoln (3-7): The Lions went 7-3 in 2012 before going 3-7 last year. This season they’ll feature one of the sate’s top junior prospects in LB Jonathan Cooper (6-3, 215) who holds offers from Ohio State, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and Toledo. Key seniors are OL David Cooper (6-5, 270) and RB Vasean Davis (5-7, 180).
*Galloway Westland (1-9): The Cougars are coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons. Westland will feature senior WR Reggie Gilliam (6-1, 200) and senior DE John Gebhardt (6-4, 210). Both were All-OCC last year.
*Grove City (6-4): The Greyhounds will rely heavily on senior LB Vennie Sapp (5-10, 210/54.5 tackles/first-team All-OCC Ohio).
*Groveport-Madison (1-9): The Cruisers are coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons. Key returners include the All-OCC senior duo of WR Markel Davis (6-3, 175) and RB/LB Jordan Garrettson (5-11, 225).
*Hamilton (1-9): Big Blue returns a trio at QB in seniors Kenny Smiley and Zack Keene and junior A’Shon Riggins that combined to throw for 1,155 yards and 10 TDs last year. Each threw for at least 350 yards and three TDs. Riggins also ran for 325 yards and three TDs on a team-high 84 carries.
*Hilliard Darby (8-3, Region 2 first round): The Panthers strength will be a secondary that includes returning seniors and All-OCC selections in Trevor Cox (5-9, 160) and Dwayne Oates (5-5, 143).
*Lakota East (5-5): The Thunderhawks will feature senior RB David Chenault (5-11, 225) who ran for 851 yards and 13 TDs last season. The defense returns senior LB Hayden Senger (6-1, 215) who led the team in sacks (four) and FR (three). Keep an eye on senior WR Alex Unser-Bauman (6-2, 175/two rec. TDs).
*Lancaster (5-5): The Golden Gales will lean on senior DB/RB Jerry King (5-11, 190) who had 58 tackles and three INTs last season. King also ran for 461 yards. Keep an eye on junior RB/LB Davonte Herron (6-3, 228) who missed eight games last year due to injury.
*Mason (3-7): The Comets have a solid senior core to build off of in LB Andrew Whitney (5-11, 190/four sacks, two INTs), DL Brandon Barnes (6-1, 225), DL Hayden Bruser (5-11, 190), RB Lucas Edwards (6-1, 200/114 carries, 586 yards, six TDs) and OL Garrett Neu (6-1, 260).
*Middletown (1-9): The Middies offense will feature junior QB Allante Simmons (5-11, 185) who ran for 1,151 yards and five TDs last year. He also threw for 517 yards and six TDs. Defensively, senior DB EJ Colson (5-9, 170) and junior DB Vince Calhoun (5-10, 165) are special players.
*Milford (3-7): The Eagles haven’t had a winning season since 2000, but head coach Shane Elkin (9-31 in four years) and crew are optimistic. “It is my belief the future looks bright for Milford,” Elkins said. “We return 16 starters, anticipate a senior class of over 20 athletes, return four all conference players from last season’s team, continue to see increased competitiveness (no lower level teams had a losing season last year) and we are having a great offseason.” The offense will be in good hands with returning All-ECC players in senior QB Drew Ashcraft (6-1, 200), senior RB Jack Young (5-10, 190) and junior WR Ben Greenwell (6-2, 210). Keep an eye on senior TE/DE Dominick Hathaway (6-3, 215).
*Reynoldsburg (5-5): The Raiders have a good one in senior OL Christian Eubanks (6-3, 270). Keep an eye on junior DL Mark Gooden (6-1, 212/eight sacks).
*Springfield (1-9): Former Trotwood-Madison head coach Maurice Douglass takes over at Springfield where the Wildcats are coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons. Douglass led Trotwood to four straight state finals (runner-up last year) before taking the job at Springfield. He believes the ingredients are threre. Said Douglass: “I believe the talent is here to make a championship run with the Wildcats.” Springfield has talent. Keep an eye on junior RB Xavier Garland (6-1, 210), sophomore WR Danny Davis (6-2, 178) and sophomore DE/LB Alex King (6-3, 210). Davis and King were All-GWOC as freshmen. Also, the Wildcats will be playing this season for murdered teammate Jeff Wellington, an All-GWOC RB as a junior who would have been a senior this season. He was shot and killed. Springfield opens the season against Trotwood. Said Douglass: “Week 1 will be a very intense and emotional game for the Wildcats and Rams.”
*Sycamore (6-4): The Aves have to replace 10 All-GMC players including defensive co-player of the year Tinashe Bere (Duke). Key contributors will be senior LB Jay Cobbs (5-9, 240/6.5 sacks, three FF, two FR) and senior WR Ryan Wahler (6-2, 180/30 rec., 532 yards, seven TDs). Both were second team All-GMC.
*Upper Arlington (5-5): The Golden Bears, who are entering their 89th season of football, are 11-9 the last two years and will begin a new era this season under new head coach Joel Cutler. Cutler and the UA faithful will lean heavily on the senior quintet of QB Kyle Kaparos (6’0, 200; three-year starter), LB/RB Drew Snouffer (6’1, 205), LB/FB Coleson Carmell (5’11, 205), DE/TE Jackson Pfister (6’2, 220) and WR/DB Jack Pardi (6’0, 175).
*Westerville North (3-7): The Warriors snapped a 45-game losing streak last year by beating Franklin Heights 48-21 in the opener. This season head coach Rodger Elander (3-17 in two years) will lean on senior RB/SS Jake Hinz (5-9, 180) who was the team’s leading rusher (642 yards, six TDs) and tackler (112 tackles) last season. Other key returners are senior QB Jake Downs (6-2, 190), senior WR Daequan Hughes (6-3, 195), senior OL Gage Archer (6-0, 245), junior DL Antonio Shelton (6-3, 265) and junior LB Andrew Malick (5-11, 210). Marion-Franklin replaces Franklin Heights in Week 1.