Teams To Beat
*St. Edward (11-2, Region 1 finalist): Expectations are high for a program that’s searching for its second state title. The Eagles return arguably the state’s most talented roster and one that includes several standout seniors including DB Shaun Crawford (5-9, 170/Notre Dame commit), LB Troy Dipre (6-1, 220/Offers from Toledo, Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo and Air Force), RB Andrew Dowell (6-1, 197/Northwestern commit), WR David Dowell (6-1, 185/Northwestern commit), QB Brett Kean (6-2, 206/South Florida commit), LB Troy Henderson Jr. (6-1, 210/Offers from Toledo, Cincinnati, Kent State, Bowling Green, Syracuse, Akron, Rutgers, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Ohio and Buffalo) and WR Alex Stump (6-3, 195/Offers from Western Michigan, Cincinnati, Toledo, Bowling Green, Akron, Kent State, Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia Tech, Miami of Ohio, West Virginia, Minnesota, Miami and Purdue).
*Mentor (13-2, State Runner-Up): Cardinals were agonizingly close again in last year’s state final, losing 55-52 to Moeller. Key returners include senior DL Nico Lautanen (6-4, 265) and senior WR Eddie Daugherty (5-6, 170). Lautanen holds offers from Akron, Toledo, Ohio, Bowling Green, Miami (Oh) and Kent State, while Daugherty is one of the state’s most versatile players. Last year he caught 90 passes for 1,049 yards and nine TDs and ran the ball 100 times for 771 yards and seven TDs. Also was 4-for-4 for 140 yards and four TDs on his pass attempts.
*Hudson (10-2, Region 1 quarterfinalist): The Explorers have high expectations. Senior QB Mitchell Guadagni (6-2, 172) returns after throwing for 2,060 yards, 26 TDs and just six INTs last year. He also ran for 391 yards and three TDs and has committed to Toledo. Senior WR Colton Whited (6-2, 175/62 rec., 1,016 yards, 11 TDs) is one of the state’s top returning receivers. Senior two-way lineman Dylan Carlson (6-2, 250) is a three-year starter. Senior DB Matt Rightnour (5-10, 200) leads the defense. Said head coach Ron Wright (29-5 in three years): “Feel like we will have a bulls-eye on our backs this year. “
Teams To Watch
*Austintown-Fitch (12-1, Region 1 semifinalist): The Falcons return a potent senior backfield that includes RB Darrin Hall Jr. (6-0, 210) and QB Antwan Harris (5-10, 195). Hall, who has rushed for 2,255 yards and 25 TDs the last two years, owns offers from Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Toledo, Cincinnati, Purdue, Michigan State, Florida Atlantic, Louisville, Arkansas, Northwestern, Akron, Boston College, Syracuse, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Other key contributors include senior LB/RB Tyler Hewlett (5-7, 171) and senior WR/DB Joe Harrington (6-0, 210).
*Canton McKinley (9-2, Region 1 first round): The Bulldogs have one of the country’s most-dynamic players in senior QB/ATH Eric Glover-Williams (5-11, 165) who has committed to Ohio State. Other key seniors include LB Nick Faulknor (6-2, 225/Kent State commit) and OL Andrew Reo (6-1, 270).
*Cleveland Heights (10-2, Region 1 quarterfinalist): The Tigers are an impressive 18-4 the last two years. Key returners include senior DL Mario Patton (6-2, 270/Offers from Bowling Green and Minnesota), sophomore WR Jaylen Harris (6-5, 200) and senior ATH Taylor Jones (5-10, 185).
*Elyria (7-4, Region 1 first round): The Pioneers return a nice senior nucleus in QB Hunter Parsh (6-2, 185/142-261, 1,972 yards, 12 TDs), OL Seth Billings (6-5, 290), DB Michael Chruch (5-10, 175) and LB Michael Smosny (6-0, 196).
*Findlay (2-8): Trojans went from 8-2 in 2012 to 2-8 last season. Looking to rebound. Key returners include junior K Grant McKinniss (6-0, 180), senior DB/WR Grant Niswander (6-2, 177/69 rec., 687 yards/1,069 all-purpose yards) and senior QB Brandon Muehl (6-5, 206/149-255, 1,746 yards, 15 TDs). Muehl broke Ben Roethlisberger’s school record for passing yards in a game (403) with 448 against Lima Senior last season.
*GlenOak (5-5): The Eagles will feature senior WR/DB Kyle Hall (6-1, 180) who holds an offer from Indiana State. Other key seniors include RB Jason Simon (6-1, 205), DB Jmon Wells (6-1, 175) and TE Spencer Zernechel (6-2, 220).
*Green (5-5): The Bulldogs return one of the state’s top pass-catch combos in senior QB John Davies (6-4, 208) and junior WR James Angel (6-1, 165). Davies threw for 1,812 yards and 20 TDs and ran for 614 yards and seven TDs last season. He set school records for passing yards and TDs in a game with 403 and five, respectively. Angel caught 63 passes for 848 yards and nine TDs. He also ran the ball 15 times for 123 yards and four TDs.
*Lorain (3-6): The Titans are 5-14 the last two years but could be on the verge of a breakthrough. A talented senior nucleus returns in TE/DE Rashod Berry (6-5, 220/27 rec., five TDs), DB Aaron Neal (6-0, 210) and QB/P Eddie Williamson (5-8, 160/855 yards passing, 11 TDs). Berry holds offers from Toledo, Bowling Green, Akron, Kent State, Illinois, Iowa, Miami of Ohio, Syracuse, Indiana and Minnesota. Junior DL/OL Josh Fenn (6-5, 275) is one to watch.
*Massillon Jackson (6-4): The Polar Bears have a solid core coming back led by the senior duo of RB Ricky Spradling (5-11, 196/226 carries, 1,528 yards, 24 TDs) and KR/DB Jake Kempt (6-1, 185/Five INTs).
*Olentangy Liberty (5-5): The Patriots have reason to be optimistic. Several key cogs return from last year’s team including senior OL Hunter Littlejohn (6-4, 268/Indiana commit), senior TE/LS Jake Hale (6-2, 205/Ohio commit), senior RB Nick Durtschi (5-9, 158/482 yards rushing, 368 yards receiving, 10 TDs), junior WR Jacob Wiseman (31 rec., 360 yards, five TDs) and senior LB Scott Goodwill (6-2, 200/88 tackles, 13 TFL).
*St. Ignatius (8-5, Region 1 semifinalist): The Wildcats and legendary coach Chuck Kyle have two of the state’s best linemen in senior DL Dremont Jones (6-4, 245/Ohio State) and junior OL Liam Eichenberg (6-5, 280/Offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Boston College, Michigan State, Tennessee, Miami, Florida State and Illinois).
*Shaker Heights (6-5, Region 1 first round): The Red Raiders will ride senior RB Casimier Mitchell Jr. (5-11, 215) who ran for 1,197 yards and eight TDs last year.
*Solon (6-5, Region 1 first round): The Comets made the playoffs for the 13th time in 15 years last season. The defense – led by senior DE Tyree Seals (6-1, 218; 67 tackles, 22 TFL) and senior LB John Sensibaugh (6-0, 200; 107 tackles, 14 TFL) – returns eight starters and will be a strength. So too will senior QB Ryan Gallagher (6-0, 195; 1,041 yards passing, eight TDs). Seals and Sensibaugh were first team All-Northeast Ohio Conference. The OL is a concern. Head coach Jim McQuiade is 95-32 in 11 years at Solon and 171-94 in 25 years overall.
*Stow-Munroe Falls (10-2, Region 1 quarterfinalist): The Bulldogs went from 3-7 in 2012 to a 10-win playoff team last year. What can they do for an encore? Senior QB Andy Wargo (6-0, 200) returns as does senior DE Jonathan Watts (6-1, 215/first team All-NOC).
*Strongsville (5-5): Mustangs made three-game improvement last season (from 2-8 to 5-5). Can they continue the climb? Senior QB Bobby Cole (6-3, 175/1,500 yards) returns as does senior RB/DB Reuben Williams (5-8, 170). Other key senior returners are WR Drew Robertson (6-2, 170/33 rec., 608 yards, four TDs), LB Kylen Bailey (5-11, 185), DL Bailey Blankenship (6-1, 260), OL Zach Dye (6-2, 265), DE Austin Platt (6-3, 225), OL Trevor Salvage (6-3, 255) and OL Alex Uhas (6-1, 255).
*Toledo Whitmer (6-5, Region 1 first round): Year removed from state final appearance the Panthers made it back to postseason but not out of first round. Still, Whitmer has been the Northwest Ohio D-I pacesetter recently with seven playoff appearances in eight years. Head coach Jerry Bell is in his third season at the school and will build behind a talented nucleus that includes senior DL Phil Hoskins (6’5, 280), junior DL Kobee Houghtlen (6’4, 275; Toledo offer), junior QB/ATH Chase Bodeman (6’1, 200), junior QB Matt Winzler (6’1, 185), senior WR/RB Jamal Bell (5’11, 180), junior WR Zach Smith (6’2, 190), junior DB Zack Ryan (5’9, 185), senior LB Elijah Elliott (5’11, 190) and senior OL Kyle Evanoff (5’11, 215).
*Warren Harding (4-5): The Raiders feature a talented senior trio in OL James Daniels (6-4, 278/Offers from Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, UCLA, Northwestern, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Auburn and Alabama), DL JaVon Provitt (6-4, 285) and RB Kane Murray (5-8, 165). Lorain
*Westerville Central (10-2, Region 1 quarterfinalist): The Warhawks will feature a JJHuddle Top 100 prospect in senior OL Ben Cooper (6-4, 290) who holds offers from Kentucky, Cincinnati and Miami. They also have two standout junior prospects in RB Ben Snell (6-0, 200/Toledo offer/495 yards, nine TDs) and WR Cedric Frierson (6-0, 180).
Keep An Eye On
*Berea-Midpark (3-7): Heading into program’s second season and looking for its first winning one. The Titans will lean on senior ATH Justin Harris (5-9, 170) who had 673 yards rushing, 160 yards receiving and six TDs last season.
*Brunswick (6-5, Region 1 first round): Senior QB Steven Ficyk (6-4, 215) returns to lead the Blue Devils after completing 105-of-197 passes for 1,646 yards and 14 TDs last year. Other key returners include senior WR Ethan Engelka (6-3, 218/nine catches, 190 yards, three TDs) and senior DL Tom Knuff (6-2, 290).
*Cuyahoga Falls (2-8): Tigers have gone 5-15 last two years.
*Delaware Hayes (5-5): The Pacers have one of the state’s top junior prospects in DE Ethan Tucky (6-3, 215) who holds offers from Boston College and Eastern Michigan. In two years Tucky has registered 106 tackles and 18.5 TFL.
*Euclid (5-5): The Panthers are 12-8 last two years and have some lofty goals for 2014. Head coach Tom Gibbons (33-29 in seven seasons) welcomes back senior LBs and veteran building blocks Harrison Roberts (6-2, 215, 14 career sacks, seven FF, five FR) and Christian Woods (6-1, 230, 11 career sacks, 124 tackles). On offense, junior QB Terry Duckworth (5-11, 170) returns after going 3-0 as a starter last season. He threw for 496 yards and five TDs. Said Gibbons: “We are very excited about the large number of returnees for the upcoming season. We have to navigate through a brutal schedule. The Senior and Junior classes were both highly successful on the lower levels.” Euclid ended last season on a four-game win streak. It hopes that momentum carries over to this season as five of the Panthers first six opponents went 9-1 in the regular season last year. This marks Euclid’s last season in the Lake Erie League.
*Lakewood (1-9): The Rangers return senior QB Peyton Graham (6-1, 190) who threw for 1,008 yards and accounted for 14 TDs last year.
*Marysville (7-4, Region 1 first round): Monarchs were one of last year’s surprises, going from 3-7 in 2012 to the D-I postseason. Senior QB/DE Keano Smith (6-5, 230) returns after registering 45 tackles, eight TFL, five sacks and two FF last year.
*Medina (3-7): The Bees, 5-15 the last two years, feature one of the state’s top OL prospects in senior Zeke Martin (6-5, 286) who has committed to Illinois.
*Newark (1-9): The Wildcats must replace four-year starter Grant Russell (Ohio Dominican) at QB, and first-year veteran head coach Mike Kopachy (former stints at Western reserve and Salem) said one of several candidates could earn the job. Whoever it is, they’ll certainly throw to senior WR Darius Shackleford (900 yards receiving). “We return a lot of offensive football players, however we must find a QB and we have four kids who could emerge,” Kopachy said. “We need to place an emphasis on defense in order to compete. We have to make it cool to play on that side of the ball again.” Newark is looking for its first winning season since 2006.
*North Canton Hoover (4-6): The Vikings will feature senior TE/DE Ian Baker (6-4, 225) and senior LB Clay Haverfield (5-10, 187).
*North Royalton (3-7): After going 10-2 and being a D-I regional semifinalist in 2012, the Bears slipped to 3-7 last year. Senior LB Adam Kantor (6-1, 210/52 tackles) returns.
*Wadsworth (9-2, Region 1 first round): The Grizzlies return a good one in senior DB Austin White (6-3, 192).
Also In This Region
Youngstown East (1-9), Massillon Perry (0-10)