Division III Football Overview: Ohio's toughest Division?
Steubenville and Cols. DeSales battled for the D-III state title in 2005 and are early favorites in 2009 with both back in D-III
Looking for the most competitive Division in Ohio high
school football for the next two seasons? Division III might just be it. Following divisional realignment, D-III was
left with some of the top teams in the state regardless of division and now boasts
eight regional finalists from a year ago including six state semifinalists. Note: Individual team previews will follow over the next six weeks
|Canal Fulton Northwest (8-3)
has made the playoffs eight straight seasons but if the Indians are going to win
their first state title it will have to happen within the next two. For the 11th
straight time, a levy failed to pass in the district, thus eliminating sports at
Northwest after the 2010-11 school year.
“We’re fighting for our lives here,” head coach Vic Whiting
said. “The kids on this football team have paid a price to be on this football
team. Not only do they work hard but they have to pay-to-play.
“We’ve got good kids and there is no doubt about that.
We’re going to be really young and we’re going to be small.”
Evan Bach headlines the roster after moving from receiver to the
backfield last season and rushing for 1,659 yards on 215 carries and 20
Bryan Jones is under center again coming off a 74-of-129 passing
effort for 975 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Defensively, the linebacking corps returns with Bobby Schilling
as the focal point. He tallied 166 tackles as a junior with four sacks and two
interceptions. Mitch Lewis had 52, respectively.
But according to Whiting, Northwest will field its share of
underclassmen in 2009
“We have a lot of sophomore kids stepping up and there is
quite a bit of speed and skill in that group,” he said. “But you don’t know what
is going to happen because you don’t know how they are going to play on the
Dover has only missed the playoffs once this
decade (2004) so it is safe to say the Tornadoes don’t rebuild, they reload.
Despite the loss of all-state quarterback Cory
Lisowski to graduation and his go-to receivers in head coach Dan Ifft’s patented
spread offense, Dover will be a force in the region once again.
“Some of our personality on offense might
change losing Cory and some of those fleet receivers,” Ifft said. “but we’re
going to try and do the same things – just get it done in a different way.
Marcus Mamarella steps in at quarterback after
tossing for 49 yards and two touchdowns last season. He also had 202 yards
rushing and nine touchdowns. Ian Drapcho will be his main target coming off 461
yards receiving on 26 catches and four touchdowns a year ago.
Alex Aubihl, Jason Orr, Cody Gordon, Danny
Jeandervin and Kyle Erwin will provide experience on the line while the skill
Defense will keep Dover in games early as the
offense gels with nine starters returning.
“We’re going to try and continue to throw the
ball but we might run it more – I won’t know that until we get rolling,” said
Ifft. “Hopefully we can throw the ball as well as we did last year.”
Veteran head coach Mike Hensley retired from
the Granville head coaching position in the offseason, but a new face won’t be
roaming the Blue Aces sideline in his place.
That’s because longtime assistant and
Granville alumnus J.R. Waite has taken over the top spot.
“It is a great honor and a great
responsibility,” Waite said. “It has special meaning to me. I learned a lot from
Mike and was fortunate to be given a lot of responsibilities by Mike.”
Waite retained the entire coaching staff.
“I am very familiar with our coaching staff
and that makes the transition a little easier. I have great familiarity with the
players,” he said.
Granville has to replace WR Adam Alderman and
QB Cory Becher on offense, which combined, claim five school records.
David Hettler takes over at quarterback and
Tyler Link is the leading returning rusher.
“We had a good core in the weight room in the
offseason. We feel good about where we are with strength and conditioning,”
Waite said. “It looks good – a very good future.”
Granville is looking for its third straight
playoff berth and fourth in school history.
|Newark Licking Valley (12-2)
Licking Valley has been a playoff mainstay
qualifying for the playoffs eight of the last nine seasons, which have included
two state runner-up finishes (2001 and 2007).
But that streak could be in jeopardy this
season with the well left mostly dry following last season’s state semifinals
The most notable player missing from the
roster is RB/LB Storm Klein. In his storied four-year career, the Ohio State
recruit set Central District records with 6,368 yards
rushing and 99 touchdowns.
The Panthers only return three starters on
offense and defense.
“We are very inexperienced,” longtime head
coach Randy Baughman said. “We had a successful (junior varsity) team last year
so we hope they are ready for Friday nights.”
Few teams, regardless of division, have
experienced the success Steubenville has the past decade. Since 1999, the Big
Red have missed the postseason only once, have won two state titles (2005, 2006)
and finished state runner-up last season. What’s more, this season has the
potential to mark Steubenville’s seventh straight undefeated regular season.
There is a good chance that streak will stay
alive with 15 starters returning.
“We have a good nucleus back and that is
always good to have and it is a nucleus we can build around,” said head coach
Reno Saccoccia, who was the D-IV co-coach of the year last season. “We have some
experienced players coming back but there is a difference between an experienced
player that is an underclassman and the experience of a senior leader.”
QB Dwight Macon is a Division I college
prospect with several scholarship offers already. He rushed for 837 yards and 12
touchdowns last season and passed for 2,424 yards and 28 touchdowns with only
four interceptions. He was the D-IV co-player of the year last season.
Steubenville moves up to D-III after two
successful seasons in D-IV.
“If you look at Division III and the way it is
set up, I can’t see any tougher division that is more competitive,” Saccoccia
said. “We are just concentrating on improving everyday and preparing ourselves
mentally and physically for a long and hopefully a long grind.”
Also Keep An Eye On
Cambridge made the playoffs for the first time
in 2004 and made three straight appearances but has failed to qualify since.
QB Billy Webb (5-11, 179, Sr.) was 60-of-116
passing for 798 yards and three touchdowns last season with 169 yards and four
RB/LB Tyler Hardesty (5-11, 205, Sr.) tallied
292 carries for 1,639 yards and 23 touchdowns and also had 13 catches for 167
yards. Experience on the offensive line will help with the ground game,
according to head coach Rich Goodrich.
“I feel we have a strong unit and will be a
little diversified this year,” he said. “We should have the best team speed that
we’ve had. We’ve got some young kids that can run and our older kids have above
average speed and above average quickness.”
New Concord John Glenn (6-4)
John Glenn missed the postseason last year
after three straight appearances and it will be difficult to keep the Little
Muskies out two seasons in a row.
New Lexington (12-2)
The Panthers move up to D-III after finishing
in the D-IV state semifinals last season. New Lexington has made the postseason
four straight seasons. QB/LB Clint Cannon (6-1, 202, Sr.) and RB/LB John
Robinson (6-1, 190, Sr.) headline the Panthers roster this season. Head coach
Bill Nutt was the D-IV co-coach of the year.
Pataskala Licking Heights (7-3)
The Hornets move up from D-IV after finishing
No. 10 in Region 15 last season.
Rayland Buckeye Local (7-4)
earned a playoff berth for the first time last season since 2003.
Thornville Sheridan (11-1)
Sheridan has made the playoffs six times since
2001 but the road ahead looks tough for the Generals this season. With the
graduation of 20 seniors, the entire offense needs to be replaced as well as the
“We have a lot of kids that are going to have
to play both ways this year for us,” head coach Paul Culver said. “When you lose
that many kids it is hard to find that many to take their place.
“I have been around this game long enough to
know what it takes to have a good football team and I think we have some
potential but potential doesn’t translate to what happens on the field unless
you are working hard and doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”
DL Drew Carpenter (6-1, 220, Sr.) was an
All-Ohio first team defense selection.
Other Teams In The Region
Holmes (5-5), Alliance (6-4), Alliance Marlington (5-5), Cadiz Harrison Central
(6-4), Carrollton (0-10), Philo (3-7), East Liverpool (1-9), Hebron Lakewood
(1-9), Lisbon Beaver Local (4-6), McConnelsville Morgan (1-9), Minerva (6-4),
Navarre Fairless (4-6), Richmond Edison (3-7), Salem (0-10), Uhrichsville
Claymont (3-7), Warsaw River View (2-8), Winterville Indian Creek (2-8),
Zanesville Maysville (0-10)