Coldwater shcoked unbeaten and nationally-ranked Youngstown Mooney to win the D-IV state title last year.
After starting 1-1 last year, Coldwater put together a 13-game win streak and had everyone feeling orange with envy as it captured the Division IV state title with a thrilling 28-27 win over undefeated and nationally-ranked Youngstown Mooney. The Cavs are out to defend their title, but it won't be easy in one of Ohio's deepest divisions. Mooney, Steubenville, Kettering Alter and others are out to dethrone Coldwater.
Going into the 2007 season, much of the gridiron talk centered on the fact that two-time defending Division III state champion Steubenville and 2006 runner-up Kettering Archbishop Alter were joining the ranks of Division IV. The Big Red, along with the Knights, were indeed, ahem, the new teams on the block. However, Steubenville joined Region 13, where Youngstown Cardinal Mooney ruled the roost.
That left many clamoring for a Week 13 regional final showdown and the teams didn’t disappoint as they met at Fawcett Stadium in Canton (a 35-20 Mooney win).
The attention given to the Cardinals and Big Red was much deserved, but on Sat., Dec. 1 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon, Region 13 didn’t provide a trophy-hoisting team as many predicted.
After starting 1-1, Coldwater didn’t meet defeat the rest of the season and following a 13-game winning streak, the Cavaliers had everyone feeling orange with envy as they captured the OHSAA Division IV state title with a thrilling 28-27 nod over Mooney.
The aforementioned teams are four of this season’s favorites, but Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Marion Pleasant, along with a host of other talented teams, should also be in the hunt.
With seven starters back to anchor a defense that only allowed 13.2 points per game, the Fighting Irish are looking to have another good season under second-year head coach Dan Boarman, who spent the previous 17 years at Copley before returning to his alma mater for a second go-round. Skilled players like senior wideouts Todd Culver (29 receptions for 618 yards and seven TDs last year) and WR/DB David Lee, and senior back RB/LB Harvey Tuck also return to the fold, which should provide stability on offense as well.
Although the Fighting Irish will have more size this season, Boarman said “we’re going to have some size, but I think we’ll be pretty similar to last year. We have some skilled players and our defensive unit is fairly intact. I think our defense should be a cornerstone of the team.”
For most teams, winning early in the season sets the tone for the rest of the campaign. Legendary head coach Lowell Klinefelter, who has roamed the sidelines for 35 seasons, said that is especially true for his young and depleted Crusaders. Canton Central Catholic was hit hard by graduation as 20 players walked the stage, including nearly every skill player. Although the cupboard was almost entirely decimated, the Crusaders still have Klinefelter manning the ship and should not be counted out to make a fifth straight trip to the postseason.
“Our season will be a big challenge,” he admitted. “We need to rebuild the offense and defense as we only have two returning starters on offense and two on defense. Our senior class is not very big, but we’re hoping for some leadership out of those players. They did work hard in the offseason. The team’s character will determine if we are to experience success.”
Although just two starters return to the offensive unit for Bernie Barre, fortunately for the Cowboys, one of those players is senior tight end/linebacker Jacob Green (6-0, 180). Green is drawing Division I interest and has already received an offer from Ball State. The strength of the Cowboys should be their defense.
Senior safety/wide receiver DeShawn Harris returns to anchor the defense, which returns seven starters. If Wyoming can get past a tough first part of the schedule, including a showdown at home against Dayton Oakwood, Barre should enjoy his 18th year with the Cowboys.
“We have a tough early non-league schedule and our league is always difficult,” Barre said. “We should be competitive with seven starters back on defense, but we only have two starters back on offense. Our great tradition is a strength, along with good team speed. This should be a fun group to coach!”
The Cavaliers experienced one of the finest postseason runs in recent history. Not only did they knock off previously unbeaten and favored Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the D-IV state championship game, but the Cavs outscored their postseason opponents by a whopping 128 points. The perennial power from the Midwest Athletic Conference will no doubt be good again this year as all eyes will be focused on FB/LB Adam Homan, an Ohio State commitment.
Fifteen returning starters and “good team chemistry” have 12-year head coach Ray Carroscia excited about the 2008 campaign. The Royals will have some big shoes to fill in the departure of running back/linebacker Jared Kusar (131 tackles and 870 rushing yards), who will be wrestling at Ohio State this upcoming school year. Despite losing Kusar, the Royals are an experienced group. RB/S John Pettigrew, who has been offered by Kent and Akron, and seniors TE/LB Stephan Hudson and OT/DE Cole Dittrich will be the top playmakers for Carroscia.
“We have some kids with a lot of experience under their belt coming back,” he noted. “We have a large senior class that has been playing together for a long team. Although we’re not a big team and don’t have a lot of numbers, we have a hard-working, unified group.”
A tough road schedule (Cincinnati Wyoming, Valley View and Brookville) and the loss of offensive standout Chris Hardy to Dartmouth has 12-year head coach Paul Stone looking to his defense for leadership. That’s not such a bad plight, considering Stone feel’s the defense could be the best he has ever had at Oakwood. If the Lumberjacks are to reach Week 11 for the third time in as many years, they might have to find a breakaway threat to replace the ultra-talented Hardy.
“We have a balanced group of seniors that are very unselfish,” Stone commented. “We will have to find a way to score without having a true homerun threat. We have our first meeting ever with Wyoming and our road schedule is brutal. However, our league has been very successful in terms of playoff appearances over the last few years. We have great coaches across the board.”
Using the word explosive might be an understatement when talking about the Redmen on offense. Head coach Tom Grine is anticipating a high-octane “O,” thanks to the return of four offensive lineman, three wideouts and senior signal caller Micah Hyde, who has close to 7,000 yards of total offense in his career and has been offered by Toledo.
After losing nearly half of their defensive starters, the Redmen will have to have young players step up and play well, according to Grine. The team did finish second in the Northern Ohio League in total “D” so it’s safe to say that the team does know a thing or two about stopping opponents.
“We are looking forward to the 2008 season. We were able to win our league and qualify for the state playoffs in 2007. We have 14 returning starters and some good young talent to work with, but a lack of depth at key positions could be a concern for us. We need to jell as a team and have outstanding senior leadership to achieve our goals to repeat as league champion and qualify for the state playoffs,” Grine said.
Kettering Alter (11-1) Released TBA
Two years ago, the Knights reached the D-III state finale against Steubenville (a 34-33 loss) and dropped into D-IV last season. Alter was one of the favorites in Region 16 last year, if not the entire division.
Head coach Ed Domsitz’s Knights ran into a streaking Coldwater squad that eventually went on to win the state title, thanks to a 59-52 triple overtime thriller over Alter in the regional quarterfinals. This year, Archbishop will look to seniors Chris Borland, a 6-0, 215-pound linebacker/running back, and Austin Boucher, a 6-1, 205-pound quarterback. Borland is a Wisconsin recruit.
The Spartans dropped their first game of the season – 14-7 at St. Henry – before going on an incredible run. Pleasant outscored their opponents by a combined score of 433-23, which included five shutouts, over the next nine games. The Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference champs (8-0) reached the postseason for the ninth consecutive season and started the playoffs with another shutout (14-0 over Oak Harbor). Although the school moved up a division, head coach Chris Kubbs led Pleasant to the state semis before falling to Youngstown Mooney (28-0).
In just two years at Tuslaw, Nate Held has made his mark with the Mustangs. He followed up a 9-2 season, which included a Principals Athletic Conference title and postseason berth, with a 7-3 mark last year (all three losses were to playoff teams). Tuslaw’s roster will be dotted with 17 seniors, which Held is calling on to continue to build “Blue Pride.” Of the three losses, two were to Principals Athletic Conference members Tuscarawas Valley and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. For the Mustangs to earn a playoff invitation once again, getting through a tough PAC schedule will be crucial.
“The league will be strong so the ability for some of our young players to fill key roles will be very important. We hope to be competitive in every game. We are looking forward to starting the season, trying to improve each day, and participating in a great year of Pac-7 football,” Held stated.
Replacing All-Ohioan Jeremy Foster will be the first task for 27-year head coach Jerry Rutherford. Foster rushed for 2,261 yards and 34 touchdowns on 411 carries. RB/DB Matt Schlumbolm did rush for 460 yards and six TDs on just 70 carries as a junior, so he’s expected to take up some of the offensive slack. The other problem is that Rutherford must replace the rest of his backfield, including three-year starter Eric Rutherford, and entire offensive line.
The Eagles do return five starters on defense, including three defensive linemen. Rutherford feels his run defense will be a plus. If Eastwood is to make it back to the regional finals (it was its first appearance in school history), the team will need some of its JV players and freshmen players (both teams only lost one game apiece in 2007) to fill in the voids.
“We lost quite a bit, but it’s not as bad as it looks,” Rutherford stated. “We are expecting to play for a league championship once again and would be disappointed if we’re not. We also want to get back to the playoffs."
The Big Red completed a remarkable fifth straight unbeaten regular season last year and eventually earned their way to the regional championship game against Cardinal Mooney. Despite dropping a 35-20 decision, as long-time head coach Reno Saccoccia stated, “last year is last year.” Steubenville will be as determined as ever this fall to get back what they rightfully believe is theirs – a state trophy. Saccoccia said there is depth in the backfield and in the linebacking and corner back positions, but said replacing the offensive line and finding two safeties are on the things to do list as camps are quickly approaching.
“Any time you go out on the field, you learn something win or lose,” he said. “Our kids know to take something from every game. The more you expect to win, you have to work even harder. We have to get up off the floor (referring to the Mooney setback) and work twice as hard to bounce back. Nothing from last year matters now. It’s what you do this year. I like our attitude. It’s very good. These kids work hard and truly like the game. Our assistant coaches do a great job of also working hard and getting the players ready every day.”
As one opposing coach noted about the Trojans, “they never rebuild.” However, Dale Martini, who enters his 16th year at the helm of TV football, said his squad did lose a lot of good football players from last season’s team that won a third consecutive Principals Athletic Conference championship. With only seven starters back, Martini called 2008 “a tell tale year for us.”
With Tusky Valley naturally expected to have somewhat of a down year, Martini’s comment, “I think we’ve got a lot of very good young talent,” explains why the opposing coach said the Trojans won’t be rebuilding this year.
“We lost a lot of kids from last year’s team,” Martini pointed out. “We are going to be very young, but that makes for a lot of competition on the offensive and defensive side of the football…and that is a plus. I don’t think physically or team chemistry will be a problem. For us, getting reps in a competitive situation is very important.”
The Bulldogs return a lot of skill players, but a lack of experience will play a factor. On the offensive side, quarterback Jon Mason, who is gaining D-I interest, will be back behind center. Losing standout linebacker Tyler Wilson will leave a huge void in the defensive unit. Coach Bret Pearce, who enters his ninth season with a 46-40 mark, feels Milton-Union could be a competitive squad this year.
However, how quickly new starters can fit in will be crucial because the ’Dogs will square off against seven playoff qualifiers from 2007, leaving them with one of the toughest schedules in D-IV.
“We return a lot of skill players, but we return little experience,” Pearce related. “We have the makings of a good team, but the schedule is loaded with good teams.
After serving as the offensive coordinator for five years, Scott Keller took over as head coach of the Mustangs last season. He guided Westfall to a perfect 10-0 regular season and the state semis where it lost to Coldwater (56-14). Keller will have to replace eight starters on defense and tons of varsity experience. However, the Mustangs do return a lot of skilled players. The offense and special teams will be relied upon heavily in the early going until the defense is able to get some game experience under its belt.
“I think with what we have back, it’s hard to tell what will happen this season. We could go anywhere from 6-4 to 10-0 if everything falls into place,” Keller noted. “We have kids that are accustomed to winning and they understand the responsibility they have. We lost a lot of talent, but some kids got a lot of time because of our large margin of victories. One of our strengths is the skilled players we have back. It might be the deepest, most talented group we’ve ever had.
“We are going to have to replace eight starters on defense and players who had a lot of experience. We’re going to have to win a lot of games by 40-30 type scores early on. Our offense will have to carry us until the kids on defense gain experience. I think our special teams play will also be good. We feel good about two of three things going into the season so that’s not too bad.”
The Cardinals’ bid for a third D-IV state title in four years came up two points shy last season (Coldwater posted a 28-27 win in the finale). Had signal caller Dan McCarthy been able to play, the Cardinals might well have hoisted the trophy.
To get back to the state championship game, Mooney is going to have to replace a lot of skill players, including McCarthy. Also lost to graduation were fullback/linebacker Brandon Beachum, fullback/linebacker Michael Zordich, quarterback/defensive back McCarthy, offensive lineman Jarod Emerson and fullback/linebacker Taylor Hill.
They’ll also have to get through one of the toughest regions in the state, which includes perennial power Steubenville and a very talented Akron St. Vincent-St Mary squad. All eyes will be on Mooney offensive lineman/defensive tackle Johnny Simon (6-2, 250), who has already committed to play football for Ohio State.
ALSO KEEP AN EYE ON
After moving from Division V to D-IV a year removed from a state semifinals appearance, the Aces failed to reach the postseason. However, Ron Hinton didn’t have a deep senior class and should be a lock to reach the playoffs in 2008.
Clarksville Clinton-Massie (11-2)
The Falcons posted a pair of postseason victories over Wyoming and Milton-Union before bowing out to Coldwater in the regional finale.
The Redskins returned to the playoffs and were quickly eliminated by state runner-up Youngstown Mooney. If the Redskins are to take the next step, turning in a better record than 4-3 in the tough East Central Ohio League will be a key.
Genoa Area (10-2)
The Comets had only won seven games combined in the previous three seasons going into the ’07 campaign. Second-year head coach Mike Vicars, who previously coached at Delta, was very successful in his first season at Genoa as he guided the squad to its first playoff berth in D-IV, which included a 12-7 win over Sparta Highland. The team also won the Suburban Lakes League title, ending Eastwood’s six-year run. The Comets will have to replace first team All-Ohio Derrick Vicars, who was a representative in the Ohio North-South Classic.
Legendary coach Bob Lutz returned the gridiron after a one-year hiatus and led the Tigers to a 5-5 mark. Like Amanda-Clearcreek, Ironton was a young squad and should be a legitimate playoff contender this season.
Martins Ferry (6-4)
The Purple Riders uncharacteristically missed the postseason last year under Dave Bruney. With running back Jeremy Murray back for his senior season, Ferry should contend for the Buckeye 8 title and a Week 11 spot.
New Lexington (8-3)
The Panthers made yet another playoff appearance (it was their fifth since 2000), but were eliminated by regional champ Westfall in the opening round. Bill Nutt will have to replace running back Will Hicks, and a few other players, but the Panthers are a perennial power in Region 15 and expectations will be high once again this year.
Oak Harbor (8-3)
The Rockets will take the field under new coach Mike May, formerly of St. Mary’s, this season. The team turned in an impressive 8-3 showing last season, falling to Marion Pleasant, 14-0, in the first week of the playoffs.
Despite missing the playoffs, the Red Riders should return to form
this year. Head coach Doug Davault said his team lost an inordinate amount of talent before the 2007 season got under way, but with players like offensive/defensive linemen Josh Short, Kameron Barnes, Aaron Lewis and Jordan Simon, along with tailback/linebacker Dee Miller, wide receiver/defensive back Michael Craig and halfback/defensive back Josh Graber back for their senior seasons, it’s a safe bet that Orrville will improve on their 6-4 mark – a record many coaches would take in a “down year.”
The Titans avenged a season-opening setback to Fostoria with a 35-18 nod in the first week of the playoffs. Glandorf eventually lost to Region 14 champion Marion Pleasant in Week 12, but the Titans will no doubt be looking to take the next step this season.
Pataskala Licking Heights (10-2)
The Hornets have been mentioned by a few coaches as one of the teams that should be a favorite because they return a lot of kids. Heights did reach the regional semis and could be the top dog as St. Clairsville and Westfall will both have to replace several players.
In his first season with the Pirates, former West Geauga mentor Matt Rosati led the team to the postseason. The team found out how far it had to go in Region 13 with a humbling loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the regional quarterfinals. Perry is expected to be solid once again as running back/free safety Mike Hanhauser (6-1, 190) is back to lead the way.
Plain City Jonathan Alder (8-3)
A year after reaching the state semifinals for the first time in school history, the Pioneers were bounced by eventual state champion Coldwater in the first round. Alder will have to replace a host of seniors, including quarterback Austin Schlosser and three-year starter Joe Collins, an offensive lineman.
Sparta Highland (9-2)
The Fighting Scots reached the playoffs for the second straight season after having not been a participant since 1999. Highland’s lone two setbacks were to Region 14 foes Marion Pleasant (7-4) in Week 6 and Genoa Area (12-7) in the regional quarterfinals.
Branko Busick, RB/LB, Steubenville Micah Hyde, QB/DB, Fostoria Mike Mielke, QB, Huron D.J. Cain, QB, Williamsport Westfall Adam Homan, FB/LB, Coldwater Tony Harlamert, RB, Coldwater Cory Klenke, QB/DB, Coldwater Austin Boucher, QB, Kettering Alter Logan McCormick, WR/DB, Clarksville Clinton-Massie Zach Toerner, QB, Hamilton Badin Everett Horne, RB, North College Hill
GAMES TO WATCH
Coldwater at Kenton, Youngstown Mooney at Mentor, Canton Central Catholic at New Philadelphia, Warren JFK at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, St. Henry at Marion Pleasant, Pemberville Eastwood at Clyde, Rossford at Delta, Amanda-Clearcreek at Newark Catholic, Waverly at Piketon
Bowling Green at Fostoria, Dayton Oakwood at Cincinnati Wyoming, Bellbrook at Kettering Alter, Sidney Lehman Catholic at Milton-Union
Tuscarawas Valley at Sugarcreek Garaway, Huron at Norwalk St. Paul, Williamsport Westfall at Circleville; Kettering Alter at Ashland
Marion Local at Coldwater, Bellaire at St. Clairsville, Dayton Oakwood at Germantown Valley View
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary at Napoleon, Tuscarawas Valley at Massillon Tuslaw, Marion Pleasant at Sparta Highland, Ironton at Logan, Chillicothe at Portsmouth, Fisher Catholic at Licking Heights, Clarksville Clinton-Massie at Washington Courthouse Miami Trace
Steubenville at Columbus Watterson, Huron at Clyde, Ironton at Chillicothe, Delta at Patrick Henry, Ottawa-Glandorf at St. Marys Memorial, Dayton Oakwood at Brookville, Eaton at Milton-Union
Coldwater at St. Henry, Cleveland Benedictine at Youngstown Mooney, Canal Winchester at Amanda-Clearcreek
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary at Youngstown Mooney, Steubenville at Poland Seminary, Ironton at Portsmouth, Brookville at Bellbrook
Youngstown Mooney at Youngstown Ursuline, Williamsport Westfall at Piketon, Steubenville Central Catholic at St. Clairsville, Dayton Oakwood at Bellbrook
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary at Youngstown Ursuline, Columbus Watterson at Youngstown Mooney, West Jefferson at Licking Heights, Cincinnati Wyoming at Cincinnati Indian Hill, Dayton Chaminade-Julienne at Kettering Alter, Clarksville Clinton-Massie at Plain City Jonathan Alder
OHIO HIGH PREDICTIONS
Region 13 Youngstown Cardinal Mooney over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
Region 14 Marion Pleasant over Huron
Region 15 Pataskala Licking Heights over Williamsport Westfall
Region 16 Coldwater over Kettering Alter
Championship Game Coldwater over Youngstown Cardinal Mooney