Delphos St. John's is looking for its sixth D-VI state title. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)
History dictates this year’s Division VI state title race boils down to two teams – defending champion Delphos St. John’s and longtime stalwart Maria Stein Marion Local. Those two teams – both from the Midwest Athletic Conference – have won eight of the last 12 D-VI state titles. Can they make it nine of 13? Or will...
History dictates this year’s Division VI state title race boils down to two teams – defending champion Delphos St. John’s and longtime stalwart Maria Stein Marion Local. Those two teams – both from the Midwest Athletic Conference – have won eight of the last 12 D-VI state titles.
Can they make it nine of 13?
The odds say they can since 10 of the last 15 state titles have gone to MAC schools. (St. Henry also won two).
Should either team falter, there are plenty of schools with the talent and tradition to take the trophy home.
Region 21 earns the nod as the state’s toughest with stalwarts Norwalk St. Paul, Mogadore, McDonald, Berlin Center Western Reserve and newcomer and former D-V power Bucyrus Wynford in the fold.
Ada is another team to watch out for, although the Bulldogs would have to get by DSJ to make the state semis.
And then there is always Newark Catholic.
The D-VI state title game will be held Dec. 5 at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. Will DSJ defend its title? Will Marion Local add another of its own? Will somebody stop the MAC?
The Chieftains have been the cream of the Region 21 crop lately, having won three of the last four regional titles. H-L has also been in the state championship the last two years (finished runner-up both times), but making it back to Stark County will be a tall order with Region 21 being as stacked as it is. History says the Chieftains will be a factor, though.
H-L has been to the playoffs seven straight years and is currently riding a 20-game regular season win streak.
One glaring concern is replacing quarterback Tyler Brown, who shared the D-VI state offensive player of the year award with two others last year.
Cushioning that loss is the return of RB Aaron Kapelka who starred in his first full season as a starter last year when he rushed for 1,586 yards and 21 TDs. Matt Brickner is also an established threat having rushed for 350 yards and nine TDs a year ago (also had 400 yards receiving).
Miles Chapman is a viable receiving threat (52 catches).
Defensively, LB Hudson Smith, the reigning D-VI state defensive player of the year, spearheads a unit that allowed just 12.8 points per game last year.
“We need to replace key players at quarterback and in the secondary,” head coach Brian Colatruglio (63-6 in five years) said. “We will be solid up front on both sides of ball and we will play several sophomores. Depth is a huge issue.”
Berlin Western Reserve (8-3)
WR Clayton Hull (first team All-Ohio) and Ewing (second team All-Ohio) form arguably the best pass-and-catch combo in D-VI.
As a program Western Reserve has been on the rise. The Devils have 23 wins and two playoff appearances in the last three years. Is this the season they make it past the second round of the playoffs?
Western Reserve lost to McDonald in the opening round of the playoffs last year, 21-7.
Wynford’s drop from D-V to VI made Region 21 the toughest in the state. The Royals have put together three undefeated regular seasons in the last four years and are riding a 33-game North Central Conference win streak. Don’t expect that trend to end this season.
Wynford has the state’s No. 32-ranked senior prospect overall and the No. 3 ranked QB in Tyler Brause who despite coming from a small school has already been offered by Stanford, Syracuse and Western Michigan. Last year, he accounted for 30 TDs, while throwing for 1,795 yards and rushing for another 698.
WR Chris Brown (special mention All-Ohio) and TE/DE Teven Eatmon (offer from Akron) give Brause two huge targets in the passing game on non-option plays. Eatmon caught only five passes last season, but four went for TDs.
Defensively Wynford will be led by LB ZakNiedermier (71 tackles), LB Zach Chatlin (60 tackles, four sacks), McNulty (48 tackles, 12 sacks), DE Zach Brewington (43 tackles) and Brown (38 tackles).
Said head coach Travis Moyer (83-25 in 10 years): “We’re excited about the opportunity to compete for championships.”
The Blue Devils are one of the region’s top teams with 11 playoff appearances to their credit. Can they make it four postseason trips in a row? Odds are they can – and will.
Replacing RB Alex Sampson, who accounted for 26 TDs and 1,073 yards last season, is key.
Nick Accordino returns after completing 38-of-58 passes for 594 yards and seven TDs, while Nick Cupan is back after rushing for 848 yards and seven TDs on 99 carries. David John caught 10 passes for 190 yards and two TDs.
Offensively McDonald racked up 3,554 yards on the ground last year.
The Wildcats – one of the state’s top programs regardless of division – are looking for their 11th straight trip to the playoffs and 23rd overall. Can they do it? Yes.
Mogadore returns 16 starters, including nine on defense.DL/FB Jake McAvinew, who registered 92 tackles, including 12 sacks, was second team All-Ohio as a DE last year, while LB/TB Kodey Chance added 105 tackles. The entire LB and DB corps returns.
Offensively the Wildcats have more than enough options. Although they must replace both tackles and the QB, four backs return who accounted for 2,500 yards and 36 TDs.
Chance leads the group (1,202 yards and 13 TDs), while FB Mike Leymon (659 yards, 10 TDs), Mcavinew (603 yards, 10 TDs) and Phil Laston (306 yards, three TDs) are more than capable of carrying the load.
Senior Drew Babbit (5-9, 155, Sr.) steps in at QB. Two targets he’ll want to hit often are TE/OLB Landon Trainer (18 catches, 407 yards, seven TDs) and SE/FS Matt Traugh (11 cathces248 yards, two TDs).
Kevin Pollock is a three-year starter at center.
A tough nonleague schedule with Mineral Ridge, Smithville (on schedule for first time since 1996) and Northwestern awaits. A small sophomore class (20 boys in school and six on the football team) hurts depth. Head coach Matt Adorni is 45-16 in six years.
Head coach Steve Ringholz continues his reign at Monroeville, where he enters his 31st season with the Eagles and ranks among the state’s top 20 coaches in career wins (231-101-1). Last season, however, was one of the few hiccups the Eagles have had under the coaching legend.
Monroeville lost its first seven games last year and had a string of seven straight playoff berths snapped. Things should return to normal this season.
Ringholz and the Eagles return 27 letterwinners, including 11 players who will earn their third letter this year and three who will earn their fourth. Experience is a strength.
“We have a very experienced offensive line returning,” Ringholz said. “This should give us a good foundation on that side of the ball.”
RB/DB Logan Stieber, TE/OT Justin Sparks and RB/DB Cory Long give the Eagles a solid trio at RB. Stieber rushed for 440 yards and seven TDs on 94 carries last year, while Long had 643 yards and six TDs on 127 carries. Long also had 23 receptions for 193 yards and a TD. Sparks chipped in 341 yards and six TDs on 106 carries.
Brian Ringholz returns for his third year as the starting QB.
Defensively Monroeville should be stout. LB Eric Leber (48 tackles), LB Dakota Schwann (61 tackles), Sparks (48 tackles), Stieber (76 tackles), DB Sam Schwab (74 tackles), DT Jeremy Krill (69 tackles), DB Justin Jones (54 tackles) and Long (67 tackles) spearhead a unit that should be much improved.
Overall, the Eagles return six players who earned All-Firelands Conference honors last season.
Norwalk St. Paul has reached at least the regional final each of the last five years. The Flyers could do it again should a couple holes be filled.
“We return almost all of our skill positions on both offense and defense,” head coach John Livengood said. “We lost two outstanding offensive tackles, an outstanding defensive tackle and an outstanding running back. If we can replace these key positions, we will be in position to make a good run.”
Quarterback Eric Schwieterman gives St. Paul an advantage most teams don’t have. The reigning D-VI state offensive player of the year, Schwieterman returns to lead an offense that set new school records last season for points (621; 47.8 per game) and yards (6,014; 462.6 per game). Individually, Schwieterman had his hand in 32 TDs, while passing for 1,778 yards and rushing for 985. He also kicked 53 PATs and six field goals.
Dan Tracht (32 receptions, 598 yards, seven TDs) and Wilde (17 receptions, 425 yards, eight TDs) return as the main targets in the passing game, while Brian Griffin (46 carries, 361 yards, seven TDs) will carry the workload in the running game.
Defensively the Flyers return nearly everyone from a unit that allowed just 9.5 points and 174 yards per game.
Linebacker Brian Boose is the top returning tackler (109 stops), while Schwieterman (84 tackles), Griffin (88 tackles) and Brian Roberts (88 tackles) also carry solid credentials.
St. Paul owns 12 playoff appearances – all under Livengood (166-49 career record in 18 years) - including six straight.
Since a 5-5 finish in 2000, the Mounties have failed to record a winning season or break even. First year head coach Ray Frisbee inherits a program that returns just five seniors and 10 letterwinners so rebuilding will still be a theme.
“The five seniors will be relied on heavily to lead our young team to a place were the Mapleton football team hasn't been in a while – winning football games,” Frisbee said. “We will definitely not be one of the biggest, fastest or strongest teams in the state, but we will strive to be the best conditioned and assignment sound.”
Key returners for the Mounties are: senior FB/DL Jacob Martin (5-9, 245, honorable mention All-Firelands Conference), senior QB Paul Mencl (6-1, 180; two TDs last year at WR) and senior TE/DE Jon Soto (6-0, 205; 49 tackles and six sacks).
Sandusky St. Mary's Central Catholic is a new opponent in Week 3.
Said Frisbee: “There will be a lot of new faces on the field on Friday nights and hopefully we'll have a few step up to the challenge and change the attitude in the Mapleton school and community about the football team.”
The Bulldogs are hungry after finishing ninth in the region in computer points last season. Dalton, which didn’t lose a game by more than seven points and all four by a total of 17, finished just 0.1 point behind No. 8 seed Columbiana. Despite starting last year 1-4, the Bulldogs ended on a five-game winning streak. Sustaining momentum will be key. The return of second team All-Ohio LB Matt Torgler (5-11, 160, Sr.) doesn’t hurt either.
Fairport Harding (2-8)
The Skippers struggled last year but do return first team All-Ohio receiver Aramis Greenwood (6-1, 175).
The Blue Jays went from one win in 2007 to three last year. Does the climb continue? Close games last year against Leetonia (20-14) and Wellsville (21-12) showed the program is improving.
The Senecas were put in a tough position when former head coach Keenan Leichty stepped down in June to become the head coach at Brookside High. No replacement had been named as of print time.
Regardless of who takes over, the Senecas are looking for their first playoff appearance since making five straight postseasons from 1998-2002. Calvert will have to figure out way to win the tight games if it wants to advance. Last year the Senecas were 1-3 in games decided by seven points or less.
Warren JFK (3-7)
The Eagles had a string of five straight playoff berths snapped last year, but they were close to making it six. JFK lost to six teams with winning records including Howland (D-II), Hubbard (D-III), Girard (D-IV) and Elyria Catholic (D-IV).
One player to watch this year is senior RB/S Korin Stubbs (5-10, 196). Stubbs had 42 tackles, four pass break-ups and an interception last year, while also rushing for 131 yards and two TDs in limited offensive duty. Expect him to log more carries this season. Stubbs is also a seasoned return specialist.
Despite winning seven games, the Tigers finished all the way back at No. 15 in the region last year. They only beat one team with a winning record (Leetonia), but that wasn’t the entire problem. Wellsville also beat four teams that went a combined 0-40. It’s unlikely the schedule will be that unkind again. Another 7-3 season might land the Tigers in the postseason.
Youngstown Christian (7-3)
The Eagles have gone 13-6 over the past two years although just two of those wins have come against teams with winning records. A 28-26 victory over Shadyside last year showed YC is close to earning the school’s first playoff berth. Whether or not they do it this year is the question. The Eagles were 10th in the region last year.
Other Teams In The Region
Ashtabula St. John & Paul (2-7), Crestline (3-7), New Washington Buckeye Central (5-5), Bedford St. Peter Chanel (3-7), Cleveland Heights Lutheran East (0-10), Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic (1-9), Newbury (0-10), Thompson Ledgemont (3-7), Greenwich South Central (4-6), Lowellville (2-8), Sebring McKinley (0-10), Windham (1-8), Lucas (1-9), Attica Seneca East (5-5), Southington Chalker (5-5), Vienna Mathews (6-4), Rittman (0-10)
The Bulldogs have quickly become one of D-VI’s top programs. Ada has been to the playoffs three years in a row and has state semifinal (2007) and regional final (last year) appearances to its credit. Expect another solid run this season with 12 starters back (six on each side of the ball). The Bulldogs averaged 41 points per game last year and allowed just 13.
Mitchell Faine is one of the state’s most talented QBs regardless of division and returns after throwing for 3,846 yards and 37 TDs last season. A second-team All-Ohio selection, Faine also rushed for 650 yards and 16 TDs.
Heath Jackson (74 receptions, 1,068 yards, 10 TDs), Alex Weber (46 receptions, 543 yards, six TDs) and Matt McBride (28 receptions, 400 yards, three TDs) provide a solid stable of receivers.
Defensively, LB Aaron Weyer and LB Matt McBride are the top returning tacklers (each had 70 last season). Weyer also had nine tackles-for-loss and four sacks, while McBride had a team-high four interceptions.
“The offense has a good nucleus back with (Faine) and three of the top four receivers back,” head coach Mike Fell said. “We will need to find three offensive linemen and a running back. The defense is made up of good athletes, but we need to find some new leadership.”
Toledo Christian replaces Fort Loramie on the schedule and Fell circled a Week 10 match-up with Lima Central Catholic as key.
Head coach Dick Leonard begins his 27th year at Arlington and second as head coach. Last year, after 25 years as an assistant, Leonard led the Red Devils to their second straight and second ever playoff appearance. Arlington drew eventual state champion Delphos St. John’s in the first round.
The pieces are there for a return to the postseason.
“We will have an experienced backfield on offense, however we need to replace several very good linemen,” Leonard said. “We will be in the same situation on defense. We have some experience in the backfield and at one LB, but will rely on some younger players to play in some key positions on the line and LB.”
Matt Morehart was first team All-Northwest Ohio at RB last year. Kicking should also be a strength with the return of senior Levi Fennell.
The Blue Devils gave state champion Delphos St. John’s its closest game in the postseason last year, losing 21-14 in the regional semifinals. Asking this year’s club to repeat that playoff run might be a stretch, but not a long one.
The senior class at Carey has never had a losing season and is 18-5 the last two years with two playoff appearances. They’ve already made an impact but are looking for more.
“The task for the classes coming up is to match the intensity and attitude that has brought a lot of pride back into this football town,” head coach Todd Worst (23-10 in three years) said. “This team will not have the size of last year’s team, but will make up for it with a little more team speed.”
OL Michael Dennis is a legitimate Division I recruit and ranked the No. 52 senior prospect in the state by Ohio High magazine. He has offers from Indiana, Maryland, Iowa State and several MAC schools.
RB Trevor Phoenix will carry a lot of the offensive load.
Willard, a D-III school, was added as a nonleague opponent in Week 3.
The usually tough Bulldogs have been a pedestrian 10-10 the last two years, including last season’s losing record. Expect a return to glory, although in order to do that, several young players will have to play key roles.
Columbus Grove, which has been in the postseason seven of the last 10 years and won it all in 2003, has only six seniors.
“Our players were disappointed with last season, which was only our second losing season since 1991,” head coach Scott Plate said. “(The kids) are anxious to get 2009 started. We have some young talented guys who need to step up for this to be a successful season.”
Rayce Risser is the team’s leading returning rusher (576 yards), while Jordan Travis is back under center after starting as a freshman (six TDs).
The Bulldogs have added Columbus Bishop Hartley to their non-league schedule.
The Blue Jays experienced quite a turnaround in Allen County, going from a 2-8 finish in 2007 to the D-VI state title last season.
This year, DSJ should be a favorite to repeat. Whatever holes there are are overshadowed by the tremendous amount of talent that returns elsewhere.
LB Chris Pohlman was second-team All-Ohio last season after registering 158 tackles and returns to a unit that allowed just 13.7 points in 13 wins. Also back on defense are LB Joel Pohlman (124 tackles), FS Tyler Bergfield (68 tackles, six interceptions) and SS A.J. Klausing (99 tackles, six interceptions).
QB Wes Ulm spearheads the offense and is one of the state’s top dual threat QBs. Last season he passed for 1,172 yards and rushed for 1,027 more. Ulm accounted for 27 TDs.
RB Jordan Leininger is a beast out of the backfield where he ran for 1,222 yards and 15 TDs last season. C Alex Recker and OT Austin Vogt anchor an experienced – and big – offensive line.
Said head coach Todd Schulte, who will go for his 100th career win this season (98-31 in 11 years): “We start off with two tough non-league opponents in Tinora and Lima Central Catholic, followed by the meat-grinder called the MAC.”
Pete Brunow (218-63) enters his 26th year at Hardin Northern on the heels of his first losing season at the school. That’s right. The Polar Bears had 25 straight winning records under the legendary head coach prior to last season.
Hardin Northern, which has been to the playoffs 12 times (all since 1994), was the D-VI state champion in 2004. The Polar Bears have been absent from the playoffs though for two years after a string of six straight 10-0 regular seasons.
Does the momentum swing this year?
Hardin Northern returns eight starters on offense, including FB/LB Nathan Ruhle, TE Logan Price, OT Caleb Combs and RB JoeWalters.
Defensively the Polar Bears must fill holes on the line and in the backfield. The offense must carry the team early.
Said Brunow: “We hope to build our way back up to the top of the league but it won’t be easy.”
A rugged Blanchard Valley Conference slate awaits.
The Bulldogs showed a three-game improvement last season, going from 2-8 to 5-5. Expect another climb in head coach Kevin Kline’s third year.
Edgerton hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003 but that could change this fall with a solid core of players returning.
Jeff Crowe is back for his third year under center in the spread after throwing for 2,174 yards and 18 TDs last season. He also ran for seven TDs and 464 yards. As a sophomore Crowe threw for 1,337 yards and nine TDs.
Crowe will be aided by a deep and talented receiving corps made up of Josh Goebel (33 receptions, 426 yards, three TDs), Jimmy Radabaugh (30 receptions, 566 yards, four TDs) and Dakota Sheets (16 receptions, 181 yards, TD). Goebel and Radabaugh both earned All-Green Meadows Conference honors at receiver last year.
Ethan Schroeder will be option No. 1 in the backfield after generating 471 yards and seven TDs on 70 carries last season.
Austin Cape anchors the defensive line after registering 56 tackles, including eight for loss last season en route to second team All-GMC honors.
Schroeder is a three-year starter at DB and was first team All-GMC last year after netting 58 tackles. He had 88 as a sophomore.
Goebel had 58 tackles last year and Sheets added 69.
“We believe that we have a good group of seniors and some really talented skill players returning that will be the strength of our team,” Kline said. “Our biggest concerns coming into the season will be finding some depth on the offensive line and filling in the key losses we had at the linebacker position.”
Entering head coach John Miller’s fourth year, the Eagles are 21-10 over the last three seasons and earned the school’s first playoff berth in 2007. Another postseason trip could be just months away.
TC returns a number of key players on offense, including speedster Graham Miller who rushed for 1,231 yards and 10 TDs on 193 carries and Nick Rightnowar, who completed 126-of-209 passes for 1,835 yards, 21 TDs and 10 interceptions. David Westmeyer returns after catching 30 passes for 490 yards and four TDs.
Defensively LB Greg Barringer (59.5 tackles), DL Mike Gaston (15.5 tackles, seven for loss) and LB Anthony Dodd anchor the unit.
Senior kicker J.C. Miller, who has made 74-of-78 career PATs and 9-of13 career field goals, is an added threat.
“The 2009 season for the Toledo Christian Eagles looks bright,” Miller said. “The seniors will be relied on heavily for leadership on and off of the field. The junior class is very deep athletically and many of them have plenty of Friday night game experience. We are very optimistic with the group of athletes that we have this season.”
On the schedule, TC gets a facelift, replacing non-league foes Toledo Libbey, Woodward and Troy Christian with Delta, Ada and Fort Loramie.
For the past two years, Hilltop has made history by earning back-to-back playoff berths. This season the Cadets would like to make more by securing the school’s first postseason win. Numbers – as in 16 starters back – suggest their odds are good.
Head coach Mike Bumb (64-38 in 10 years) enters his 11th season at Hilltop with arguably the school’s most talented roster ever.
Chad Beals is arguably the school’s most talented player ever. The senior running back has rushed for 2,431 yards and scored 45 TDs the last two years. Last season he rushed for 1,462 yards and scored 29 times, including three via reception and two on kick returns.
Beals is one of seven starters back on offense, where the only question – who will replace standout QB Josh Westfall – will be answered by sophomore Tyler Shipman (5-11, 170). Hilltop’s OL averages 230.
The defense, which returns nine starters, will be the team’s strength. LB Quinton Nofziger (65 tackles), DB Chase Clark (65 tackles), DE Nate Shaffer (59 tackles) and DL Nick Smith (63 tackles) lead the unit.
Poletta, a standout RB/DB as described by Bumb, could be a difference maker. He missed last season with an injury.
The Cadets were 5-1 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference last year and finished second. Paying back TAAC champ Northwood for a 45-19 drubbing in Week 6 is on the agenda.
Also Keep An Eye On
A year after registering their first winning season in 14 years (6-4 in 2008), the Redskins finished with another losing record.
After finishing 2-8 in 2007, the Vikings turned it around last year and finished 10th in the region in computer points. Leipsic has been tabbed as a “contender” in the Blanchard Valley Conference by several coaches.
The Panthers have been to the playoffs eight times in the last 10 years.
SeniorDL Josh Lee (6-5, 205) was the D-VI co-defensive player of the year in Ohio last season. He spearheads a team that lost just five seniors to graduation. The Rockets have a chance to end Findlay Liberty-Benton’s three-year run as Blanchard Valley Conference champions.
If you want a sleeper in Region 22, the Hornets might be the one. C-R hasn’t had a winning season since 2003, but the pieces are in place for a solid run. Eight starters return on each side of the ball, but surviving the rugged Blanchard Valley Conference (four playoff teams last year) will be key in head coach Andy Schafer’s second season.
Senior WR/DB John Anderson (5-8, 160) is a three-year starter and racked up 1,318 all-purpose yards last year along with 46 tackles. Seniors Ben Niese (RB/DL, 5-10, 165; 33 Tackles, 510 yards rushing), Chad Thacker (C, 6-1, 225) and David Hector (OT/MLB, 6-1, 220; 64 tackles) will be big contributors as well.
“Last year was a learning year,” Schafer said. “We learned a new style of offense, defense, attitude and work ethic. This year there are no excuses. We have a lot of guys that have been working hard to turn the program around. The big question is do we “believe” we can do it? The tools are in place - now we just have to prove it on the field.”
Other Teams In The Region
Antwerp (5-5), Ridgeway Ridgemont (0-10), Defiance Ayersville (5-5), Crestview Convoy (0-10), Edon (3-7), Fostoria St. Wendelin (4-6), Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic (1-9), Holgate (0-10), Danbury Lakeside (0-10), Lima Perry (4-6), McGuffey Upper Scioto Valley (5-5), North Baltimore (2-8), Oregon Cardinal Stritch (1-9), Sycamore Mohawk (4-6), Toledo Ottawa Hills (3-7), Van Buren (5-5), Vanlue (0-10).