Youngstown Ursuline has dominated Region 17 and Division V for the last three years. The Irish have made three straight trips to the state final and have won the last two state championships. Who – if anyone – from this region can stop them from making it four regional titles in a row? Cuyahoga Heights? Trinity? Someone else?
TEAMS TO WATCH Creston Norwayne (5-5)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players To Watch: QB/DB Adam Wallace (6-3, 185, jr.), RB/DB Tyler Zimmerly (5-9, 190, jr.), WR/DB Zac Vance (5-10, 165, sr.), LB/FB Taylor Kassa (5-10, 215, sr.), K/P Cody Hartong (5-10, 160, sr.), OL/DL Ryan Wiles (6-3, 265, sr.) * Outlook: After reaching the postseason in 2008, Norwayne fell to 5-5 last year as the team dealt with youth as well as having to learn a new system.
“Last year was a season of learning, youth, firsts, and growth,” second year head coach Joe Harbour said.
Expectations are higher this year as 15 starters return (eight on defense, seven on offense) with a year under their belt in Harbour’s system.
“If we can build a solid line, mature, and utilize the experience a lot of our returners got last year as young players, we could be poised for a very successful season,” Harbour said.
Cuyahoga Heights (12-1)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players To Watch: ILB/FB Alec Torgerson (5-8, 180, sr.), OL/DL Anthony Eder (5-9, 185, sr.), SS/WR Jordan D’Orazio (5-9, 165, sr.), OL/DL Austin Lane (6-4, 225, jr.), WR/S Logan Matt (6-2, 175, jr.), ILB/RB Troy Janashak (5-9, 165, jr.) * Outlook: Cuyahoga Heights made a strong run in 2009, jumping out to a 12-0 start and putting state champion Youngstown Ursuline in a 28-14 hole in the regional finals before falling apart in the second half. The Redskins now face life without star QB and three-year starter Zach D’Orazio (signed with Akron), but 11 starters return including three starters on the offensive line and standout FB Torgerson.
“I think we’ll be able to move the ball on the ground,” head coach Al Martin said. “The question is we graduated a three-year starter at quarterback and how we come around (at that position) will make a big impact on how much success we have.” Garfield Heights Trinity (7-4)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players To Watch: RB/OLB Jarrod Gehring (5-8, 178, sr.), WR/QB/SS Kyle Companey (5-8, 150, sr.), OT/DE Jesse Shafts (6-1, 220, sr.), FB/MLB Matt Rauschenbach (6-0, 190, sr.), QB/FS Ryan McSweeney (6-2, 180, jr.), WR/RB/DB Tom Pieronek (5-8, 165, jr.) * Outlook: The Trojans had a memorable season in 2009, becoming just the third team in school history to win the conference and make the playoffs. Trinity returns seven starters (four on offense, three on defense) as well as some experience at the skill positions. Shafts was All-Ohio last year.
“It will be a very big challenge for us to repeat, but I will say that our skill kids are pretty good and our speed isn’t bad,” head coach Ed Schaefer said. “The problem will be up front where we lost the most (nine starters).”
Trinity faces a rugged schedule, but the team could be up for the challenge.
Said Schaefer: “The one thing I’ve learned at Trinity is that our players work very hard and take a lot of pride in playing here.” Independence (9-2)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players To Watch: RB Joe Mancino (5-9, 170, sr.), QB/DB Sam Stretar (5-11, 175, sr.), C Sean Moore (5-10, 190, sr.), FB/DE Nick Kraus (6-1, 215, sr.), ILB/FB Cole Nelson (5-10, 190, jr.), OL/DL Jacob Solomon (5-11, 200, jr.) * Outlook: Defensive coordinator James Jackson takes over as head coach this season as the Blue Devils look to make another run to the playoffs. The team loses 15 starters from last year’s squad but will have a good core, led by All-Ohio RB Mancino (1,440 yards, 22 TDs).
“A solid ‘blue collar’ offseason has proven that this team is hungry,” Jackson said. “The return of the entire backfield including Mancino will be an asset. The defense will be young but will maintain its aggressive style of play.” Youngstown Ursuline (11-3) * Players To Watch: RB Akise Teague (5-9, 178, sr.), RB/OLB Jeff Podolsky (5-9, 160, sr.), DT/OL Zach Conlan (6-1, 290, sr.), QB Paul Kempe (6-1, 180, sr.), T/DT Troy Vasquez-Atkins (6-2, 311, jr.), DT Ty Vasquez-Atkins (6-5, 304, jr.) * Outlook: The Irish have established themselves as the current powerhouse program in Division V after winning two straight state titles. Can they make it a trifecta this year?
Don’t bet against it. Ursuline will once again be tough for opponents to handle, featuring two first-team All-Ohioans in Teague and Conlan. Teague has offers from Ohio, Bowling Green and Youngstown State. Conlan is the first junior in program history to earn the team’s top lineman award (Mike Miklos Award).
As always, a rugged schedule awaits led by fellow powerhouses Youngstown Mooney, Steubenville and Mentor Lake Catholic.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Apple Creek Waynedale (7-4): The Golden Bears made their third straight playoff appearance in 2009. Senior DB Kyle Phillips was second team All-Ohio last year.
Gates Mills Hawken (9-3): The Hawks had a strong season in 2009, advancing to the postseason and winning their first-round game against Independence. Become
this school's Quarterspondent
Kirtland (7-3): After a super showing in 2008, the Hornets fell short of the postseason in 2009. Senior QB Pat Guhde was second-team All-Ohio last season. Junior RB Christian Huber (first team all-district) is a perfect compliment.Become
this school's Quarterspondent
North Lima South Range (2-8): Perennial powerhouse South Range had an uncharacteristic season in 2009 but was competitive against some of their tougher opponents.
West Salem Northwestern (5-5): The Huskies had a young team last year and fought through inconsistency but finished the season strong with wins over two playoff teams. This year’s team faces a tough schedule but is more experienced, returning seven starters on each side of the ball. Senior K Kurt Schaefer was second team All-Ohio.Become
this school's Quarterspondent