Youngstown Mooney dominated Region 9 last year, winning its three regional playoff games by the combined score of 121-21. The Cardinals went on to win their seventh state title and have plans to add an eighth this fall. Several teams in Region 9 also have plans of making extended playoff runs themselves.
Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (15-0) * Players to watch – QB/DB Kevin McGuire (6-0, 185, Sr.), Kicker/Punter A.J. Fox (5-9, 200, Sr.), TE/LB Nick Gemma (6-0, 195, Sr.), DL/OL Michael Rossi (6-3, 265, Sr.), TE/LB Nick Hargate (5-11, 190, Sr.) * Outlook – A perennial powerhouse, Mooney remains the team to beat. Last year’s senior-laden lineup now features some fresh faces, and that’s one concern for head coach P.J. Fecko.
McGuire is the forerunner to replace Alex Zordich at QB. Zordich rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards last season. Braylon Heard, though, was the engine of last year’s team tallying nearly 1,800 yards with 22 touchdowns. Mooney will have to tap a corps of running backs as a replacement.
Rather than pointing out individual players, Fecko stresses the overall chemistry between the team. He believes that helped them win the state championship last year, and it’s something the younger players are going to have to recreate to if they want another successful season.
“They’ve prepared themselves to step into those spots,” Fecko said. Akron Hoban (8-4)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players to watch – QB Danny Hinton (6-2, 175, Sr.), C Allen Hopson III (5-10, 235, Sr.), S/WR Nate Greczanik (6-2, 190, Sr.), DB/WR Evan Luse (6-0, 170, Sr.), OL Fred McClain (5-11, 265, Sr.), DB Ian Santoferraro (5-9, 155, Sr.), DE/TE LaTroy Lewis (6-4, 230, Jr.), DE/TE Greg McMullen (6-4 220, Jr.) * Outlook – Everything appears to hinge on Hoban’s offensive line. The team will expect a lot out of Hinton. The dual-threat QB started seeing game time late in the year rushing for 59 yards and throwing for 83 in their regional semifinal playoff loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. McMullen is one of the state’s top juniors.
“We think we’re going to have one of the strongest defenses we’ve ever had here,” head coach Ralph Orsini said. “We return eight defensive players from last year’s group. … Potentially, we could be a very good offensive team.” Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (6-5) * Players to watch – DB Doran Grant (5-11, 175, Sr.), RB/SS Mark Murphy (6-2, 195, Sr.), QB Oliver Hildebrandt (6-5, 220, Sr.), QB Kevin Besser (6-3, 190, Jr.), T/DT Nick Codrea (6-3, 270, Sr.), OL Carlos Lugo (6-2, 285, Sr.), OL Mitch Wassam (6-1, 275, Sr.), OL Mike Greissing (5-11, 210, Sr.), DL D.J. Williams (6-4, 270, Sr.), DL Freeland Oliverio (6-0, 240, Sr.) * Outlook – One could argue that SVSM has the toughest schedule in the state. Contests against Mooney, Watterson and Hoban leave little room for error. And that’s why it’s been impressive that head coach Dan Boarman has taken the Fighting Irish to the playoffs two out of the three seasons he’s been at the helm.
With a good mix of returning linemen on both sides of the ball, the team’s fate could rest on how the players come together as a team – particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Some healthy competition at the quarterback spot between Hildebrandt and Besser will likely drive both players to improve.
Another enormous asset comes in the form of Grant. A workhorse, Grant plays cornerback and wide receiver and returns punts and kickoffs. He also has scholarship offers from more than two dozen schools. He’ll cause headaches for opposing teams. Hubbard (10-2) * Players to watch – DT/FB Blake Novotny (6-3, 210, Sr.), WR/DB Danny Duvall (6-0, 188, Sr.), QB/S Mike Lopuchvsky (6-1, 180, Sr.) * Outlook – After a run into the regional semifinals last fall, Hubbard’s got to rebuild a talented offense. Gone is QB Andre Givens, four offensive linemen and two receivers (Tommy Jackson and Kurtis Drummond). Still, head coach Brian Hoffman remains “cautiously optimistic.” In fact, the team’s offensive line could be even bigger than it was last year. Poland Seminary (10-3) * Players to watch – WR/DB Darius Patton (5-10, 170, Sr.), QB Colin Reardon (6-0, 180, Jr.), OT/DT George Dibo (5-11, 242, Jr.), TE/DE Jordan Voitus (6-3, 205, Jr.), DB/WR Anthony Machi (5-10, 160, Sr.), OL Nick Sebastian (6-0, 260, Sr.), DE Noah Hochendoner (6-2, 185, Sr.), P Chris Walla (5-10, 160, Sr.) * Outlook – Looking to get into the playoffs for the fourth straight year, Poland has fast runners at the skill positions and a tough offense that will spread the ball around. Poland won two playoff games last year before falling 24-7 to Mooney. Expect them to be in the running again with leaders like Patton who has scholarship offers from 9 of the 11 teams in the Big Ten. KEEP AN EYE ON
* Parma Padua Franciscan (7-4) – Felled in round one of the playoffs last season, Franciscan returns a number of star players who are already getting scholarship offers including WR Nico Sidari (6-2, 190, Sr.), DT Collin Perchinske (6-5, 245, Sr.) and CB Kyle Tomko (6-0, 175, Sr.). * Akron Buchtel (7-3) – Buchtel’s gaining momentum after a tough year in 2007 when the program went 2-8. The next year the Giffins were 5-5, and last fall went 7-3. A handful of exciting offensive players are moving through the program including WR Corey Smith (6-0, 170, Jr.) and RB Chevon Meadows (5-10, 170, Sr.).Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Medina Buckeye (8-3) – After starting last season 0-2, Buckeye won the rest of its games and finished 8-2 – good enough for its first playoff berth since 2005. The Bucks lost in Round 1 to Hubbard, but it’s an encouraging sign. Buckeye lost nearly a third of its team to graduation, so it’ll need to rely on new faces to fill important roles.Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Mogadore Field (8-3) – Boasting one of the top defensive ends in the state, Jim Cercek (6-3, 235, Sr.), Field got a tough draw in last year’s state tournament when it faced Mooney in Round 1. The team lost just two games during the regular season last year; a three-point loss against East Palestine and a 39-0 shellacking by D-II Ravenna. Cerek was All-Ohio last year. * Akron Springfield (6-4) – A team on the cusp of breaking out, all of Springfield’s losses (excluding a 47-0 drubbing by D-II Ravenna) were within seven points. With the loss of All-Ohio special mention OL Chris Evans, the team will look to new faces for leadership including junior RB Dillon Matthews (165, 5-6) who earned All-Ohio honors last year.Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Ashtabula Edgewood (7-3) – After putting together a 7-3 record last season, Edgewood will have to work hard to replace the 20-plus seniors it lost to graduation. Still, the program’s turnaround was nothing short of miraculous after going 0-10 in 2008. * Bay Village (7-3) – Another Cinderella story, the Rockets went 2-8 in 2008. Last year, they put together an impressive four-game turnaround. The team was led by a tough defense and the dedicated play of quarterback Ryan Hoke (6-2, 185, Sr.). Hoke spent part of last year with a cast on his left arm but didn’t let that take him out of the line-up. He’ll be expected to take more snaps this year.Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Hunting Valley University School (6-4) – After losing three of its first four, University School played nearly flawless for the rest of the season – winning all of its games except one (a close loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary). The team will look for leadership from a new QB after Dan Frate’s graduation. Frate is now at Harvard. Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral (5-5) – With a team composed mostly of underclassmen, head coach Byron Morgan says they’re facing the toughest schedule in the school’s history with five opponents who made last season’s playoffs. It helps that Notre Dame returns two of the best linemen in its region in Johnnie Lemons (6-0, 315, Sr.) and Andrew Evans (5-11, 235, Sr.).