Region 20, which boasts teams from the MAC, GCL and Central Catholic League, is Ohio's deepest D-V region. Region 18 is second though - and certainly no pushover. Whoever survives this gauntlet will have a real shot at winning the state title. So, who are the favorites?
Defiance Tinora (11-2)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players To Watch: P/K Alex Moser (6-1, 175, sr.), QB Landon Drewes (6-0, 175, sr.), LB/OL Alex Batt (6-3, 225, sr.), DL Marcus Moser (6-0, 235, sr.) * Outlook: The Rams were expecting big things in 2008 as a large group of starters returned from a playoff team, but the team fell short of expectations and missed the postseason. In 2009, things were different as that same core of players delivered a run to the regional finals.
“We were very pleased,” head coach Kenny Krouse said. “We returned a veteran football team where we probably didn’t play up to our expectations the year before.
“I thought those kids came in into camp with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder to get back there where we had been in previous years and also to make a little bit of a deeper run.”
This year’s team returns six starters but features a strong group of underclassmen.
Early on, the team will be leaning on the experience of Drewes.
“A lot’s going to fall on (Drewes’) shoulders just because our backfield other than him will be new and be youthful,” Krouse said. Hamler Patrick Henry (13-1) * Players To Watch: OL/NG Xavier Dye (5-10, 180, sr.), TE/DE Jacob Carrizales (6-2, 205, soph.), OG/DT Josh Almanza (5-11, 210, sr.), SS Lucas Rosebrook (5-9, 175, jr.) * Outlook: Patrick Henry produced yet another strong season in 2009, making its fourth trip to the regional finals in six seasons. Head coach Bill Inselmann called the season one of the most rewarding he’s had at Patrick Henry.
“We had a unique mixture of some very talented, experienced players, and then a host of new players,” Inselmann said. “It just seemed as the season went on that we jelled real good.”
The Patriots were hit hard by graduation and return just seven total starters, but they will have a good group in the trenches to fall back on, led by All-Ohioan Dye.
“The nice thing is we do have some good experience on both offensive and defensive lines coming back, and that is going to have to be our strength,” Inselmann said. “We think we have some decent kids skill-wise, talent-wise that can fit in, but it’s going to be I think how they accept each other and how they mesh.” * Hicksville (9-2)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players To Watch: TB/DB John Michael (6-2, 165, sr.), OL/DL Joe Contreas (5-9, 180, jr.), RB/DB Charlie Emenhiser (6-2, 190, jr.), RB/LB Seth Klepper (6-0, 200, jr.), QB/DB Justin Miller (6-0, 190, jr.), OL/DL Tyler Laney (6-0, 200, jr.), WR/DB Logan Husted (5-9, 150, jr.). * Outlook: The Aces posted their second straight winning season in 2009, making a playoff appearance after falling short in 2008 despite having an eight-win season. This year’s team brings back five starters on each side of the ball, although the team will lack a large senior class.
“We only have three seniors,” head coach Lucas Smith said. “The underclassmen will have to step it up if we want to be successful.”
The Aces still have a good amount of experience though as some of the juniors are three-year starters while other underclassmen saw plenty of playing time last season.
“The outlook is very promising,” Smith said. “If we can play as one team and stay healthy, we should compete for the (conference) title.” Jeromesville Hillsdale (9-3) * Players To Watch: WR Ryan Moore (6-4, 190, sr.), RB Zach Fulk (5-11, 175, sr.), OL Jared Whitcomb (6-4, 280, sr.), OL Seth Ebert (6-0, 240, sr.), LB Trevor Badertscher (5-9, 190, soph.) * Outlook: The Falcons had a historic season as they not only made their playoff debut but won a postseason game in the process.
“We had a great group of seniors that showed a lot of leadership,” head coach Tom Williams said. “For us to make the playoffs for the first time in school history and also get our first playoff win was pretty awesome.”
This year’s team returns nine overall starters but will be breaking in a new quarterback and faces heavy losses on both lines.
“We have some good young players coming, but some of them don’t have a whole lot of varsity experience,” Williams said. “So until they get out there and see the speed change from JV to varsity, it’ll be a learning process early on.” Lima Central Catholic (9-3)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players To Watch: QB Ty O’Connor (6-2 ½, 202, jr.), RB Taylor Royster (5-11, 230, sr.), FS Bubba Krieg (5-10, 160, sr.), WR/DB Rufus Johnson (5-10, 165, sr.), C Max Brodbeck (6-2, 240, sr.), OG Jeremy Tidd (6-0, 220, sr.), OT Anthony Kimbrough (6-2, 245, sr.), DL Sean Griesdorn (6-4, 250, jr.) * Outlook: The Thunderbirds had a disappointing season in 2008, posting a 5-5 record. But the 2009 squad bounced back to make the playoffs and reach the second round.
“We were pretty pleased with the progress we made last football season, especially with as many young kids as we played,” head coach Jerry Cooper said.
This year’s team returns seven starters on offense and six on defense, and the expectations are high again. O’Conner was second team All-Ohio last year, while Royster (25 varsity starts) has an offer from Air Force.
“We feel like there’s a good nucleus to build around,” Cooper said. “Our kids’ confidence level is up and positive. We obviously play a good schedule, but I think the components are all in place for us to have a real nice football season again.” Northwood (7-4) * Players To Watch: SS/RB Jake Pressley (6-2, 195, sr.), LB/RB Mike Prothero (5-10, 180, sr.), HB/LB Zack Bermejo (5-9, 177, sr.), DE/FB Corey Jones (6-1, 247, sr.), QB Erik Russell (5-10, 160, sr.), CB/SE John Romstadt (5-8, 145, sr.), MLB Nick Whitmore (6-0, 205, soph.), OL Matt Miller (5-9, 245, sr.), OL Tyler Johnson (5-10, 233, sr.), FS Ricky Hartley (6-0, 182, jr.) * Outlook: Northwood head coach Ken James knew coming into last season that his team might be in for some growing pains due to a small senior class, but things came together for a winning season.
“We were a little erratic week to week,” James said. “We got better as the year went on, but we were really young… We were typical of a young team where we were maybe a little erratic, but the other thing where were a little atypical I think is that we competed really hard. Even if things weren’t going well, we kept our heads about us and played hard.”
With nine starters back on offense and eight on defense, this year’s team will be expected to take things to the next level.
“The expectations will be high, but that’s pretty normal for us,” James said. “We’ve got starters back at 17 of 22 spots and everybody that touched the ball is back, so in that regard, we should have high expectations this year.” Sherwood Fairview (7-4)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players To Watch: QB Brock Mosier (5-11, 200, sr.), QB Luke Kuhn (6-2, 215, sr.), QB Brandon Mosier (5-10, 175, soph.), WR/KR/PR Willie Flannery (5-9, 170, sr.), C/MLB Kyle Trent (5-9, 180, sr.), WR/LB Jeffrey Timbrook (6-1, 190, soph.) * Outlook: After overcoming some issues with inexperience, the Apaches made their fourth consecutive playoff appearance in 2009.
“I think (the inexperience) really showed early in the season, but I thought my kids matured and played real well down the stretch,” head coach Dave Robinson said.
This year’s team will bring back eight starters as well as several others that saw playing time. But in order to keep their playoff streak alive, the Apaches will have to fight through some major challenges, including showdowns with Anna and Defiance Tinora in the first half of the season.
“We’re going to have a very tough first five weeks,” Robinson said. “Not that the rest of our schedule is easy, but that’s really going to tell the tale of our season.” KEEP AN EYE ON
* Ashland Crestview (9-2): The Cougars are coming off a playoff appearance but will be breaking in a new head coach in Chad Coffman. Coffman coached at Caldwell from 2005-07 and led the Redskins to back-to-back playoff berths. He spent last season at South Columbus (N.C.) HS. Junior RB Mason Minnich was all-district last season.
* Findlay Liberty-Benton (6-4): After reaching the state finals in 2008, Liberty-Benton lost star quarterback Aaron Craft to basketball as well as a talented group of seniors and went through a transition year as a result. This year’s team will look to start a new run of success.