By Eric Frantz, Managing Editor Posted Jul 9, 2007
Marion Local 2006 State Champs
Today we kickoff our six-week long Ohio high school football 2007 season preview.
For six weeks leading up to the kickoff of the 2007 season, beginning today, we will be previewing the Ohio high school football season Division-by-Division (approximately 100-120 teams) with everything you need to know about the upcoming season. Read on for more.
It’s time to strap on those pads, lace up those cleats and snap those helmets on for the official JJHuddle/Ohio High 2007 football season preview!
For six weeks leading up to the kickoff of the 2007 season, beginning today, we will be previewing the Ohio high school football season Division-by-Division with everything you need to know about the upcoming season.
After working exhaustively since April interviewing coaches, players and conducting hours upon hours of research, we will present a general overview to start each Division, beginning today with Division VI, and will preview 4-5 teams per day.
Each week, we will post the Division overview on Monday, beginning with Division VI. The Division overviews will include the “ Top Teams to Watch” this season, as well as 12-15 teams to “Also Keep an Eye On.” Following each Division overview, we will feature 4-5 teams per day from the “Top Teams to Watch” until we move on to the next Division.
So, over the course of the next six weeks, we will have all the information the Huddle Nation needs to get ready for the 2007 Ohio high school football season.
Let's begin with Division VI...
Since its inception in 1994, Division VI has been dominated by two entities: The Midwest Athletic Conference and Region 24. The MAC has claimed nine of the 13 D-VI titles, while the Region 24 winner has played in the title game every year.
Times are changing.
With the new realignment, longtime D-VI standout and defending state champion Maria Stein Marion Local (below) is now in D-V. Region 24’s other heavyweights – Delphos St. John’s and Dola Hardin Northern – are now in Region 22.
What does that mean? The power has shifted.
This season, Region 21 takes the reigns as the state’s strongest with traditional powers Norwalk St. Paul (three-time runner-up), Mogadore (two state titles), Warren JFK (2006 D-V state runner-up), Bascom Hopewell-Loudon and Columbiana in the mix. Region 22 (Ada, Delphos St. John’s and Dola Hardin Northern) and Region 23 (Lancaster Fisher Catholic, Steubenville Central Catholic, Newark Catholic, Shadyside, Danville and Beallsville) have their own gauntlets.
Which leaves Region 24. Is this the year Mechanicsburg or Springfield Central Catholic breaks through? Or will it be the same old story with a new face? MAC members Minster, New Bremen and Fort Recovery remain.
“The region changes this year are great for us,” Minster coach Eric Belcher said. “It should make things a lot easier for us and other teams in our region if we are able to get to the playoffs.”
Ada wrapped a successful season last year by making the school’s second trip to the playoffs. The Bulldogs are poised to take a bigger bite out of the postseason this year. Led by senior QB Zac Dysert – arguably the state’s top QB prospect – and a returning receiving core that accounted for 27 TDs, Ada is a legitimate challenger in not only Region 22 but for a state title. Dysert, who threw for 3,832 yards and 31 TDs last year en route to earning state player of the year honors. Sophomore Heath Jackson was first-team All-Ohio as a freshman after catching 123 passes for 1,475 yards and seven TDs.
The Blue Devils finished with the school’s third undefeated regular season last year before bowing out in the regional semifinals to Shadyside. A regional finalist in 1994, Beallsville will look to earn its sixth postseason berth and third in a row. Head coach Dave Caldwell enters his 25th season with 160 wins and 17 league titles.
The Clippers are coming off back-to-back appearances in the regional final, but face this season with some rebuilding at hand. A small senior class (eight) and no returning receivers with varsity experience are concerns. Regardless, head coach Bob Spaite likes his team’s potential.
“We knew this was coming, and the kids have been prepared for this year,” Spaite said. “The good news is this is the hardest working group we’ve ever had here. I’m really impressed with that.”
The Blue Jays have missed the playoffs two of the last three years, but in 2006 St. John’s won its fourth state title. Seniors Tony Reindel (RB/LB) and Tyler Kroeger (TE/LB) star on both sides of the ball and will be counted upon – along with the rest of the senior class – to carry the load while newcomers mature. The Blue Jays’ MAC schedule is littered with danger, but if DSJ makes the postseason it could reach the mountaintop.
The Polar Bears have been one of the state’s elite D-VI teams for the past 14 years. Over that span, they’ve been to the playoffs 12 times, have won at least nine games 13 times and have won at least 10 games for six straight years. Head coach Pete Brunow enters his 24th season with a 210-51 record. Under Brunow’s control, Hardin Northern has never had a losing season. This year should be no different.
The Polar Bears return all-everything running back Nathan Bame, a first team All-Ohio pick last season after rushing for 1,733 yards and 29 TDs.
Fort Loramie enters its third varsity season with the hopes of earning its first playoff berth. The Redskins were on the verge last year, finishing ninth in Region 24. A revamped schedule waits. The Redskins face D-VI powers Minster, Ada and Lehman Catholic. They also have games against D-II teams Dayton Belmont and Canton Timken. Loramie’s backfield is seasoned.
The Irish have been to the playoffs four years in a row and look to make it five under first-year coach Mike McCann. McCann, Fisher’s defensive coordinator the last four years, takes over for Mike Burkhardt who left for Carroll Bloom-Carroll, a team the Irish play in Week 2. Also gone is first-team All-Ohio back Peter Tobin and lineman Andrew Maynard.
It’s hard to gauge how good the Wildcats are because they play in the MAC, where a four-win season could translate into an eight-win campaign in another league. Consider, Minster’s six losses last season were to: Versailles, Coldwater, St. Henry, Marion Local, Delphos St. John’s and Anna. Minster hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001, but that could end should it beat a couple of those heavyweights.
The Wildcats continue to build on a tradition that has produced 20 playoff appearances (eight straight) and three state titles. Mogadore made the state semifinals last season and is primed for another deep run. Everything with the Wildcats begins with senior running back Cody Destro, a devastating runner with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Last year the second team All-Ohio selection logged 24 TDs.
The Flyers enter season with potential to reach fourth state title game in school history and first since 2004. Denied in its last three attempts in Stark County, this may be St. Paul’s year. Injuries hampered the Flyers last year and resulted in a 1-3 start. The positive was plenty of young players got experience. Most all of them – nine starters on each side of the ball – return.
The Tigers made their first D-VI state title game last season before bowing out to Marion Local (17-0). Although graduation took its toll, including standout RB/LB Taylor Jovicic, Shadyside returns plenty of punch for another deep playoff run, including standout senior QB Billy Merryman.
The Cavaliers started 0-3 last season before reeling off six straight wins and earning a playoff berth. Other than the loss of four offensive starters, Lehman returns the majority of its talent. The Cavs were state semifinalists in 2001 and should challenge for that plateau again. Returning for the Cavaliers’ Wing-T offense, which averaged over 25 points per game, is all-everything fullback Dan Jacob. Last year, the senior led the team in rushing with close to 1,700 yards. He piled up a team-best 330 yards receiving, as well as scoring 25 TDs.
*Each of these teams will be featured in-depth, detailed information about returning players, the coach's thoughts on the season and schedule information.
Berlin Center Western Reserve (9-3)
The Devils made the postseason for second time in history last year. Two of their three losses last season were to Columbiana. Senior Bill Jawhari (P) returns after earning All-Ohio honors. Key is replacing QB and district POY Brandon Moherman.
Columbus Grove (7-5)
The Bulldogs have been in the postseason seven of the last eight years and won it all in 2003. Started 1-4 last season before winning six straight en route to regional semifinals.
Head coach David Miller inherits a program that’s been to the playoffs seven times in eight years. Buccs lose standout QB Gene Studebaker, but as Miller says, “At a place like Covington they expect you to be good every year. I know they graduate a good senior class this year, which is possibly one of the best classes in school history, so replacing them will be a challenge, but the underclassmen here expect to be good as well. The cupboard is not bare by any means.”
The Blue Devils, a regional finalist last season, are looking for their eighth playoff appearance in 10 years. One factor for the Devils will be replacing three key lineman, all of whom were All-Ohio (two first team, one second) last year. Senior RB B.T. Staats (5-11, 210) and junior Gatlin Ridgeway (6-0, 185) return after earning first-team Mid-Buckeye Conference honors. Staats rushed for 832 yards and eight TDs a year ago, while Ridgeway (who was HM All-Ohio) tallied 768 and five, respectively. Defensively, Danville allowed 9.8 points per game last year and pitched four shutouts.
The Pilots drop down to D-VI after a lengthy postseason run in D-V last season. Ayersville beat Bucyrus Wynford and Sherwood Fairview before falling to Findlay Liberty-Benton in the regional final.
Glouster Trimble (7-3)
After a two-year stint in D-V, the Tomcats are happy to be back in state’s smallest division. Trimble finished 7-3 last year and 9-1 in 2005 but missed the postseason both times. Since 2001, the Tomcats are 50-12 overall with two D-VI playoff berths (2003, 2004) and four 9-1 regular seasons. Twice Trimble finished ninth in its respective region.
Lafayette Allen East (9-3)
The Mustangs drop down a division after going to the D-V postseason last year. Standout running back Blaine Schmitt (5-7, 170) returns after tallying 1,970 yards and 17 TDs in nine regular season games.
There were six trips to playoffs in last eight years for Panthers. Last year lost to only Hardin Northern, Liberty-Benton and Norwalk St. Paul.
The Blue Devils are coming off the school’s first trip to playoffs since 2000. They will be looking to rekindle tradition that has led to two state finals (1994, 1989) and nine postseason trips. Senior QB Matt Krumpak (HM All-Ohio) is back.
The Indians conquered one hurdle last year in beating Dola Hardin Northern in the regional semifinals. Then they tripped over another, losing to Marion Local in the first regional final in school history. First-year head coach Chris Kosiorek (former defensive coordinator at Twinsburg) inherits a program that’s made the playoffs seven times in the last eight years.
The Eagles are aiming for their sixth straight playoff berth.
North Lewisburg Triad (7-4)
The Cardinals have emerged as a player in the tough Ohio Heritage Conference. Last season, Triad made the second playoff appearance in school history, falling to Champaign County rival Mechanicsburg in the first round.
Newark Catholic (5-6)
As Fisher Catholic coach Mike McCann put it: “Newark Catholic is Newark Catholic. Whether they are 10-0 or 5-5 they are someone you have to respect. You always have to contend with them.” The Green Wave has made 29 playoff appearances (10 straight) and boasts seven state titles.
South Gallia (8-3)
TheRebels are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, which are only two in school history. They are still looking for their first playoff win.
Springfield Catholic Central (10-2)
Head coach Steve DeWitt starts his 30th season in Springfield with one of the state’s top small-school players. Senior Brian Wagner earned All-Ohio honors last year after registering 116 tackles (14 for loss) at LB. As the featured back, he also rushed for 1,492 yards and 17 TDs. SCC has been to the playoffs four straight times and has gone 1-1 each trip.
Steubenville Catholic Central (5-5)
A year removed from the D-VI state title game, SCC failed to make the postseason. The Crusaders, a newcomer to Region 23, are looking to get back to the playoffs.
Thompson Ledgemont (8-3)
The Redskins are coming off back-to-back trips to the playoffs. Senior running back Andy Humar (5-10, 190) returns after earning second-team All-Ohio honors.