Kettering Alter won its first football state title last season and are the early favorite in 2009 (Photo by Nick Falzerano)
Division IV received a facelift thanks to realignment. Gone are stalwarts Youngstown Mooney,
Steubenville, Akron SVSM, Coldwater, Cincinnati Wyoming, Waverly
and New Lexington. Defending state champion Kettering Alter, however, hasn’t
gone anywhere. The Knights captured their first football state title last
year after coming close in 2006 and are the favorites to repeat this season.
The defending Mid-Buckeye Conference champs will have their
hands full this season with a schedule that includes a Sept. 4 hosting of the
Heath Bulldogs, an Oct. 2 home date with Fredericktown and an Oct. 9 trip to
Utica. If the Johnnies can somehow manage that and avoid any other slip-ups,
they could be on their way to another preferential spot in the postseason
brackets as the final three games are against middling teams Danville, Howard
East Knox and Johnstown Northridge.
However, a return to the postseason wouldn’t have the same
feel as the Johnnies are no longer in Division V – they earned the 4-seed in
Region 19 last year – and instead have been dropped into perhaps the deepest
region in D-IV.
Still, it’s still understandable to be awed by
Johnstown-Monroe’s depth and assemblage of top-tier players, even after it lost
the likes of linebacker Kurt Sammons, free safety Josh McClellan and bulldozing
fullback Will Carter.
“We have some great leaders returning for this year,” said
Mike Carter, who is entering his eighth season as the head coach of the
Even with Will Carter departed, the running game should be
in good hands and on sturdy legs as Brad Couts returns from a season in which he
took 224 handoffs and netted 1,381 yards, and average of 6.2 yards per tote.
A first-team All-Central District performer last season,
Couts is the whole package. He is an honor student who also plays lacrosse and
is a workout warrior with a bench press of 355 pounds, a 40 time of 4.68 and a
FB/LB Scott Robinson should provide a dangerous change of
pace. He is a step quicker than Couts and gained 329 yards rushing on just 38
carries last season.
If you have to develop a new quarterback, why not start
with a cannon? That’s Riley Cannon, who made more of a name last year as a
defensive end with 48 tackles and two sacks.
Smart, versatile and athletic, OL-FB/DL-LB Reed Franklin
typifies this roster and also should be a playmaker on both sides of the ball.
There aren’t too many prospects in Division IV
who are on par with TE/DE Brad Harrah, a hulking youngster who already is
committed to play major college ball for Big East member Cincinnati.
“He had about 10 to 12 Division I offers,”
Marion Pleasant assistant coach Aaron Cook said. “He’s a 4.0 student and just a
great talent and we need to make sure he’s a big part of what we’re doing.”
Fortunately for the Spartans, that shouldn’t
be a problem since the quarterback is Kubbs, who will log his third year on the
varsity at Pleasant and for his father, 20-year head coach Chris Kubbs.
“Cory is a smart kid,” Cook said. “He’s a
coach’s son so he plays hard and with intelligence just like you’d expect. He
knows our offense inside and out.”
The younger Cory Kubbs, though, will be
stepping into the starting quarterback role for the first time now that the
fantastic career of Cody Harris is completed.
“He was all-state last year and broke every
school record we have for a quarterback,” Cook said.
Even with the change at quarterback and the
departure of three running talents and two-way stars in Cory Snyder, Kyle Beck
and Jake Lawrence, the Spartans aren’t likely to panic. In fact, it’s just not
in their nature.
Pleasant has won the Mid-Ohio Athletic
Conference 17 straight times and also has overcome opening-season, nail-biter
losses to St. Henry the last two seasons. The Spartans were nipped 14-13 at home
by St. Henry last August then ripped off nine convincing wins in a row to earn
the No. 3 seed in Region 14. The Spartans proceeded to take out Pemberville
Eastwood in the playoffs before losing 28-21 in overtime to Ottawa-Glandorf.
Three-tenths of a point. That’s what kept
Utica out of last year’s Region 15 playoffs.
What hurts more, though, is the 27-21 overtime
loss the Redskins suffered at Johnstown-Monroe on Oct. 3. That cost Utica the
Mid-Buckeye Conference title and the trimmings that would have come with it.
Still the seven-win season was an improvement
on the 5-5 mark of 2007 and the Redskins are intent to take the next step this
To do so, Utica will have to lean on several
unproven but talented players.
“We’re a team with a lot of questions,” head
coach Randy Felumlee said heading into his 21st season at the helm of the
program. “We have a relatively small, inexperienced team and we’ve got a lot of
holes to fill. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Utica showcased 15 seniors last season and
will have six this year.
Typically, Felumlee likes to rely most on his
defense but the Redskins lost seven starters on that side of the ball including
a pair of three-year starting linebackers in Ethan Brewer and Joey Caplin. Given
that and the team’s struggles last year at times to finish off drives, the
’Skins will look for even more out of QB/S Jason Hoar. He will have to carry the
offense early on until the coaching staff figures out how to fill the holes at
In just two years at Westfall, head coach
Scott Keller has put together an impressive 21-4 record with two Scioto Valley
Conference titles and two D-IV playoff berths. The trend should continue. Riding
an SVC record 26-game win streak, the Mustangs are the team to beat in the
conference – again. Westfall returns seven starters on defense and five on
“With 25 lettermen returning we expect to
field an experienced, veteran team,” Keller said. “This senior class is among
the hardest working and most disciplined that we’ve ever had here.”
Overall the program has been to the postseason
six straight years. It’s won the SVC three straight times.
The roster could be bolstered by an influx of
Grove City and Central Crossing players should that district’s levy fail on Aug.
“Our defense was young and very inexperienced
last year,” Keller said. “We really believe that with a year under their belt,
and 7 of them back on that unit, our defense should be our greatest strength.
“Offensively we need to find a quarterback
that can effectively manage a team. We really feel like we have enough weapons
surrounding that position, that what we’re looking for is a quarterback that can
protect the football and move the chains.”
Also Keep An Eye On
Columbus Bishop Hartley (6-4)
The Hawks rode speed and big plays to a playoff appearance last season, but then
found a tall order with a Week 11 assignment at top-seeded Martins Ferry. Even
so, they played valiantly in a 20-6 loss. Now the challenge is to get through a
varied schedule and find enough computer points to return to the postseason. The
Hawks actually won a seventh game last season, a 35-0 win over the Columbus
Crusaders, but that game did not count as an official OHSAA contest.
The Redskins have won a combined 16 games the last two seasons but were knocked
out of the first round of the Region 13 playoffs each year. However, the two
teams that vanquished them in the last two playoff appearances, Youngstown
Cardinal Mooney and Steubenville, are out of D-IV, which could pave the way for
Coshocton – and others, for that matter. Plus, the Redskins are now shifted to
Region 15, which appears to be wide open.
The Bulldogs return an impressive amount of talent and they already are
discussing finishing up strong after last year’s disappointing finish to the
regular season. Heath was enjoying a strong 7-1 start to the 2008 campaign
including a decisive Week 2 win over Johnstown-Monroe but derailed in losing to
Granville and Bexley in games 9 and 10. After just missing out on the D-V
playoffs, the Bulldogs will now try their luck in Division IV.
The Fighting Tigers are theoretically the top returning team in this region with
Martins Ferry shifted over to Region 13 and state semifinalist New Lexington now
in Division III. Longtime coach Bob Lutz led the Tigers to a 5-5 mark in 2007
after a one-year hiatus and is now primed to return his team to the spotlight.
Ironton took out Westfall before losing to New Lex at the end of last season.
Pomeroy Meigs (8-3)
A 42-14 first-round playoff loss to New Lexington shouldn’t bring down this
program and instead inspire the Marauders. Offense will be the name of the game
again. Meigs racked up more than 40 points five times last season and averaged
32.7 points per contest.
Portsmouth Portsmouth West (11-1)
The Senators posted an undefeated regular season, earned a top seed in Region 19
and won a playoff game before their season ended in a 17-0 loss in the regional
semis to Columbus Bishop Ready. Now the question is simple: Can they carry over
any of that success from Division V to D-IV?
The former state champion (1999, 2000) and five-time finalist has seen better
days. Since moving up to D-IV two years ago, the Aces are 9-11. In 2006, its
last season in D-V, A-C made the state semifinals and finished 12-2. Is this the
year the Aces return to the playoffs?
Sparta Highland (6-5)
The Scots are a transplant from Region 14 where they earned the eight seed last
year (lost to Fostoria in opening round). Overall Highland has been to the
playoffs three straight seasons. They’ll likely have to win more than six games
if they want to make it four in a row. Although Highland made the playoffs in
Region 14, their 11.95 points would have placed them 12th in Region 15.
The Redstreaks are led by standout senior Caleb Southworth, the No. 98 prospect
in the state according to Ohio High. Southworth, a 6-5, 210 pound,
linebacker/tight end has an offer from Central Michigan. He was also a starter
on Piketon’s basketball team, which made the D-III state semifinals in March.
Other Teams In The Region
(4-6), Caledonia River Valley (0-10), Bloom-Carroll (3-7), Cheshire River Valley
(3-7), Chillicothe Unioto (0-10), Chillicothe Zane Trace (5-5), Howard East Knox
(4-6), Ironton Rock Hill (0-10), Lancaster Fairfield Union (5-5), Marion Elgin
(3-7), McDermott Northwest (1-9), Portsmouth (1-9), Proctorville Fairland (4-5),
South Point (6-4), Wellston (4-6), Zanesville West Muskingum (4-6).
The Blue Devils lost seven starters on each
side of the ball but enough talent returns to Mike Hetrick’s squad for them to
be considered dangerous once again.
But does the ninth-year head coach consider
his team to be a contender?
“I probably couldn’t say we are,” Hetrick
said. “We might have the potential to sneak up on some people, though. Our JV
team was undefeated last year. I just don’t know how many of those kids can
really impact us right away.”
The Devils posted an undefeated regular season
in 2008 only to run into eventual state champ Kettering Alter in the first round
of the Region 16 playoffs. Now the rebuilding is underway.
Brookville should be fine at deep back as RB/S
Ryan Ekberg and RB/LB Jason Stone are primed for big senior seasons and RB/CB
Matt McIntosh also is capable of making plays on the ground. Ekberg gained 559
yards, averaged 5.4 per carry and found the end zone 10 times last season while
Stone put up 637 rushing yards, a stout average of 8.5 per pop and scored eight
times. Stone also used his speed to turn six receptions into 120 yards.
The QB situation, though, is still in flux.
When asked if he has a signal caller in mind for the season, Hetrick said, “Not
The Falcons had almost an identical season to
that of Brookville, plowing through the regular season unscathed but losing in
the first round of the Region 16 playoffs.
Clinton-Massie posted shutouts in three of its
first four games and also routed a very good Waynesville team to set the season
in motion. Falcon fans thought destiny lay ahead after C-M finished off Plain
City Jonathan Alder in Week 10.
However, heartbreak ensued in the form of a
33-27 overtime loss at home to Hamilton Badin.
“I think that’s definitely a motivator for
us,” said head coach Dan McSurley. “They were up 21 at half and we came back and
tied the game. Our quarterback got hurt and we had to play Jake (Richardson).
“It was a tough loss but is gave us an
opportunity to face an outstanding spread team and we got guys some really
valuable playoff experience, including our future quarterback.”
McSurley enters his 14th year at C-M with
eight starters back on defense and six on offense. The Falcons return some
serious size as RT Mike Stenger, LG James Ebby, C Paul Singleton and RG/DE Corby
Running are imposing getting off the bus, let alone in full pads and helmets.
With that core group returning, RB Jordie
Scanlon could surpass his production of last season, when he rambled for 1,300
yards on the ground.
Most teams will have major problems dealing
with C-M’s power rushing game but the hope in Clarksville is that the offense
will find even another gear with Richardson under center. He is slippery and
ideally suited to run Clinton-Massie’s triple option.
The two most impressive athletes on the team,
though, are Running and MLB Gunner Calhoun. Running is a state wrestling champ
and also anchors the 4x100 relay team. Calhoun has led the football team in
tackles the past two seasons and also is a star on the baseball diamond for the
Even though the Knights appeared due for a
championship, it’s doubtful any of their followers will ever forget the 2008
campaign, a most interesting season for the ages.
Alter had to forfeit its first two games of
the season against Kettering Fairmont and Bellbrook but wiped out the next eight
foes by an average score of 46-6. Then, behind superstar seniors – quarterback
Austin Boucher and running backs Chris Borland and Justin Hall – Alter proceeded
to plow through Region 16. The Knights dumped Coldwater in the third round and
eventually took down traditional power Steubenville in the Division IV state
championships at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
The 21-6 victory represented the program’s
first-ever football state title and was extra sweet factoring in that the
Knights were nipped by Big Red in the 2006 D-III state finals – not to mention
the 59-52 loss to Coldwater in triple-overtime in the 2007 regional
Of course, head coach Ed Domsitz wants his
team to repeat as winners of the Greater Catholic League North Division, but
there is good reason to believe the Knights can make another deep run in the
postseason with all the top players in tow.
Cody Taulbee appears capable of handling much
of the running chores, LB Cody Conley is the team’s leading tackler from a year
ago and s Cody Byers is a Division I college prospect with sub-4.6 speed and the
ability to make lots of plays in the secondary.
The defense is especially stout with OLB Chris
Bockrath and possibly Nolan Plate able to flank Conley and oxen like DE John
Doncaster and DT Andrew Bonnano up front.
The Spartans were outclassed by playoff teams Clarksville
Clinton-Massie and Dayton Oakwood but mopped up on everyone else on the
regular-season schedule to earn the third seed in Region 20. Once in the
postseason, Waynesville picked up the first playoff win on program history with
a 34-9 victory over West Liberty-Salem. The Spartans lost Maria Stein Marion
Local in the regional semifinals With some key performers back, the Spartans
could make the same kind of noise in D-IV.
Seth Millar is already the Waynesville career record holder
for rushing TDs (49) and this past season set school records for single season
rushing yards (1,856), TDs (24) and points (156). He also owns school records
for single game rushing yards (331) and TDs (6) and has the longest TD run in
history (95 yards).
Millar was named first team Southwestern Buckeye League and
was the Buckeye Division Back of the Year. He was also first team Southwest
District and the district’s offensive player of the year. Millar was honorable
mention on the ONN/Ohio High All-Ohio team (regardless of division) and first
team D-V All-Ohio.
The Spartans are expecting big things in 2009. In addition
to Millar, Waynesville returns QB/DB Cory Young, who’ll be a three-year starter.
Also Keep An Eye On
Cincinnati North College Hill (7-4)
The Trojans were bombed at the end of last
season by top-seeded Coldwater, 42-0, in the opening round of the Region 16
playoffs, but they return several key athletes from a team that was downright
explosive at times last season. NCH posted back-to-back shutouts in midseason
and blasted Lockland 33-7 in the regular-season finale. With 15 wins in the last
two seasons the Trojans can’t be counted out.
Coach Mike Mauk has another solid squad heading into this season. The Wildcats return nine starters on offense, including four lineman and standout sophomore QB Maty Mauk, the coach's son. The Wildcats will continue to use a five-wide attack. Defensively the Widlcats will be tough as well with six starters back.
Plain City Jonathan Alder (8-3)
For the second straight time, the Pioneers made the postseason with an 8-2
regular season and promptly lost in the first round. Last year it was a 12-10
defeat at the hands of Dayton Oakwood, which unseated the fourth-ranked team in
the region. Coach Steve Coate has a chance to one-up the recent trend,
especially with powerful Coldwater out of the region.
Germantown Valley View (7-4)
The Spartans were edged in their final two regular-season games last October by
Eaton and Brookville but still qualified for the Region 12 playoffs in Division
III. The postseason didn’t go so well, however, as Valley View lost 48-19 to
Columbus Eastmoor Academy. Head coach Jay Niswonger and the program own a
lengthy resume that includes three state titles (1994, 1996-97) and 15 playoff
Other Teams In The Region
Clermont Northeastern (3-7), Blanchester (4-6), Preble Shawnee (1-8), Carlisle
(5-5), Finneytown (4-6), Cincinnati Madeira (6-4), Cincinnati Purcell Marian
(1-9), Cincinnati Schroeder (4-6), Cincinnati Taft (6-4), Dayton Northridge
(4-6), Dayton Thurgood Marshall (2-8), Franklin Bishop Fenwick (3-7), Lewistown
Indian Lake (5-5), Lima Bath (2-8), London (6-4), London Madison Plains (4-6),
Middletown Madison Senior (5-5), Reading (5-5), Springfield Northeastern (2-8),
Springfield Northwestern (1-9), West Milton Milton-Union (3-7).