After winning its eighth state title in 2007, Newark Catholic has missed
the postseason with back-to-back 6-4 seasons. As always, though, NC has
to be considered a contender in the region. Who else is? And can they stop the Green Wave?
Grove City Christian (12-2) * Players to Watch – TE/DE Dylan Blythe (6-6, 240, Sr.); OL/DL Zach Casparro (6-5, 235, Jr.); LB/C Kevin Williams (6-0, 215, Sr.); DB/QB Ben Whitaker (6-3, 185, Jr.) * Outlook – The Eagles broke through for their first playoff berth, playoff win and regional title last year en route to the state semifinals. A fifth year program, GCC must replace 17 seniors but the cupboard isn’t bare. Blythe is a legit D-I prospect on both sides of the ball. Last year he had had 50 tackles (two sacks). Heading into the season the Eagles roster numbers just around 20 so depth is an issue. The Eagles will also have a new head coach this year as previous defensive coordinator Kerry Owens, who has been with the program since inception, takes over. Columbiana (8-3) * Players to Watch – QB Austin Barbato (6-0, 160, Jr.); OL/DL Matt Douglass (6-3, 255, Sr.); OL Tyler Boykin (6-1, 250, Sr.); DL Jake Yoder (6-5, 240, Sr.); RB/LB Nick Roncone (Sr.); LB Jeff Davidson (Sr.) * Outlook – Columbiana’s first season in Region 23 was good and bad. The Clippers – who were previously in Region 21 – made the playoffs for the fifth straight year but exited in the first round with a home loss to Shadyside. Head coach Bob Spaite (117-56 in 16 years at Columbiana) has seven starters back on offense and six on defense. Offensively, the OL is a strength as is depth at running back and the return of Barbato at quarterback. Glouster Trimble (6-4) * Players to Watch – RB Tyler Dyla (5-9, 175, Sr.); LB Johnny Stobart (5-11, 205, Sr.) * Outlook – When Dyla graduates from Trimble High School, he’ll go down as the program’s best player ever. A two-time All-Ohioan, Southeast District Offensive POY and Tri-Valley Conference POY, Dyla needs just 256 yards to become the program’s all-time career rushing leader. He may get that in Week 1. The last two years, Dyla has rushed for 3,003 yards and 33 TDs. Head coach Phil Faires enters his 16th season at the school as the program’s all-time leader in wins (111-55). Under Faires’ guidance, the Tomcats have won nine of their 15 league titles. Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans (8-3) * Players to Watch – DB Austin Craig (6-1, 170, Jr.); WR Zack Hill (6-4, 225, Jr.); DL Aaron Perry (6-6, 250, Jr.) * Outlook – The Bishops have been to two straight postseasons but have been bounced in the first round both times. This season could be different. Rosecrans has a ton of talent back, including Craig, who earned All-Ohio honors. Bridgeport (10-2)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players to Watch – RB Chris Smelley (6-1, 225, Sr.); LB Curt Smelley (6-1, 225, Sr.); QB Cole Smelley (6-0, 185, Jr.) * Outlook – The Bulldogs followed up a 6-5 season in 2008 with another playoff run and postseason win (over Tuscarawas Central Catholic). This year Bridgeport could go even deeper into November. The Bulldogs will be led by the Smelley brothers who accounted for seven TDs in the postseason win over TCC. Chris and Curt Smelley are four-year starters, while Cole is back for his third year under center. Leetonia (5-5)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players to Watch – FB/LB Devan Miller (6-1, 210, Sr.); RB/SS Seth McNally (5-9, 185, Sr.); QB Lance Tullis (6-0, 170, Sr.) * Outlook – After two straight playoff berths, the Bears dropped their last four games last year to finish .500. If Leetonia can stay healthy it will be back in the playoffs. Tullis became the first Leetonia QB since 1998 to throw for over 1,000 yards. McNally (101 tackles) and Miller (92 tackles) are defensive standouts. Newark Catholic (6-4) * Players to Watch – RB/LB Britt Wilder (5-11, 180, Sr.); TE/LB Michael Lewis (6-4, 195, Sr.); OG/DE Ted Oyler (6-2, 200, Sr.); DL Zach Shane (6-3, 220, Sr.); OL Aaron Price (6-4, 230, Sr.) * Outlook – After winning its eighth state title in 2007, the Green Wave has missed the postseason with back-to-back 6-4 seasons. As always, though, NC has to be considered a contender in the region. Shane was All-Ohio, while Wilder rushed for 517 yards and 10 TDs last year. KEEP AN EYE ON
* Malvern (11-2) – The Hornets have made the last two regional finals but getting back to a third will be hard. Head coach Dave Tucci (79-41 record at Malvern, 109-61 overall) enters his 11th season at Malvern, having led the Hornets to five of their six playoff appearances, including three straight. * Danville (2-8) – The Blue Devils, who own 11 playoff appearances in history, had an uncharacteristic season last year. Junior RB Heath Buckingham (6-1, 185) returns to try to right the ship. * Lancaster Fisher Catholic (4-6) – After five straight playoff appearances, the Irish have gone 11-19 since 2007. ILB Joe McGee (6-2, 200, Sr.) and QB Devin Messerly (6-1, 185, Sr.) return. * Hannibal River (2-8) – The Pilots took a step backward last year after a stellar run from 2007-2008 that produced 22 wins and two playoff trips, including the regional finals in ’08. Unlike years past where defense was the team’s strength, the Pilots went from allowing just eight points a game in 2008 to 32.7 per game last year. The schedule makers didn’t help out the Pilots either as eight of their opponents finished with winning records. * Reedsville Eastern (6-4) – Looking for a sleeper? Here they are. The Eagles are looking for their third playoff appearance overall and first since 2001 and they have the talent to get there. Eastern returns a talented backfield in QB Brayden Pratt (5-11, 180, Sr.) and RB Klint Connery (5-8, 160, Sr.). Both were first team all-district.Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Willow Wood Symmes Valley (8-3) – The Vikings reached the postseason for the first time since 2005 last year but were bounced in the first round. Senior QB Evan Herrell (5-11, 170) returns as does senior LB Hunter Boggs (6-4, 210). Both were first team all-district. * New Matamoras Frontier (7-3) – The Cougars made a five game improvement from 2008 (when they were 2-8), but it wasn’t enough to get them in the postseason (finished ninth in computer points). Frontier has another solid shot at making the playoffs this year with the return of QB Corey Fickiesen (6-3, 175, Sr.) and RB Reid Tilton (5-10, 194, Sr.). * New Philadelphia Tuscarawas Central Catholic (5-5) – The Saints made their first trip to the postseason last year. Senior OL Nick Natloi (6-0, 215) returns. * Strasburg-Franklin (0-10) – After an 0-10 season in 2007, the Tigers improved to 2-8. Look for further improvement this year with the return of RB Hunter Schneiter (5-11, 170, Jr.) and DB Austin Hostetler (6-2, 165, Sr.). * Beallsville (5-5) – Blue Devils are 40-10 in the regular season the last five years, but just 1-4 in the playoffs over that span. Head coach Dave Caldwell enters his 28th season with 184 wins. Senior RB Logan Groves (5-11, 170) returns.Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Shadyside (6-6) – The Tigers have been to the playoffs nine times in the last 10 years and were state runner-up in 2006. Head coach Mark Holenka returns for his second season as head coach after nine as the defensive coordinator.