Last season Columbus Marion-Franklin and Columbus Brookhaven shocked quite a few people by reaching the regional final. This season the shock wouldn't be as great if that tandem makes it back. There are several other regional powers though who have their own goal of making the Elite Eight.
Columbus Brookhaven (10-3)Become
this school's Quarterspondent * Players To Watch – QB Tajuan Green (6-0, 175, Jr.), RB Donivan Lipsey (5-9, 175, Sr.), OLB Frank Marsh (6-1, 215, Sr.), OL/DL Corey Marshall (6-0, 220, Sr.), OL/DL Antonio Johnson (6-0, 220, Sr.). * Outlook – The Bearcats moved down from Division I last year and qualified for the playoffs with the No. 3 seed in this region. They defeated Columbus Walnut Ridge (27-20) and Logan (21-10) before falling to Columbus Marion-Franklin in the regional finals (31-24).
This season, head coach Anthony Thornton welcomes back a talented group that should be in the hunt for a deep postseason run.
“Our goals always stay the same,” Thornton said. “We want to get to the playoffs with a state title on our minds. We have to start off in the right direction though. We have to win our home games and win our league to give ourselves a chance at the big dance.
“I feel good about the guys we have coming back. We did have a couple kids come up academically ineligible which I’m still upset about, but that’s how it goes. We will be pretty skilled this year. Our quarterback, running back and offensive line should be the strength of the team. Our D-line should be pretty good too.
“We have good athleticism all around our offensive line. We’ve been missing that athleticism up front the last two years even though we made it to the playoffs. This year, we have big kids that can move and run and they are smart football players. We have a lot of high-football-IQ players on this team.” Columbus Marion-Franklin (11-3) * Players To Watch – RB Paul Harris (6-0, 185, Sr.), WR/CB Jeremy McCoy (6-2, 195, Sr.), WR Nate Spears (6-5, 200, Sr.), TE/OLB Devante Strickland (6-2, 220, Sr.), RB/CB Chad Jones (5-7, 155, Sr.), RB Amir Robinson (5-10, 190, Sr.), ILB Julian Blakey (5-10, 220, Sr.), DE Rashawn Thorpe (6-1, 215, Sr.), DE Devante Taylor (6-3, 200, Sr.) * Outlook – The Red Devils snuck into the playoffs last year with the No. 8 seed in this region, and then caught fire and marched their way to a regional title. They beat top-seeded Louisville on the road (14-7), then took down fourth-seeded Olentangy Orange (36-25) and then defeated Columbus Brookhaven (31-24). No, they didn’t exactly give eventual state champ Cincinnati Winton Woods a good game in the state semifinals (losing 69-35) but it was still a special season.
This year, Marion-Franklin must do without its star player from last year – QB/S Verlon Reed who now plays for Ohio State. However, there is still an abundance of talent for head coach Brian Haffele.
Harris is ranked as the No. 9 RB in the state by Ohio High/Scouting Ohio and has blazing speed (4.35 in the 40). McCoy is ranked as the No. 17 WR in the state. Spears is ranked as the No. 22 WR in the state. Strickland – who had 4.58 speed – is ranked as one of the top 20 tight ends in the state and as one of the top 20 outside linebackers.
The Red Devils are still not sure who their starting quarterback will be.
“That is what summer camp is about,” he said. “It’s probably between two kids: Cameron Harris (6-1, 175, Sr.) who played wide receiver for us last year, and Corey Benson (5-10, 190, So.) who was our JV quarterback last year.”
As for the strength of the team this year, Haffele says: “We use a three-running back system and we feel good about all those guys. Also, the core of our defense is back. We have eight starters back on that side of the ball.”
Yes, 2009 will not be soon forgotten, but the Red Devils would like to go even further this year.
“Last season was thrilling,” Haffele said. “Everyone was disappointed how we performed in week 14 – we kind of ran into a buzz-saw in Winton Woods. It was a really good ride and the kids really bought in and gelled together and played well.
“Now that our kids have tasted winning in the playoffs, they want to go all the way to week 15.” Logan (11-1) * Players To Watch – OT/DT Tim King (6-1, 240, Sr.), NG Nathan Chandler (6-2, 225, Sr.), QB/DB Jordan Jurgensmier (6-1, 170, Sr.), RB/LB Dylan Cavinee (5-11, 170, Sr.) * Outlook – The Chieftains were the No. 2 seed in the Region 7 playoffs last year. They won their first-round game at home (30-7 over Canal Winchester) but bowed out in the following round against Columbus Brookhaven (21-10) which turned out to be long-time head coach Dale Amyx’s final game. He retired after the season and has been replaced by Kelly Wolfe.
King is ranked as the No. 41 DT in the state by Scouting Ohio and will be entering his third season in the starting lineup. Chandler is the only other returning starter on the team.
“This will probably be a rebuilding season for us,” Wolfe said. “We lost 10 starters on offense and nine on defense. However, everyone is excited about a great bunch of seniors. All the players are working hard. Expectations are high and we should have lots of enthusiasm come the start of the season.”
Jurgensmier takes over for the graduated Pat Angle at quarterback and he saw some duty as a backup last year (11-for-20, 189 yards, one touchdown through the air; 20 carries, 103 yards and two scores on the ground).
Cavinee will be the bell-cow running back this season and he was solid as a reserve last year when he had 19 carries for 191 yards and a TD. Louisville (10-1) * Players To Watch – WR/LB Michael Schooley (6-1, 190, Sr.), RB/DB Mitch Sluss (6-0, 180, Sr.), K/P Jaron Lohmeyer (5-8, 170, Sr.), QB Chad Neff (6-2, 190, Jr.), QB Toby Minster (6-3, 185, Sr.), RB/DB Lucas Poyser (5-8, 165, Jr.), WR/DB Jeremy White (6-1, 170, Jr.) * Outlook – The Leopards are usually one of the premier teams in the state, but this could be a bit of a rebuilding year. Former head coach Paul Farrah – who amassed a 94-26 record in 10 seasons – resigned in April. He was replaced by John DeMarco who was Louisville’s offensive coordinator the past decade.
“I’m very thankful to Coach Farrah for bringing me to Louisville,” DeMarco told the Canton Repository. “I would like to sustain what we’ve done, and build on what we’ve accomplished the last 10 years. I’m proud of our record and proud of what we’ve put on the field.”
Last year, the Leopards entered the playoffs with the No. 1 seed in Region 7, but were upset in the first round at home by eventual regional champion Columbus Marion-Franklin (14-7).
Louisville will open a new stadium this season with a capacity of 5,875 and a playing surface of FieldTurf. However, they must replace several key players lost to graduation, including quarterback Bob Swigert (Boston College) and all five offensive linemen. But the cupboard is far from bare. Schooley is ranked as the No. 47 OLB in the state by Ohio High/Scouting Ohio, Sluss is ranked as one of the top 60 “athletes” in the state and Lohmeyer is ranked as the No. 6 kicker in the state. At quarterback, Neff and Minster got playing time last year when Swigert was injured. KEEP AN EYE ON
* Columbus Walnut Ridge (8-3) – The Scots continue to get better each season and last year they made the playoffs with the No. 6 seed in this region (and gave Brookhaven a good 27-20 game in the first round). Senior TE/DE Austin Traylor (6-4, 211) is one of the state’s top recruits. He has 21 offers including Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan state, Arizona, Colorado and West Virginia.Become
this school's Quarterspondent
* Dresden Tri-Valley (9-2) – The Scotties were the No. 5 seed in this region last year, but bowed out in the first round of the playoffs against Olentangy Orange in a close game (28-21). Two years ago, Tri-Valley narrowly missed out on the playoffs with a 7-3 record.
* Dublin Scioto (5-5) – The Irish have underachieved the past two seasons when they didn’t make the playoffs, but they always have talent. This year’s team is led by Drew Weissling (6-5, 195, Sr.) who is ranked as one of the state’s top 40 QB prospects by Scouting Ohio. Scioto also has a talented player in Tervon Moore (6-0, 160, Sr.) who is ranked as the No. 13 CB in the state.
* Olentangy Orange (9-3) – In just their second-season of existence, the Pioneers made the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in Region 7. They defeated Dresden Tri-Valley 28-21 in the first round and then lost 36-25 to Columbus Marion-Franklin. Orange is led by QB Jared Leet (6-3, 180, Sr.) – who is ranked as one of the state’s top 40 seniors at his position – as well as RB Blake Joe (5-10, 175, Sr.) who is ranked as one of the top 40 players at his position in the state.