2013 Record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 OHC
Head Coach: Kurt Forrest (5th season)
Preview: The 2014 Mechanicsburg Indians are looking to better their historical 2013 season, when they qualified for the State Semifinals for the first time in school history. The good news for the Indians is; there are a lot of tools in place to do just that.
Mechanicsburg returns 6 players in their multiple set offense (which predominately run out of a spread formation or an I-formation), including standout running back Aeryton Erwin (2,193 rushing yards and 29 TDs) and Sophomore quarterback Kaleb Romero (1,100 passing yards, 888 rushing yards and 21 total TDs). “With a lot of returners back off last year’s Regional Championship team, the expectations are very high,” stated head coach Kurt Forrest. Romero is a talented athlete (state champion wrestler) with strength, mobility and an accurate arm. When he’s not handing the ball off to Erwin or tucking and running himself, he will look to Tim Rader and Joe Ziegler as his primary receiving targets.
The Indians should be electric on offense once again after scoring the second most points overall in the conference a season ago. Erwin and Romero will look to better their combined 4,000+ yards and 50 combined TDs. To put that number into perspective, Erwin and Romero’s 50 TDs a season ago were more than half of the OHC teams scored as a team.
Defensively, the Indians also return 6 starters to their 4-2-5 defense. The defensive unit ranked 3rd a season ago in the OHC, but with a unit anchored behind defensive tackle Brandon Woodruff (2nd team All-OHC a season ago), the Indians look to improve upon that stat. “The biggest keys to our success will be how fast our team matures and handles adversity when things aren’t going smooth,” said Forrest. “If we come together as one and fight like crazy for each other, this group has a lot of potential.”
The Indians lost some solid talent last year, including All-OHC members Brandon Purk, Tyler Lauchard, Grant Marshall and Jim Gano; but the core that returns has the entire village of Mechanicsburg buzzing heading into the fall. “If the kids continue to sacrifice for each other and play as one, then we believe that we should be able to compete at a very high level every Friday night,” said Forrest.
Coach Forrest sees Greeneview and West Liberty-Salem as the two biggest threats at beating the Indians for the OHC title in 2014, but he also sees his Mechanicsburg Indians as one of the front-runners. With 12 returning starters, a majority of the offensive production and the return of that “rock ‘em” swagger, there is no reason to believe otherwise. Mechanicsburg opens their season at Division 5 State Semifinalist West Jefferson, whom the Indians lost to 21-6 last season.
2013 Record: 1-9 overall, 1-6 OHC
Head Coach: Greg Bonifay (8th season)
Preview: The Southeastern Trojans are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 season, in which they only won one game. With 14 returning starters, there is little doubt that the Trojans will improve upon last season’s mark. “We played a lot of younger kids last year,” said veteran head coach Greg Bonifay. “Our staff is looking for this experience to pay off in 2014.”
Southeastern returns 6 starters to the “spread” offense. Ben Miller will take snaps at quarterback this season, with Kyle Rowe joining him in the backfield. Gabe Xavathone, Trever King and Austin Spears will all line-up as receivers, giving the Miller some dynamic targets. The offensive line returns Masen Severt and Luke South. The Trojan offense only averaged 14.4 points per game a season ago, but with their current experience and talent, that number should be much higher this season. “The kids worked hard this summer and we are excited to see this hard work pay off,” added Bonifay.
Defensively, the Trojans are in even better shape as 8 starters return. Linebacker Rowe and defensive back Miller will lead the way. With 4 returning members of the secondary, Southeastern will be extremely tough in stopping the pass. Lining up in a 4-2 base defensive formation, both Severt and South return on the defensive line giving the Trojans a solid nucleus to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks and stop the run.
While the Trojans lost all 3 of their All-OHC footballers from a season ago, their strength is in returning starters. 14 returning starters is a huge number at the high school level, and while Southeastern is still a young team; they should be mature for their age because of that experience.
Health and maturity are two things that Coach Bonifay note are pertinent to the success of the 2014 Trojans. “We have to stay healthy and get better every day,” said Bonifay, adding, “Again this season we will have some young players getting time, and how fast they mature will play a large role in the success we have.”
Experience, talent and a positive attitude; three things that are essential to the success of any football team and three attributes that the Trojans are able to call “strengths.” While 2013 was a bit of a disappointment, 2014 should be as much of an improvement. Look for Southeastern to battle all season long and continue to mature and grow into a very good football team. The Trojans open up their 2014 campaign at home against Northwestern, whom Southeastern fell 28-27 to a season ago.
2013 Record: 12-1 overall, 8-0 OHC
Head Coach: Payton Printz (14th season)
Preview: What a year it was for Triad a season ago. The Cardinals completed their only undefeated regular season in school history, won their first “outright” OHC championship and advanced further into the playoffs, the Regional Finals, than they ever had before. Fast forward to 2014 and the Cardinals again have high expectations, despite some early setbacks.
The Cardinal offense was electric a season ago, averaging 34.2 points per game. Gone are the likes of standout Tre McIntyre and Doug Lowe; but there is still artillery in the arsenal. Triad will once again be operating out of the “spread” offense. The Cardinals lose 7 offensive starters; and to start the season, the bad news is they are down an 8th. Standout Junior quarterback Trent McIntyre, who amassed 2,137 passing yards and rushed for 800 yards (37 combined TDs) is out indefinitely with a leg injury. Scottie Instine will take over as quarterback during McIntyre’s absence with Chaz Adams (770 rushing yards) joining him in the backfield. Instine, who primarily played on the offensive line last season, is a good athlete and should be able to fill the void until McIntyre is ready to go.
Injuries have plagued the Cardinals the last couple of seasons, and the early season blow of losing their quarterback already has the Cardinal coaching staff switching things up. Head Coach Payton Printz realizes that staying healthy this season is going to be key. “We must stay healthy,” said Printz, “depth at some positions is a concern.”
While the offense has taken some hits, the Cardinal defense is poised for a great season. Triad returns 8 defensive starters from a squad that only gave up 12.6 points per game, the top average in the OHC a season ago. Operating out of a 4-3 multiple formation, the Cardinals return the team’s leading tackler, Adams, who amassed 106 tackles from his linebacker position. The defensive line is also poised to be a monster, returning big man Colton Coil. Instine, who started on the defensive line a season ago, will make the move to linebacker to join Adams.
Coach Printz, who has had to handle as much adversity (from injuries) as any coach in the OHC recently, is taking the 2014 one day at a time. “Our expectations are to get better each and every day,” said Printz. “If we accomplish this, then we should be in a good position to achieve our team goals.” And that #1 goal? “First and foremost, we will try to defend our 2013 OHC title,” added Printz.
The Cardinals coaching staff see themselves as the team to beat in the league this season, and there is no reason to believe otherwise. Until the Cardinals get beat, they’re the champs and should be treated as so. Printz sees Mechanicsburg, West Liberty-Salem and Greeneview as the other top contenders in the league this season.
The keys to success in 2014 are simple for the Cardinals, and the same keys the Cardinals had in their historic season a year ago. Said Printz, “leadership, worth ethic and attitude will dictate the outcome of this year’s team. If these things are in place, our 2014 squad should experience continued success.” Triad opens the 2014 season at home against Indian Lake, whom the Cardinals defeated 28-7 last season.
West Liberty-Salem Tigers
2013 Record: 10-3 overall, 5-3 OHC
Head Coach: Dan McGill (2nd season)
Preview: West Liberty-Salem will be looking to continue the reign in the top tier of the OHC in 2014. After making it to the Regional Finals a season ago in Dan McGill’s first season, the furthest the Tigers have ever been in the playoffs, the buzz is again loud in the village of West Liberty.
The Tigers return 8 starters to what was the top scoring offense (42.3 points per game) in the OHC a season ago. After suffering a broken ankle in the Regional Semfinals, the Tigers are excited to have standout quarterback Brandon Upton returning. Upton, a 6-1”, 185 lb Junior, amassed 2,113 yards and 25 TDs in his sophomore season last year. Upton has a strong, accurate arm and has looked good in the Tigers pre-season thus far. Also returning are several of the top targets in the Tigers’ spread offense. Landon Williams who had 841 receiving yards and 13 TDs returns, as well as receivers Trent Thomas (584 yards) and Kam Evans (327 yards). Joining Upton in the backfield is Junior running back Trevor Anderson who had 350 offensive yards a season ago. With that much talent back, the Tigers are again poised to have the top offense in the conference.
Defensively, the Tigers took some hits and are looking to fill some voids. With only 4 returning starters back from last year’s team that allowed 17.7 points per game, the staff is waiting to see who will step-up. Head Coach Dan McGill said “the competition to fill those spots should be heated and we are excited to see who will emerge.” The good news for West Liberty-Salem is that one of their defensive leaders is back, 2nd team all-state linebacker Ben Burden. Burden had 116 tackles and 6 sacks last season, and the coaching staff will be looking to him to help mold the more inexperienced defensive starters. Evans (33 tackles, 3 INT), Thomas (37 tackles, 2 INT), Williams and Anderson will make up a strong secondary for the Tigers. Senior’s Drew Smith and Beau Humphrey are expected to step-up and lead the defensive line for West Liberty-Salem.
Coach McGill is excited in his 2nd year at the helm and feels there are a lot of pieces in place for the Tigers to return back to the top of the OHC standings. “We feel that we have several of the athletes that are needed to be a part of a diverse attack,” said McGill. “I believe the key to success this year is the development of leadership and team unity. If these guys come together and everyone is totally committed to the team, they could reach their goals. I’m excited to see what they accomplish.”
The Tigers have made the playoffs 3 consecutive years and in 7 of the last 8 seasons. West Liberty-Salem has not lost more than 3 games in the regular season since 2003, and no more than 2 since 2005. With a football program that has become rich in tradition, there is no reason to believe that 2014 won’t be another huge success. The Tigers open their 2014 campaign at Greenon, whom WL-S defeated 62-13 last year.
Remaining Teams: (the following are pieced together from other sources which are cited below, we did not hear back from the remaining coaches and therefore could not do a full preview.)
Catholic Central: Things are looking up for the Irish football team in 2014, including a much needed boost in players. Catholic Central has 11 freshmen on the squad this year, bringing their roster up to 25. Last year the Irish started the year with 17 players and ended with 12. Returning starters include sophomore quarterback Cossy Catanzaro (609 yards in 5 games); Juniors Jake Fitzsimmons (RB/LB), Oliver Felty (TE/LB), Matt Sheehan (WR/DB), Trevor Myers (WR/DB) and Sophomores Andrew Jackson (OL/DE), Hunter Hazlett (OL/DL) and Thomas Kavanaugh (WR/DB). Head Coach Steve DeWitt (37th season) said in an interview with the Springfield News-Sun “Our ability to compete in 7-on-7 competitions is greatly improved. Last year we were getting blown away. Now we’re competitive and breaking even.” Look for the Irish to be much improved from a season ago and possibly even surprise some teams as youthful teams tend to do later in the season. See a full preview of the Irish via the Springfield News-Sun here: http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/sports/high-school/coach-believes-irish-are-on-the-road-back/ngztd/
Cedarville: After making the playoffs last year for the first time since the inaugural season of the OHC (2001), the Indians are looking to try and repeat their success. Despite the return of standout running back Caleb Coe (1,550 yards and 17 TDs), Cedarville has a lot of holes to fill and small roster numbers don’t give the Indians a lot of options. The Indians lose 9 starters on both sides of the ball from a season ago. Coe and Nathan Sheridan (OL/DL) are the only returning starters for Cedarville and there are only 21 players on this year’s roster. Senior Brant Wickline, a receiver a season ago, will move to quarterback after starting 2 games a season ago when starting QB Hudson Grant was lost due to injury. 3rd year Head Coach Jason Christian said of Wickline in the Springfield News-Sun “He’s got a good, strong arm and he’s a good leader. He’s not real demonstrative, but he does his job. He controls the huddle and has a good attitude.” The Indians will look to Coe and Wickline to lead the 2014 campaign and hope injuries do not hamper any progress. For a full preview on Cedarville, courtesy of the Springfield News-Sun, click here: http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/sports/high-school/cedarville-short-on-players-experience/ng43P/
Greeneview: From JJHuddle.com; “The Rams notched the program’s first winning season since 1999 last season and head coach Neal Kasner (13-17 in four years at Greeneview and 100-62 overall) is optimistic. “It could be a very exciting year for Greeneview,” Kasner said. “We return a lot of offensive fire power. Defense should be athletic and experienced.” The senior star is QB Chance Frye (6-1, 225) who has accounted for 49 TDs the last two years. Keep an eye on seniors Adrian Harding (OT/LB, 6'1, 220), Kyle Gilliam (RB/LB, 5'9, 185, 500 yards rushing), Klay Partin (WR/RB/DB, 6', 170), Tristian Saunders (WR/DB, 6', 170), Colten Pfeifer (WR/LB, 6', 190), Corey Clark (C/DL, 6'5, 310) and Chris Holley (TE/DL, 6'2, 190); juniors Walker Erwin (OL/DL, 6'2, 240), Caleb Green (OL/DL, 6'2, 235) and Logan Reed (RB/LB, 5'10, 190); and sophomore Ethan Bradds, 10, TE/LB, 6'5, 220).” Greeneview lost 3 of their 4 games by less than 12 points, 2 of their 4 games by less than 3 points. With as much returning as any other team in the conference, look for the Rams to be a frontrunner in the OHC for the first time since the conference was created in 2001.
Northeastern: The Jets return 2 All-OHC players from a season ago; Clayton Farquer (T/DE - 1st team OHC) and Mitchell McCorkle (2nd team). Quarterback Alex Robbins also returns to take the snaps Gone is standout athlete Drey Williams, leaving a big void on the offense. However, Troy Clay returns, who was 2nd on the team in rushing a season ago. Returning on defense is strong safety Bailey Scanlon who gives the Jets some strong experience. 9 seniors make-up the 2014 Jets, giving Northeastern some good leadership. The total roster numbers are strong too as the Jets will field 41 players. The Jets are looking to improve upon their 3-7 record in 2014, and with a lot of returning experience should be able to do just that. As typical, Northeastern will be competitive in almost all of their games.
2014 OHC PROJECTIONS
Let our expert go on record saying he wanted to call it a 3-way tie at the top of the OHC this season, with each team going 5-2 in the conference. However, we realize that would be a disappointment to our fans, so we went ahead and ranked them out. The Top 4 of the OHC this year is a coin toss at this point, and a 3-way co-championship is very possible. Expect another GREAT season of football in the OHC, perhaps even more successful than last year’s historic season.
1. Mechanicsburg 9-1 (7-0)
2. Greeneview 9-1 (6-1)
3. West Liberty-Salem 8-2 (5-2)
4. Triad 6-4 (4-3)
5. Northeastern 5-5 (3-4)
6. Cedarville 4-6 (1-6)
7. Southeastern 3-7 (1-6)
8. Catholic Central 2-8 (1-6)