OTTAWA – Almost every year Ottawa-Glandorf is included on most people’s list of contenders in the Western Buckeye League football race.
The fact the Titans are being mentioned among the challengers in the WBL this year after losing three All-Ohio players to graduation and a returning All-Ohio quarterback to a season-ending injury speaks to the respect O-G’s program has built up over the last two decades.
Ottawa-Glandorf has just two returning starters on offense and six on defense from last year’s team, which shared the Western Buckeye League title, finished 11-2 and got to the regional championship game.
Starting over is a familiar story for O-G. Last year’s team had seven returning starters and the 2015 Titans had five returning starters and went 8-4.
Wide receiver Richie Knowlton and running back Daniel Beemer are the Titans’ returning starting on offense. On defense, linebackers Chase Schreiber, Danny Rosales and Beemer and defensive linemen Bret Llyewellyn, Jake Dible and Logan Hoffman were starters last season.
O-G knew graduation would take away players like first-team All-Ohio linebacker Logan Balbaugh and second-team All-Ohio wide receiver/defensive back Trent Basinger and second-team All-Ohio lineman Alex Hoehn.
What the Titans didn’t see coming was losing second-team All-Ohio quarterback Jay Kaufman to a knee injury this spring.
Kaufman passed for more than 2,000 yards, rushed for more than 1,000 yards and played linebacker last season.
“It happened early on and we were kind of able to prepare,” Ottawa-Glandorf coach Ken Schriner said. “I feel sorry for Jay because he’s missing his senior year of football. Obviously, it’s going to hurt us as a team but my concern, more than anything, is him.”
Sophomore Jay Leopold appears to be the choice to replace Kaufman at quarterback. Transfer Jaden Siebeneck also could be in the picture.
“Jeremy Leopold is very capable and he’s super athletic. He’s a smart kid. We have a lot of confidence in him,” Schriner said.
The Titans’ quarterbacks will be working behind an offensive line with five first-year starters. O-G faced a similar situation going into last season.
“Last year we had four first-year (offensive line) starters and we put them together and they played well,” Schriner said.
Beemer said the team has done a good job of adjusting to a season without Kaufman.
“It’s tough losing a second-team all-state quarterback. He’s been our leader since way back when. I think the coaches and players have done a great job the last few weeks regrouping on who we can lean on and count on,” he said.
The area where O-G has the most experience is on defense, specifically on the defensive line and at linebacker.
“We have a lot of guys who have played. Hopefully, that is our strength – our defense and our defensive front seven,” Schriner said.
“We’re aggressive, we’re coming after you, and hopefully we have guys who can make plays,” he said.
Knowlton, a cornerback on defense, said the defense knows it will be counted on, especially early in the season with a young offense.
“The defense is definitely going to need to step up. That is going to be a big part. Hopefully, we’ll have a good year,” he said.
O-G has more sophomores (15) than seniors (11) on its roster. “Our sophomore class has a lot of athletes but they’re going to have to mature in a hurry. They’re going to be challenged,” Schriner said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.