What to watch for in 2017

By Jose Nogueras - jnogueras@limanews.com

Lima Senior running back Jaden Walker was a major factor in the Spartans posting a 6-4 record. Head coach Andre Griffin must find a replacement for the All-Ohio tailback who graduted.

1. Which teams are prime for a playoff run?

The easy answer every year is any of the top teams in the Midwest Athletic Conference but that would be an easy out considering competitive balance that makes Division VI tougher than ever this year. The Division VI playoffs in this area are going to be extremely interesting and competitive. That is not to say Coldwater, Minster, Marion Local and Fort Recovery all have a shot. Around the area, St. Marys and Wapakoneta both seemed to have reloaded and Ada sports a potent offense but again they moved up to Division VI. From the Northwest Conference there are several teams who can advance but there is still a lot of question marks in the NWC.

2. Who is the frontrunner in the NWC?

Delphos Jefferson, winners of the last four NWC titles, lost its head coach to rival Spencerville which will make for an interesting night when these two teams square off in the regular season. Can Chris Sommers bring an NWC title to Spencerville? Can Delphos Jefferson extend its NWC title streak to five under a new head coach? Looking to break up that party will be Ada that returns one of the best quarterbacks in the area in Shane Conley and one of the best two-way players in Chase Sumner and a host of talent on defense. Crestview, which had an incredible playoff run last year, will also be in the mix with junior quarterback Drew Kline leading the way. Both Bluffton and Columbus Grove are also on the rise and will also be a factor in the NWC race.

3. Is there a frontrunner in the WBL?

Last yer it was a three-way race with all three teams meeting at the end of the year that accounted for an exciting conclusion. Expect Wapakoneta, St. Marys and Ottawa-Glandorf to fight for the league title with up and comers Celina and Elida to make some noise with both quarterbacks from these teams returning. An early match up between St. Marys and Ottawa-Glandorf in week 2 could set the tone for the rest of the season.

4. Who will fill Jaden Walker’s shoes for Lima Senior?

Spartan head coach Andre Griffin knows the hole Walker left is enormous. The standout speedster was a game-changer on offense and a mainstay in the defensive backfield. Griffin said there are a lot of hungry talented Spartans looking to step up. Griffin will also have Keaton Upshaw, who has committed to play at the University of Kentucky, as a weapon. The Spartans will need some consistent work from the quarterback if the offense is going to be effective. Defensively, the Spartans should be solid.The Spartans finished 6-4 last year and will need everything to come together if they are going to exceed that mark.

5. Can Lima Central Catholic bounce back?

Injuries and inconsistencies led to a 2-8 a season for LCC. The silver lining coming from last year’s dismal season is that a number of Thunderbirds were thrown into varsity play and learned lessons the hard knocks way but gained valuable experience. Brendan Stolly, who was hurt in week one, is back behind the center and should provide more stability on the offense but he will have to do without the services of Thomas Williams who was lost to graduation. Defensively, Matthew Heider, who has led the in tackles the last two years, is also back and provides leadership for the T-Bird defense.

6. Can Upper Scioto Valley continue its winning ways after reaching new heights last year?

USV lost its head coach, Josh Spencer and its top two athletes and Austin Sloan and Chase Rose from last year’s record setting season. However, new head coach Dustin Price said he is confidence they continue their winning ways with a core of players who learned how to win last year. Back are quarterback Jason Moots, who is a three-year starter and a dual threat quarterback and Dustin Dunifon, who wreaks havoc on both sides of the ball? If some of the more inexperienced players can produce early, the Rams should have another crack at the Northwest Central Conference title.

7. Can new Perry head coach Luke Taviano turn the corner with Perry?

The Perry football program has a lot to endure with the loss of last year’s coach Herb Jay, who was killed in an automobile accident in March, and the loss of one its players early due to an accident. Even though the team has faced a lot of off field adversity, Luke Taviano is ready to make the Commodores contenders again. With an old-school approach and a commitment to winning, Taviano is hoping the players buy into his brand of old-fashioned football that will win games.

8. Will Waynesfield-Goshen end its 22-game losing streak?

Second-year head coach Shane Wireman believes they will. One reason is the numbers. With 27 members out for Tiger football, Waynesfield-Goshen gets much needed depth and it allows Wireman a lot more options to work on rebuilding the team.. Wireman, who has a number of returners back this year, wants to put the dreaded streak behind them as quick as possible to not only instill confidence in the team but set the tone for the season.

9. Is this the year of the quarterback?

Northwest Ohio boast a number of talented quarterbacks this year that will keep fans entertained throughout the year. In addition to the Conley at Ada and Kline at Crestview, there is Elida’s Isaac McAdams, Celina’s Ryan Schwieterman and USV’s Jason Moots. Perhaps the biggest blow to returning quarterbacks was the loss of Ottawa-Glandorf’s Jay Kaufman to injury.

10. What games are must-see this season?

In the WBL, things might get interesting early when St. Marys faces Ottawa-Glandorf in the league opener for both squads, Sept. 1. Wapakoneta will have both St. Marys and Ottawa-Glandorf in the final two weeks of the season, Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 respectively. In the NWC, the big game that everyone is anticipating will not happen until the end of the season when Delphos Jefferson battles Spencerville on Oct. 27. Most thought this rivalry could not get anymore exciting but with the Sommers moving to head up the Bearcats atmosphere will be electric. But before Delphos Jefferson gets to that game, the Wildcats will have to face Ada Sept. 15 and then prior to the season finale face Crestview Oct. 20. Spencerville and Ada battle Sept. 22 and then follow it up with a game the next week with Crestview Sept. 29. Ada and Crestview have a date Oct. 6.

Lima Senior running back Jaden Walker was a major factor in the Spartans posting a 6-4 record. Head coach Andre Griffin must find a replacement for the All-Ohio tailback who graduted.
http://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/08/web1_102816LimaSeniorTCC01cardinal.jpgLima Senior running back Jaden Walker was a major factor in the Spartans posting a 6-4 record. Head coach Andre Griffin must find a replacement for the All-Ohio tailback who graduted.

By Jose Nogueras