1. Which teams have the best chance of returning to the state championship games in Columbus?
Three teams, all from the Mid Athletic Conference, Fort Recovery, Marion Local and Coldwater played in a state championship game in 3025. Of those, Fort Recovery and Coldwater were victorious with Marion Local coming up just two points short.
Coldwater will have its hands full trying to keep its streak of going to the state title game seven times and winning the last four as they return just three starters from last year’s state champions. However never count out the Cavaliers who have one of the best programs in the state.
Fort Recovery returns nine letter winners and just four starters. However, Both quarterback Caleb Martin and Will Homan, who rushed for more than 1,100 yards is also back. Not to mention senior linebacker Jason Roessner who recorded 126 tackles and Andrew Stocker who had 96 tackles and 11.5 sacks.
With 29 returning letters winners back, Marion Local looks to be poised for another trip to Columbus. And let’s not forget about Minster.
2. Outside of the MAC, who has the best shot at state?
There are a lot of high powered teams out there ready to make a run. Wapakoneta, which has won the WBL the last two years and made it to the regional finals, graduated a lot of talent but it also returns a corps of solid players.
Delphos Jefferson, who under the guidance of signal caller Jace Stockwell,went undefeated in the NWC, are hungry after losing in the second round of the playoffs last year. The Wildcats return 16 starters from last year’s team that went 10-2.
3. Can Lima Senior sustain its winning with new coach Andre Griffin?
Under Mike Fell, the Spartans were built into a playoff contender and went two the postseason in back-to-back years. Lima Senior had an 8-3 record overall in 2014, their first winning season since 1999, and a 9-3 record last year. The Spartans have never made the playoffs three years in a row.
Griffin will try to retain that Spartan magic this year and with running back Jayden Walker and offensive lineman Darius Collins he has a solid foundation.
However, the loss of receiver Ruben Flowers III, TRAC defensive player of the year, linebacker Jaylin Thomas, and quarterback Darius Gordon, the road back to the playoffs could be a tough one for Griffin.
The Spartans have returning starters at 13 positions and Griffin will need a lot of younger players to step up if they are going to return to the postseason.
4. Who is the frontrunner in the WBL?
Wapakoneta has dominated the league the last two seasons, going undefeated in both the regular season and league play, looks to remain there this year despite losing several key players to graduation and returning just three starters on offense and four on defense.
Teams like St. Marys have been building for the past three years and want to make a run at the Redskins. Ottawa-Glandorf is also looking to return to the top of the WBL and Kenton is trying to bounce back after a down year.
5. What team is in the position to have a bounce back season?
Kenton has been a state power house for years but endured a tough 2-8 year in 2016 might return to Wildcat glory with eight returns on offense including Trent Hites, a three-year starter, who had thrown for over 4,000 yards as a sophomore and led the team to the state semifinals.
On defense, the Wildcats return eight starters on defense including two year starter Austin Buroker and this could stabilize an already aggressive defense.
In the NWC, Crestview had a down year, going 4-7, but expect them to be in the mix for the league title and a possible playof berth.
With a rich tradition, Delphos St. John’s is another school that could be back to its winning ways if things fall into place.
6. Can Frank Crea turn the Shawnee program around?
Since 2012, Shawnee has won just six games and went winless last year. As a longtime assistant coach Crea has been on the coaching staff of some successful programs including Ada and Lima Senior that last decade or so after following Mike Fell.
Crea not only brings Fell’s high flying offense to the Indians but also brings a renewed spirit and enthusiasm that could be just what Shawnee needs to stay competitive.
7. Can USV win the NWCC?
In 2012, USV went 1-9 and recorded just one victory in the league. However, since then the Rams have slowly climbed up the ladder and in 2015 made some major strides towards winning the league and making the playoffs.Last year, USV with a 6-4 overall mark and 5-2 mark in the NWCC and finally cracked the top three spots in the league that was held by Riverside, Fort Loramie and Sidney.
Led by the versatile Austin Sloan and 11 starters back, head coach Josh Spencer expects his team to vie for the top spot in the league and make the playoffs.
8. Is this the year of the running back?
More and more teams are going to the spread and passing the ball but that has not stopped the Lima area from producing some quality running backs.
Spencerville, traditionally a running team lost one its main cogs in Zach Goeke but will be replaced by Calvin Wilson. Also ready to run through offenses this year are Jayden Walker, Lima Senior, Eric Spicer, St. Marys, Hunter Binkley (Delphos Jefferson) Connor Niese, Ottawa-Glandorf), Austin Sloan, Upper Scioto Valley, just to name a few.
9. Who is the most versatile player in the area?
With northwest Ohio having a number of small schools, many of the players go both ways the Lima area and there is wealth of players who show off their athleticism on both sides of the ball. Delphos Jefferson’s Jace Stockwell, can not only throw the ball with efficiency, but can intercept the ball and deliver the hit on opposing receivers with authority. It is not limited to just speedy running back and defensive backs. Other notable two-way players in the area are Austin Sloan, USV, Chase Sumner, Ada, Bo Gross, Bath, and Allen East’s Caleb Smelcer, to name just a few.
10. Can Ottawa-Glandorf find someone to to sing the Canadian National Anthem?
After finding themselves looking to find an opponent for their opener, the Titans went international and are going to start the season with North Academy Clarkson Prep, a school located in the Toronto suburbs. So if you can belt out O’ Canada, the Titans might need your help.