1. What did we learn about the playoffs last year?
After expanding the playoffs to 16 teams, it opened up a whole new set of opportunities for teams to make the postseason. Good or bad, it looks like this system is going to stay and while some coaches aren’t the biggest fans of all these teams making it, all coaches agree it is added incentive your team even if you don’t snare a conference title or, and in some cases, don’t even finish above .500.
Teams now have the opportunity to salvage a season with a playoff berth and possible victory in the first round. But as we saw many of the early games are routs, with a few exceptions, and so like March Madness, fans will see some lower seeds bid for upsets, but for the most part the best teams rise and continue to dominate.
2. Are teams as prepared as they should be for the season?
With the expanded playoffs also cut the two-a-days and two scrimmages team learned how to better budget their time. The OHSAA helped teams with some additional time in July but teams still find the time constraints tough to work on everything and teams come in using its first couple of games still making major adjustments. But as we learned from several teams (Wapakoneta) it is not how you start but how you finish.
3. Is the third year Townsend’s year to turn Lima Senior around?
The good news for the Spartans last year was they made the playoffs. The bad news was they got there with three wins and Lima Senior endured its fifth straight losing season. Townsend, with some major changes on offense and defense, looks to turn that around in the team’s final tour of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference and that will not be an easy task.
4. Does Lima Central Catholic have another run in them?
In the last five seasons, the T-Birds have gone 48-11 with deep playoff runs. While the team does not return the speed in the past, LCC does have a number of talented players at various positions that should keep the victories rolling in. Twelve seniors are on the roster and Carson Parker made a big impact last year taking over at the quarterback position and he will have a number of targets to hit along with returners like Jacob Lauck on the line for protection. Defensively, Gabe Cira, the team’s leading tackle, provides leadership and stability for the T-Birds on that side of the ball.
5. Who has the inside track for the WBL?
Up in the air as their is no clear cut favorite. Wapakoneta, who shared the league title last year, returns a strong nucleus, but must replace all-everything quarterback Braeden Goulet, and Van Wert, who was co-champs, has Aiden Pratt back behind the center but must fill some holes on the offensive line. St. Marys, who has not won a league title in four-years, has 20 seniors on the roster, and will also face a major part in who takes home the WBL title trophy. Let’s not forget Ottawa-Glandorf, who is always in the mix, but the Titans also have some big holes to fill from a talented senior class. Never overlook the rest of the league who all have been building to crack into the upper echelon of the league.
6. Can Upper Scioto Valley repeat in the NWCC?
The Rams garnered history last season with its first outright Northwest Central Conference title with a perfect 7-0 mark and USV head coach Dustin Price is looking for a repeat. Like the majority of the schools, USV is seeking to fill some senior holes and will have plenty of competition for the conference crown. Perry, Hardin Northern and Waynesfield-Goshen all have the talent to garner the title and it should be a dogfight until the end.
7. Can Columbus Grove make it five straight?
The Bulldogs have accomplished very teams have done and that is win the always competitive NWC with four straight titles and eye a fifth. Yes, the Bulldogs must find a replacement for players like running back Collin Metzger, the versatile Jacksen Schroeder and the game-changing leg of Rece Verhoff but if the defense can replicate what they did last year, the Bulldogs will have a great chance of repeating. Of course, the rest of the conference will be looking to prevent that and the NWC looks loaded again with Allen East, Leipsic and Crestview returning a host of talent. Don’t forget all but two teams in the NWC made the playoffs last year.
8. Can Luke Taviano turn the Ridgemont program around?
Ridgemont’s football program has not had a winning season in nearly two decades and the Golden Gophers brought in Luke Taviano to turn things around. Taviano is looking to do what he did at Perry his first season and brings with him a hard-nosed, disciplined approach that if the players buy in can turn things around. Numbers always play a big role and the team will have to stay healthy and learn a whole new system in order to start being consistent and Taviano is confident he can bring that to the program.
8. The excitement will come early in the WBL
Wapakoneta, after opening 2-2, with one loss in the league in that stretch, that teams can still make a run and win the league title and that could be the same this year with the early part of the season playing a prominent role. Wapakoneta, St. Marys, Ottawa-Glandorf, Shawnee and Van Wert all have games within the four weeks of the season and this could go a long way in determining who wins the league title.
9. The excitement will come early in the NWC
Seeking another title Columbus Grove opens its NWC schedule against Jefferson but then travels to Allen East, followed by a home contest with Leipsic and an away game with Crestview. In its conference opener Allen East takes on Crestview in the fourth week of the season followed by a home game against Columbus Grove. For Leipsic, the big games could be at the end of the year when the Vikings head to Allen East in the penultimate game of the year, followed by a home contest against Crestview in the series finale.
10. Who is poised to make a run the playoffs?
As one coach put it anything can happen in November football and if a number of these teams can put things together once the postseason arrives (assuming they are in a position to make the playoffs) they can make a deep run. Wapakoneta and St. Marys, with its stout defenses and running game, are always candidates to make a run at state and the Roughriders have been moved down to Division V this year and that could bode well for the Riders. In the smaller school divisions, Columbus Grove, Allen East and Lima Central Catholic have all shown they can produce in the postseason.