Northwest Conference outlook

1. Spencerville – The Bearcats shared the NWC title and are looking to garner the crown outright. On offense Spencerville returns 1,000-yard rusher Joel Lotz, and quarterback Dalty Prichard provides leadership and stability. Defensively Eli Yahl, at linebacker, anchors a defense that was tops in limiting teams in total yards. The Bearcats have all the tools to repeat as NWC champs.

2. Columbus Grove – Under the guidance of quarterback Blake Reynolds, the Bulldogs produced an eight-win season and a share of the NWC title. With 17 returning letter winners including Reynolds and the entire offensive line, the Bulldogs look to repeat their success from last year. Balance will be the key to Columbus Grove’s chances of snaring an NWC title.

3. Crestview – The loss of Drew Kline and Wade Sheets will hurt the Knights, but Crestview tends to reload and not rebuild. Running back Brody Brecht returns to spark the offense and anchor the defense at middle linebacker. The Knights will need some players to step up and fill those big shoes that were lost to graduation if they are going to compete for the NWC.

4. Allen East – Under first-year head coach Wes Schroeder, Allen East surprised some folks last year with its spread offense that produced big offensive numbers. However, quarterback Tyler Clum is lost for the season. A host of weapons, such as Cole Fletcher and Bradden Crumrine, return on the Mustang offense. Blake Hershberger, a first-team all-NWC linebacker selection, spearheads the defense that should improve with a year under its belt. Although it might not be as big of a surprise as last year, the Mustangs should compete for the NWC title.

5. Paulding – The Panthers endured a tough three-win season last year, but with the return of all-NWC running back Jacob Deisler, Paulding looks to improve on its win totals. Deisler will need help as the Panthers rebuild their offensive line and search for some receivers to contribute. Defensively, like the offense, the Panthers have parts to be successful but will be tested in the always tough NWC.

6. Bluffton – Bluffton has the parts, but can the Pirates bring them all together to compete in the NWC? On offense, the Pirates return a bigger, faster offensive line and sophomore Nate Schaadt, who learned a lot as a freshman at quarterback. Defensively the Pirates will be a tough physical squad looking to produce turnovers and stops. If Bluffton can gain some early momentum, it could present a number of problems for NWC teams throughout the year.

7. Ada – Ada head coach Shawn Christopher had a rough first year. With limited numbers, the Bulldogs struggled to find consistency throughout the season. Bolstered by a bigger offensive line and Brandon Hull returning under center, the Bulldogs are expected to be a force on offense. Defensively, Ada will try to use some its strength upfront and speed in the secondary to slow teams down.

8. Delphos Jefferson – It was a year Delphos Jefferson fans might want to soon forget in 2018. Recording one win and a lot of turmoil behind the scenes, Ben Rahrig has been called on to right the ship and return the Wildcats to their former glory. Rahrig has a lot of rebuilding to do but expects some of his young talent to step up and improve throughout the season.

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