Western Buckeye League outlook


1. St. Marys – St. Marys has either won outright or shared the Western Buckeye League title the last three years and would like to make it four straight to christen their new home. The Roughriders return a lot of top-notch talent but have several key holes to fill, including their quarterback spot. Two returning running backs and a solid offensive line will make the Riders running game tough to stop once again.

2. Wapakoneta – Wapakoneta pulled off a thrilling late fourth-quarter win against the Roughriders to help secure a share of the WBL title last year and then went on to make an impressive playoff run. With Evan Kaeck leading the way on offense, the Redskins will field another solid team. However, like the Riders, the Redskins will have a new quarterback under center this year.

3. Celina – With 17 returners back from last year, Celina has its entire offensive line back. If the Bulldogs can get their skilled players on track, they should pose a number of problems for WBL opponents. On defense, Celina is solid up front. If the Bulldogs can stop people, they will be in the mix for a league title.

4. Kenton – The high-flying Wildcats return two of the best receivers the school has seen, and that is saying a lot in Kenton’s explosive offense. The key is getting these talented receivers the ball as the Wildcats search for an able replacement for all-state quarterback Jaron Sharp. If the Wildcats can get their offense going early and the defense bounces back from a tough year last year, Kenton will be vying for a league title.

5. Van Wert – The Cougars had a breakthrough season last year by finishing 7-2 in the league last year and making the playoffs. This year, Van Wert will need to replace Nate Place at quarterback. Jack Hilleary, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year, helps bolster the Cougars’ offense, and Keagan Hammonds anchors the defense. Van Wert will look to ride the momentum of last year into a WBL title this year.

6. Elida – Under freshman quarterback Evan Unruh, the Bulldogs endured a tough 2-8 season. However, with 20 returners, Elida is poised to make a run at the WBL title. In a second year under Unruh, the Elida offense has a number of weapons that can produce points but it will take the defense to stop scores if the Bulldogs want to compete for a league title.

7. Ottawa-Glandorf – Injuries have played havoc on the Titans the last several years, and the Titans are hoping this year they can steal healthy and compete for a league title. On offense, the Titans return six players including quarterback Jacob Balbaugh, running back Clay Recker and second team, all-league receiver Jarrod Beach. The defense has speed but not the size, so the Titans’ will be tested physically.

8. Shawnee — The first year under head coach Jerry Cooper, the Indians went 4-6 and could have been the reverse if not for some tough bounces and bad luck. Cooper teams tend to get better, and this year he will have to find a new quarterback. He does bring back enough talent to make waves in the league. If the Indians can get their running game going and the defense holds strong, the Indians could provide a lot of teams trouble.

9. Defiance – Defiance is coming off a 3-6 mark in the WBL but like most of the teams in the league should see some improvement on both sides of the ball. The Bulldogs have some voids to fill on both sides of the ball, and if they are going to make a mark in the league they will have to grow up hurry in the always tough WBL. The Bulldogs lose Nick Herzog at linebacker but return defensive end Tyler Goings.

10. Bath – It’s a new year and a new coach. The Wildcats bring in Ryan Reindel to right the ship at Bath. The new head coach and former Bath standout inherits a young team with 15 returning lettermen. Of the 51 players on the team, only five are seniors. Lex Boedicker will get the nod at quarterback and will try to generate some offense and the defense should improve with nine starters back.

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