Updated Mon, Aug 6, 2012 10:56 am
The Jackson Ironmen have dominated the SEOAL in recent years, winning the conference in each of the last two seasons? Is this the year they cement their dynasty in history with a three-peat? Or will someone else step in and dethrone the defending champs?
Chillicothe Cavaliers: By Charlie Walter
The 2011 Chillicothe Cavaliers season started in a way Cavs fans did not want to see. Their once spotless record faded into a blemished 0-5. They would however salvage momentum as they went a solid 3-2 the rest of the season.
Once again, the first five games on the 2012 schedule are brutal as they take on Walnut, Portsmouth South, Thurgood Marshall, and Trotwood Madison in that stretch.
Helping the Cavaliers take on this year’s challenge will be a slew of seasoned players, including 10 juniors who started the previous season. Among them will be the returning starting quarterback Ryan Mathis, who will need a sensational season due to the team lacking in wide receiver depth. While the receiver depth chart may start the season with some blank lines, the running back core has occupied positions with Julius Lee and former receiver Luke Barnes penciled in. The Cavaliers also return plenty of strength led by two-way starter Tyler Howard with Caylib Holt helping him on the line.
Coach Ron Hinton knows that he will face a challenge this year. Although tons of experience from last year's team returns, the team will still only field 4 seniors in 2012 with the majority of the team being juniors.
"We need a 3 yards and a cloud of dust mentality," coach Hinton said, referring to his teams ‘will to win.’ "We don't have the depth that some of the other teams on our schedule do, therefore we are really going to need to grind games out".
Along with getting the squad prepared for a brutal opening stretch, great defense and intensity are on top of the needs list.
Galia Academy Blue Devils: By Graham Fugazzi
After losing their season opener to the Athens Bulldogs, the Gallia Academy Blue Devils found themselves at the season’s conclusion in a familiar position, runner-up in the SEOAL behind the Jackson Ironmen.
But that close conference finish has made this team stronger mentally, and hungrier for the upcoming season and a conference title.
Returning for his fourth season at the helm, Head Coach Mike Eddy thinks that this year’s team is the most mentally tough team he’s coached since starting his tenure at the school.
“The leadership of this group and their focus up to this point is something you can see,” Eddy said.
With about half of their starters returning on both offense and defense, the teams experience and inexperience at certain positions will be something to watch for the upcoming season.
Returning junior linebacker, Ty Warnimont has become the voice of the defense and an emotional leader for the entire team and will also be a playmaker for the Blue Devils on the defensive side of the ball.
The passing game has been an area of interest and focus for Coach Eddy and new offensive Coordinator Jared McClellend. The team will still put the ball on the ground and use their strength and discipline in their running attack to move the ball like their teams in the past but Eddy said, “we may air it out at times too.”
Returning starting quarterback, Wade Jarrell is now in his junior year and has much more motivation and much more to prove this year thanks to a position battle with senior Cody Call.
Both quarterbacks compliment each other with their different skill sets and they will most likely both be used in different formations to give opposing defenses different looks.
The team will be without standout running back and specialist, Brandon Taylor who graduated this past summer.
Although Taylor will no longer be carrying the workload in the backfield, Senior Luke Pullins, will be the majority ball carrier and will bring a new bruiser mentality to the backfield as a fullback/running back hybrid.
“He’s one of our top weight room guys for his height and weight and he’s a state powerlifter,” Coach Eddy aid.
So, after back-to-back second place finishes in the Southeastern Ohio Conference, where does the team go from here?
“It’ll be a huge disappointment if we don’t take it this year,” Head Coach Mike Eddy said.
Jackson Ironmen: By Carter Rodriguez
Just three seasons removed from winning their fifth straight SEOAL title, the Logan Chieftains are in search of that winning magic they had in the previous decade. The 2010 and 2011 seasons were not kind to the Chieftains. The 2011 campaign, headlined by the youth of the team, came away win a single victory.
“Youth was our weakness. We played a lot of sophomores,” head coach Kelly Wolfe said.
Those sophomores are now upperclassmen and they are expected to use the experiences gained from the struggles of last season to become a force in the SEOAL.
Of those juniors expected to step up in Wolfe’s system is signal-caller Jack Music. Last season, Music threw for 404 yards with three touchdowns. The one problem he had was throwing nine interceptions. Wolfe sees ball security as top priority.
“(He) obviously needs to take care of the ball. Not force bad throws,” Wolfe said. “Our strength is the running game, but we have to have a passing game to keep teams honest.”
Look for that strength to be headed by senior running back Cory McCarty. Behind a stronger offensive line, McCarty looks to top his 902 yards rushing from last season and join the 1,000-yard club.
“He is our leader and all the players know it,” Wolfe says about his senior back. “He has high goals for himself as well as the team. He will put up big numbers.”
Coach Wolfe says fans should be excited to see a pair of “blazing fast” seniors for the Chieftains this summer. Donnie Stevens and Garrett Tutwiler are two players that Chieftain fans will look to for big plays in the fall.
Logan tries to begin their march back to SEOAL hierarchy August 24 against the Lancaster Golden Gales.
Portsmouth Trojans: By Anthony Baucco
The Portsmouth Trojans did not live up to their own expectations last year. They finished the season 3-7 (2-3 in conference) and ended up in a three-way tie for third place in the SEOAL with the Warren Warriors and the Chillicothe Cavaliers.
Coach Curt Clifford has plans to change all of that this year.
One advantage for Portsmouth this year is that the team’s offensive line has three experienced players returning from last year. Alex Grashel, Kyle Williams, and Nate Basham will be key players on the offense while junior quarterback, Cody Stapleton, will run the offense behind them. Three senior players from the 2011 team made the All-SEOAL team last year and will be hard to replace, but with this strong offense coming together, they might be able to get the job done. There is also experience in the running back position and at wide receiver as well.
The schedule for the 2012season can be a difficult road with four away games in a row. The season opener is at Valley, a team who ended their season with a loss in the third round of the division 5 playoffs finishing 12-1. Following Valley is Portsmouth West who finished 10-2 and then Wheelersburg who ended their season 7-3.
The start of the season will be tough for the Trojans, but it won’t get much easier as they will finish their season facing SEOAL powerhouse Jackson in Week 8.
Warren Warriors: By Anthony Baucco
After finishing the season 5-5 (2-3 in conference), the Warren Warriors hope to improve in the upcoming season. The Warren Warriors finished the season tied for third place in the SEOAL last year, but they want to finish at the top this year. This will not be an easy task, especially when facing conference rivals such as Jackson and Galia Acedemy. Their schedule also includes tough Athens and Philo teams.
Losing star players to graduation is always a main concern for any team. One of the hardest positions to fill might be the running back position which Jeremy Hastie and Josh Mays took care of last season. Hastie had over 800 combined yards receiving and rushing last year, averaging over 10 yards a catch and over 4.5 yards a carry. Mays had 450 rushing yards while averaging over 5 yards a carry.
The starting running back this upcoming season, also named captain, will be Chas Miller. Miller is experienced at the position because of his playing time last year. He will also receive some help adjusting to the starting role behind a battle tested offensive line.
“Our o-line is very experienced. Everyone starting on the line started at least once last year,” said head coach Andy Schobb. Running behind an experienced line can be very beneficial to Miller and the rest of the offense.
While the team might struggle to fill positions, their quarterback is returning starter, Dylan Leffingwell. Leffingway threw for over 1,000 yards last season, averaging nearly 150 yards per game. He was named player-of-the-week the last two weeks of last season, which highlighted his improvement throughout the year.
“This offseason has been good for Leffingwell and the rest of the team,” Schobb said. He has always led by example and his hard work, but this year he is more vocal and earned respect from the rest of the team.”