Updated Wed, Aug 29, 2012 10:57 am
Last year, the TVC-Ohio was an exciting roller coaster ride, with Nelsonville-York and Athens matching each other blow for blow until their epic Week 10 showdown in which Athens took home the title. Will the Bulldogs be able to repeat? Will the Buckeyes return to the top of the conference? Or will there be a new team that emerges as a conference contender?
Alexander Spartans: By Pat Moore
When a high school football team loses their quarterback and entire starting offensive line to graduation, some head coaches might not be too optimistic going into the following season.
Even with losing the likes of former quarterback Trey Bennett and offensive lineman Michael Douglas, Alexander Spartans head coach, Shaun Arno likes to think otherwise.
"Yeah, we lost a lot of guys upfront, but we have a lot of seniors and underclassmen ready to step up and fill those roles. Plus, we have a good number of skill players coming back to help the offense and defense click", Arno said.
Among those players are Tyler Smith and Gage Miller. Fans will most likely find Schmidt in the backfield, while Miller will be fighting for starting quarterback honors.
Miller saw limited time under center when he filled in for Bennett while he was out with an injury. Even with the limited experience, Miller is not a sure lock to start at quarterback come the first Friday night of the season.
"There's a lot of the things the coaches have to look at when selecting the quarterback position. It's just too early to declare a starter," Arno said.
Like stated before, the entire starting offensive line graduated, resulting in a fresh new crop of faces on the offensive front.
"There are a lot kids in the mix, some young some old. There is a lot of camp left, so nothing is decided, but some people may be surprised with who pans out this season", Arno said.
Just like on offense, the Spartans lose two of their defensive playmakers in Bennett and Douglass. Still with those loses, coach Arno is confident his skilled players will pick up the slack in the second and third levels of the defense.
"Guys that will be stepping up on offense will be there on defense as well. We have a lot of guys that can play the secondary and linebacker positions on the field".
Even with the talent and experience that is no longer coming back for Alexander, the Spartans are not even a year removed from a respectable 7-3 overall record in a tough TVC-Ohio in 2011.
To repeat that success and even exceed expectations, it might take some unfamiliar faces to step up and help make it reality.
Athens Bulldogs: By Mark Pierce
The Athens Bulldogs have arguably the hardest task before them in 2012: trying to repeat as undefeated champions of the TVC-Ohio.
The Bulldogs lost 17 seniors to graduation. Their starting quarterback became a California boy by moving away to Fresno St. They will have a target on their back every game of the season, since everyone wants to dethrone the champ. You may say it will take a fair amount of luck for the Bulldogs to overcome all these odds.
But, as Bruce Springsteen sang in the song “Lucky Town,” “When it comes to luck you make your own.”
Don’t count the Bulldogs out.
Head Coach Ryan Adams is entering his sixth season at the helm, and taking a team from 1-9 in 2007 with zero wins within the conference to 10-0 in 2011 is no easy task.
“When I first came in we weren’t ready physically to compete,” Adams recalls. “So that’s been our main focus.”
But now that the Bulldogs are competitive, what’s the key to staying on top?
“Every team has to find their own identity,” Adams said. “You have to have four to five seniors step up.”
And stepping up to the challenge is what football is all about. Athens is losing star running back and Gridiron Glory Player-of-the-Year finalist DeVon Sharp, TVC-Ohio Defensive Player-of-the-Year Mitch Rider and 15 other seniors who played a vital role in last season’s greatness.
They didn’t graduate everybody however.
Skylar Schwartzel was a top junior on last season’s team and will be a go-to senior this fall from the wide receiver and defensive back positions. Joey Burrow is set to take over quarterbacking duties for Adams while Freddie Stalder will be the Bulldogs’ force out of the backfield.
Athens fans will remember the name Ryan Luehrman from the 2011-2012 basketball season. Well, he plays football too. Along with his brother Adam, the Luehrman Duo will provide depth and athleticism at the receiver position.
Junior Bobby Sebring and Dakota Thompson will anchor the defensive line. Trae Williams is a sophomore athlete that can play multiple positions on the field.
“We haven’t decided where he’s going to play yet because he’s so versatile,” Adams said. “He can be a running back, receiver, defensive back or linebacker.”
Regardless, Coach Adams philosophy is pretty simple: Compete.
“We expect to compete. We’ll see how good our off-season workouts were when we strap the pads on. We had good weight room attendance and we’ll see how much it paid off in a few days.”
The Bulldogs kick off the season on August 24th at Gallia Academy.
Meigs Marauders: By Steve Uhlmann
A new coach.
A new stadium.
A new beginning.
The Meigs Marauders will have a very different look when they take the field to begin the 2012 season. The only thing that needs to change is their standing in the TVC-Ohio.
Leading the Marauders will be Mike Bartrum, a former Meigs player and NFL long-snapper. Bartrum has been very involved in the community, serving as Meigs County Commissioner since 2008, and he now hopes to have his success in office spill over on to the football field.
Doing so won’t be easy following the loss of four All-TVC Team selections. Playmaking wide receiver Zach Sayre has graduated, leaving a big hole in the passing game. The offensive line will also need to find an answer for the departing Blake Crow.
The team will also need to replace a pair of running backs that were the bulk of the team’s production on offense in Charlie Barrett and Jeffrey Roush.
Luckily for the Marauders, they have some key returners including senior quarterback Dillon Boyer that will help the newcomers ease into their starting roles.
Last year, the Marauders finished tied for fourth in the TVC-Ohio with Wellston and had an overall record of 6-4.
In order to improve that, they will need to be more competitive against Athens and Nelsonville-York if they want to see signs of taking the next step. They will also look to avenge their Week 10 loss to Alexander again on the season’s final weekend in 2012.
Meigs will open the season at the new, on-campus Farmers Bank Field against Cole Grove on August 24.
Nelsonville-York Buckeyes: By Pat Chiesa
Nelsonville-York lost plenty of talent from last year’s team that rattled off nine-consecutive wins during the regular season.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucks are without quarterback Nathan Dean, who will continue his football career at Division-III Wilmington College, and running back Dustin Young, who was a Gridiron Glory Player of the Year finalist.
Defensively, NY must replace an entire starting linebacker corps from a defense that surrendered just over seven points a game.
The Bucks will also be without Isaiah Mello and Kyle Moore, two big men who started on both sides of the ball in the trenches.
But if you think head coach Dave Boston plans on lowering expectations for the 2012 Buckeyes, you are sorely mistaken.
“People say it’s going to be a rebuilding year,” said Boston. “At Nelsonville-York, it’s not about rebuilding; it’s about reloading.”
Boston enters his 10th season as head coach of the Orange and Brown, and still carries the same unwavering enthusiasm about coaching that he did on day one. Fifteen seniors will line up for the Bucks this year, and Boston made it clear that the team’s success will likely rest on their shoulders.
“We put a lot of pressure on these seniors,” Boston said. “We have some kids that have been in that spotlight too. We’ll see how they take charge of it.”
Though Boston is careful to drop names before two-a-days are completed, running back Clint Handa, athlete Austin North and lineman Isaac Andrews are three seniors with high expectations on the offensive side of the ball.
Duties under center, meanwhile, will be delegated to sophomore Colton Adams. Despite lack of experience, the first-year starter will have a trio of veteran receivers at his disposal in Marc Carter, Kyle Freer and Jacob Blake, as well as a talented offensive line providing him protection.
“We had kids [on the line] that played a lot and rotated in a lot during a very successful season,” Boston said, mentioning Andrews as a key piece to the 2011 puzzle. “I think we’ll be as good or better up front than we were last year.”
Defensively, many positions are still up for grabs; Boston indicated that linebacker may be the most undecided of these positions. Senior Marc Carter will likely see reps at outside linebacker, a position that helped him earn a letter last season. Junior defensive linemen Jacob Coon and Neil Polley figure to see plenty of time up front alongside senior Austin McCulloch. A defensive bright spot for NY is the secondary, which returns starters Blake and North.
A pair of senior transfers will also add depth and experience to the Buckeye roster. D.J. and Joe Young come to Nelsonville via Wellston, where both brothers played for the Golden Rockets. On October 5, the Young brothers will once again play on the Wellston turf, but this time as members of the visiting Bucks.
Nelsonville-York kicks off the regular season at home against Trimble on August 27. Only one team from the 2011 regular season schedule was removed, with Bishop Ready being substituted by future TVC-Ohio member River Valley.
Although Boston wants his players to focus on one game at a time, you can be sure that this season’s week 10 matchup against Athens—the ultimate opportunity to avenge last season’s devastating loss—has already passed through the minds of many a Buckeye.
Said Boston of the road ahead: “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting. We’ll see what happens.”
Wellston Rockets: By Kyle Bratke
The Wellston Rockets enter the 2012 football season with high expectations. Last year the Rockets finished 5-5 and were fifth in the TVC-Ohio.
Now in Coach Hutchinson's third year the Rockets will be looking to make a jump to the top of the conference.This will not come without a challenge as Wellston loses seven letter winners from last year’s squad due to graduation.
However, the Rockets do have many experienced players who are very capable of filling the voids left by graduation.
The Rockets offense will be lead by running back Tyler Roach. Roach saw significant playing time last year and should make for an explosive one two punch. The biggest shoes to fill will be at quarterback.
On the defensive side of the ball the Rockets will be lead by defensive lineman Marcus Mullens. The now three-year starter will play a crucial role for Wellston up front. The defensive back field will also be in good hands with the return of Dakota Brown and Noah Massie. The defense should be the Rockets strong point and they will depend heavily on it to make a push for the TVC-Ohio rown.
The Rockets enter the season as the fifth ranked team in the preseason Tri-Valley Conference rankings and are looking to challenge Athens and Nelsonville York for the conference title. Wellston opens the season August 24 at Jackson.
Vinton County Vikings: By Kyle Bratke
Vinton County enters their third season in the Coach Justy Burleson Era, and the Vikings believe they are poised for a breakout season.
Despite posting just a 1-9 record last year and finishing last in the TVC-Ohio, Burleson is expecting this season to be a major turning point.
“This is my third year as head coach and I finally have my system in place and I expect drastic changes," he said.
Although both sides of the ball struggled last year the offense enters the season with many unanswered questions. The biggest of those questions is who will step up replace Joey Batey and Curtis Linder. Batey and Linder combined to account for over 1,800 of the Vikings offensive yards as both played quarterback, running back, and wide receiver.
“We have to be able to throw the ball efficiently this year, last year we were very one dimensional,” Burleson said.
For the Vikings to be able to do this they must have a consistent starter instead of a revolving door at the position.
The defensive side of the ball will also need to greatly improve if the Vikings hope to challenge for a conference crown. The Vikings will once again feel the impact of the loss of Batey and Linder as they combined for 115 tackles and were key pieces to the secondary. The secondary will once again be what the Vikings need to greatly improve.
“We’ve got to be better in pass defense, we really got tore up last year through the air,” Burleson added.
Vinton County opens the season at home against Unioto looking to avenge last year 35-14 loss.