Updated Wed, Jul 30, 2014 10:19 am
Editor's Note: With fall practices beginning in a matter of days, our writers have scanned the schedules to find the biggest games of the 2014 season. We continue with the SEOAL.
The five teams of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League surge into the 2014 season after an offseason that left many wondering whether the SEOAL would remain in tact for another season. If conference realignment talks were not enough, Gallia Academy head coach Wade Bartholomew spurned the program for a position at Bloom Carroll, leaving the Blue Devils with a new head coach for the second straight season. With a plethora of uncertainty surrounding the conference, nothing about the 2014 season can be considered predictable.
Logan vs. Jackson, Week 7
The Logan and Jackson football programs appear to be moving in opposite directions in 2014. The Chieftains, who are the reigning SEOAL champions, graduated a host of starters after last season, including SEOAL player of the year running back Isaac Schmeltzer. On the other hand, the Ironmen return nearly everybody on both sides of the ball, which includes senior linebacker and Division I prospect Reagan Williams leading the Ironmen defense. Returning quarterback Hunter Sexton leads the Jackson offense, and head coach Andy Hall is back as well, making Jackson the most stable team in the SEOAL. This matchup will prove whether Logan’s new and inexperienced starters can defend their title or if it’s Jackson’s turn to dethrone the champs.
Warren vs. Jackson, Week 6
Similar to Gallia Academy, the Warren Warriors begin the season with a new head coach and a new quarterback leading the offense. Anthony Fish comes to Warren after former head coach Andy Schob was let go after the 2013 season, leaving him with the task of replacing quarterback Austin Klintworth. The Warrior defense showed spurts of promise last season against talented quarterbacks such as Joe Burrow and Wade Jerrell, but they will need to provide a more consistent attack to help assuage the growing pains of a young offense. While many consider Jackson the most talented team in the SEOAL, this conference-opener will help Warren assess where they stand among the conference’s elite.
Gallia Academy vs. Athens, Week 1*
While the 2014 scrum between the Blue Devils and Bulldogs might not be as competitive as years past, this week one matchup will give the Gallia Academy faithful their first look at the Wade Jerrell-less offense and new head coach Josh Riffe. Riffe, a teacher at Gallia Academy for the last five years, had coached at Meigs for the last few years after being overlooked for a coaching position with Gallia previously. After coaching at Meigs, who is in the TVC-Ohio with Athens, Riffe is familiar with Joe Burrow and the high-octane Bulldogs and will aim to add a monumental upset to his coaching resumè in just his first week at the helm.
Zanesville vs. Logan, Week 7* & Bishop Ready vs. Jackson, Week 4*
Jackson and Logan certainly seem to be the two top dogs in the SEOAL, but both teams will have opportunities to prove that they can hang with some of the best teams in the state in highly anticipated non-conference matchups. Logan will welcome Zanesville on Oct. 17th, a team that ran through its 2013 regular season undefeated before falling to Loveland in the state semifinals. Jackson will play a similar matchup on Sept. 19th when they welcome Bishop Ready, another team that was able to reach the state semifinals just a season ago. While the odds don’t seem to be in favor of the SEOAL teams in these games, both matchups provide the opportunity to test the talent of the SEOAL’s best against two of the best teams in Ohio.
*=denotes non-conference matchup