From left: Jay Miller, Taylor Price, Tyson Dietrich, Zeb Frank, and Evan Wyse on November 27, 2012.
The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
Winning the Northwest Ohio Athletic League championship is what every team in the league shoots for.
Archbold is the team that ends up winning it more often than not.
The Blue Streaks have won at least a share of the NWOAL championship eight times since 2001, including the past three seasons.
"We expect to be in the mix of the NWOAL title and the league looks to be solid once again," Archbold coach Doug Krauss said. "A team can't afford to take a night off in league. All the teams appear capable of challenging each and every night."
Archbold's challenge is to try and make it four league championships in a row. The Blue Streaks are the unanimous favorite to win the NWOAL and keep their title streak alive.
"Our players understand what it takes to be the best," Krauss said. "We know that we'll get the best from every team we play and we're looking forward to the many challenges ahead."
Seniors Tyson Dietrich and Zeb Frank have been around the program long enough to know what it takes to claim a championship and the top two returners will serve as anchors for another talented team.
Wauseon coach Chad Burt believes Archbold, which went undefeated in league the past two seasons, is the team to beat again.
"Overall, the league will be very balanced and competitive," Burt said. "The league's top team appears to be Archbold. They are deep and talented with very good overall size. Teams will have to be ready night-in and night-out in the league to make a run at the title."
Delta first-year coach Kyle Bostater considers Archbold as the favorite. However, he anticipates stiff competition throughout league play and believes there will not be a runaway champion.
"The league is tough once again," Bostater said. "There is not a whole lot of separation between the teams. I see it being a very competitive league and whatever team is able to bring it every night will come out on top."
Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Coach: Doug Krauss, 28th season
Last season: 17-6 overall, 8-0 NWOAL
Top players: Seniors Zeb Frank, 6-0, G; Tyson Dietrich, 6-3, F-C; Jay Miller, 6-0, G; Taylor Price, 6-3, F. Juniors Evan Wyse, 5-10, F; Jase Grosjean, 5-8, G; Tyson Schnitkey, 6-3, G-F. Sophomores Luke Fisher, 6-7, C; Brandon Goering, 5-10, G.
Outlook: There may not be as much talent and experience on the roster compared to last season's league-title winning group, but Krauss still has plenty to work with in pursuing another league crown.
Returning starters Dietrich (9.5 ppg) and Frank (7.5 ppg), who earned All-league recognition last season, are being called on to lead the way to another first-place showing in the NWOAL. Price (2.8 ppg) and Miller (2.2 ppg) and Wyse saw plenty of time on the court as Archbold streaked through league without losing a contest for the second year in a row.
Experience is certainly not lacking among this group.
"We expect these returners to be our leaders at both ends of the court," Krauss said. "Tyson and Zeb had very nice junior seasons for us last year and we're looking forward to both of them continuing to be key performers again this year."
The blueprint for the Blue Streaks' long run of success won't change this season. They'll play plenty of people as they employ fullcourt pressure, as well as push the tempo whenever opportunity presents itself.
Coach: Chad Burt, fifth season
Last season: 20-3, 7-1
Top players: Seniors Collin Bzovi, 6-2, F; Michael Hammons, 6-2, C; Charlie Fink. Juniors Corry Byers; Kris Boysel; Alec Lillich. Sophomores Zach Robinson; Noah Castle; Jacob Newlove
Outlook: The Indians are coming off a winning season in which one defeat denied them from celebrating a league championship.
However, a half-dozen players from that successful team graduated and Burt is in search for some new leaders to take charge. It's a rebuilding scenario for a team that is expected to be led by Bzovi (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Hammons (2.0 ppg).
"We have a group that is very hard working," Burt said. "They are eager to learn and have been really competing hard in practice."
Finding players to step in and produce for the first time at the varsity level appears to be part of the uncertainty the Indians are facing this season. Dugan Shadbolt, Ridge Schweinhagen, Fink, and Boyers are among those Burt is hoping will respond to the challenge.
Coach: Kent Seemann, seventth season
Last season: 13-10, 5-3
Top players: Seniors Kodi Nofziger, 6-7, C; Adam Prigge, 5-11, G; Ryan Koppenhofer, 5-11, G; Jon Norden, 6-2, C; Ryan Tietje, 6-0, F. Sophomores A.J. Wagner, 6-0, G; Caleb Carrizales, 6-2, C.
Outlook: Nofziger (10.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg) was an All-NWOAL performer as a junior and is expected to be just as effective, if not even more in his senior season.
The Patriots' 6-7 force near the basket stands alone in regard to returning to the court and providing PH's lineup with well-seasoned experience. The Patriots represent an inexperienced team looking to make steady strides over the course of the season.
Prigge, Koppenhofer, Norden and Tietje, along with Nofziger, will be expected to show senior leadership, particularly during the first half of the season when the Patriots look to build team chemistry.
"Our goal is to be able to build on some of the success we experienced the last couple of years and carry that forward with a new group of players," Seemann said. "Early in the season we will be feeling each other out to find the proper rotations and some added depth."
Coach: Doug Billman, seventh season
Last season: 8-13, 5-3
Top players: Seniors Luke Shaffer, 6-0, G; Alex Staup, 5-11, G. Juniors Austin Schimmoeller, 6-1, G-F; Brock Minor, 6-0, G; Sean Culler, 6-3, G; Jake Jones, 6-0, G.
Outlook: The Golden Bears look to make a run at the NWOAL title.
Schimmoeller (10.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Shaffer (2.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg), and Minor (2.5 ppg) are the top returners from a Bears bunch that proved competitive throughout league play last season.
Culler, Jones, and Minor are perhaps the most talented juniors on the roster from a class that makes up half the lineup. How they perform may have plenty to say about how well this season unfolds for Bryan.
"We will need to find some consistency offensively, and continue to get better defensively and rebounding the basketball," Billman said. "We'll need great leadership from our upperclassmen."
Coach: Kyle Bostater, first season
Last season: 12-9, 5-3
Top players: Seniors Micah Mohr, 6-2, G; Hunter Macionsky, 5-9, G; Landon Brown, 6-2, G. Juniors Scott Garlinger, 6-3, G-F; Justin Callahan, 6-3, F.
Outlook: The Panthers return three starters from a team that proved competitive most nights out a season ago. Remaining a threat will probably be determined by how returners Mohr (8.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg), Macionsky (2.0 ppg, 3.0 apg), and Garlinger (8.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg) elevate their play.
"It's our goal to put ourselves in a position to compete against any team on any given night and see what happens from there," Bostater said. "Post play is a bit of a concern, but what we lack in size we hope to make up for in athleticism."
Newcomers to the varsity squad such as seniors Landon Brown (6-2, G) and Rami Mansour are being brought in to the fold with hopes of them assisting in the Panthers competing for the league's top spot.
Coach: Jerry Keifer, 20th season
Last season: 6-16, 2-6
Top players: Seniors Matt Brighton, 6-1, F; Cory Mossing, 6-0, G; Dylan Henricks, 5-10, G; Sam Etue, 6-3; F; Jamie Wright, 5-11, F; Mitch Carter, 5-11, C. Junior Logan Pinkelman, 6-3, C. Sophomores Max Oswald, 6-3, F; Kyle Brighton, 5-11, G; Chad Maseman, 6-3, F.
Outlook: The Vikings are looking to make a turnaround from a losing campaign to a team recognized as a league contender.
Plenty must occur for Evergreen to make such a leap up in the standings. However, Mossing (7.6 ppg), Brighton (10.0 ppg), and Hendricks (5.0 ppg) — returning starters from a year ago — give the Vikings a senior trio to lean on during the course of the season.
Pinkelman (5.3 ppg) and Oswald (5.0 ppg) are expected to also contribute.
"I believe experience should be a major strength for us this year," Keifer said. "I also see our quickness as being a strength."
How much of a climb in the standings for the Vikings may be determined by how fast Vikings newcomers such as Wright, Etue, and Carter fit in and expand the team chemistry.
Coach: Greg Badenhop, first season
Last season: 2-19, 2-6
Top players: Seniors Kody Snyder, 6-0, G; Tyler Davis, 6-2, F; Josh Drain, 6-0, G; Zach Bare, 6-0, F. Juniors Kaleb Pohlman, 6-1, F-C; Kody Chestnut, 6-5, C; Kam Pohlman, 6-1, F. Sophomore Logan Meyer, 6-1.
Outlook: Making a turnaround campaign for the Tigers would be a memorable first year for Badenhop.
To pull off such a feat would definitely call for a team to come together quickly under a new coach bringing in a new style of play.
Davis, Snyder, Drain, and Bare saw playing time last season when the Tigers struggled most nights out on the court. A year older, the most experienced members of the team will be called on to lead a team to play with a greater sense of urgency under Badenhop.
"We are working hard and getting better every day," Badenhop said. "We have a long way to go, but as a coach, daily improvement is all you can ask for at this point in the season."
Coach: Matt Smith, fourth season
Last season: 4-18, 0-8
Top players: Seniors Dylan Verdell, 6-1, F; Vernon Williams, 6-2, F; Dalton Thatcher, 5-9, G; Jordan Swchnabel, 6-0, F.
Outlook: Team chemistry and gaining experience each week of the season, particularly during the first month of play, will be key for a Bulldog team relying on several newcomers to produce.
A solid start could go a long way for a Locomotives team hoping to make this a positive experience.
Coach: Taylor Muehlfeld, second season
Last season: 3-18, 0-8
Top players: Seniors Blaine Thorp, 6-0, G; Michael Warner, 6-0, F-C. Juniors Parker Houk, 5-8, G; Keegan Hitzeman, 5-8, F; Luke Malone, 5-9, F-C. Sophomore Alex Matzinger, 5-9, G; Jacob Leung, 5-10, G; Jared Lyons, 5-7; G.
Outlook: The Locomotives lost eight players from last season to graduation and seek to be more competitive this season with Thorp (6.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg) representing the only returning letterwinner. The rebuilding process continues.
"We will definitely go through our highs and lows this year," Muehlfeld said. "We have a lot of coachable players that are determined to do their best."