The Blade’s annual high school football preview features stories on the area’s best players as well as conference and team previews. We’ll be unveiling stories throughout the day in advance of the opening weekend of games.
When it came down to reaching his goal of landing a college scholarship offer from a top national football program, St. John’s Jesuit senior Dallas Gant was leaving nothing to chance.
The Titans’ linebacker — who verbally committed to Ohio State University and highly successful head coach Urban Meyer on May 16 — has been proactive in his recruiting process since the conclusion of his freshman season playing on the St. John’s varsity in 2014.
It wasn’t long after that season that the first scholarship offers started to trickle in, with the University of Kentucky making the initial offer to Gant, who enters his senior high school season at 6 feet, 3 inches and 220 pounds.
Gant attended more than 10 top football camps the past three offseasons to showcase his talents. FULL STORY
Teondre Patterson, Jacob Boling, Devon Ragland, Aaron Johnson, and Zion Mitchell are among the players hoping to lead Start to a City League championship.
CITY LEAGUE: Favored Start expects strength in numbers
As the largest school in the City League, Start not only has the depth and numbers to be the favorite to win a third straight conference championship, but also the skill.
Coming off back-to-back 5-0 seasons in the City League, the Spartans should have an edge once again.
Start (5-5 overall, 5-0 City) has the largest program in the league with 68 total players on the varsity.
“Being preseason City League [favorites] is awesome,” said first-year coach Chris Pargo. “We accept the pressure gladly. We have been working very hard all year to make it our third City League championship, and that helps a great deal.” CITY LEAGUE PREVIEW
Toledo Central Catholic football players Dominique Kimble (77), Jase Bowen (4), Dallas Fields (19), Sean Blue (14). and DeMarko Craig (55) highlight the TRAC favorites.
Central Catholic has graduated two of the top players in the history of its football program, with 2016 Ohio Mr. Football Michael Warren now at the University of Cincinnati, and All-Ohio lineman James Hudson at the University of Michigan.
But ever since 18th-year Fighting Irish coach Greg Dempsey (168-43 overall record) took the reins, Central seems to simply reload each fall and resume the business of chasing league and state championships.
That is precisely what coaches in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference were thinking when they again made the Irish the favorite in their preseason poll.
Riding a string of 28 straight conference victories, the four-time defending champion Central Catholic is projected to make it five TRAC titles in a row this season. TRAC PREVIEW
Springfield High School is picked to win the NLL thanks to, from left, players Tyler Long, Adam Beale, AJ Gucciardo, Lakeith Jackson and Cade Chapetta.
Springfield went from worst to first in just a few short years, and the Blue Devils are expected to stay on top of the Northern Lakes League once again this season.
Last fall, Springfield (10-1 overall, 7-0 NLL) secured the school’s first outright conference championship since 1970 and completed the first undefeated regular season since 1960.
Coach Pat Gucciardo enters his fifth season, having led the Blue Devils to a steady rise.
Springfield was winless in the NLL the season before he took charge, then went 1-6 in the NLL in his first season in 2012. Since then, the Blue Devils have gone 3-4, 4-3, 6-1, and 7-0 in league play. NLL PREVIEW
Select players of the Eastwood High School football team, which won the Northern Buckeye Conference in 2016.
Northern Buckeye Conference powerhouse Eastwood might have a new general in charge, but the new coach has a familiar name and the same high expectations.
The Eagles won the NBC last season, securing the program’s eighth league title in the past 14 seasons. New coach Craig Rutherford takes over for his father, the legendary Jerry Rutherford, who put together a stellar record of 227-140 in 35 seasons. Eastwood has won three of the six NBC titles since the league was established in 2011-12.
Eastwood (10-2 overall, 7-0 NBC) earned five first-place votes in a preseason coaches poll and is pegged as the favorites to repeat.
Genoa, which captured back-to-back titles in 2012 and ’13, is picked to finish second. NBC PREVIEW
Gibsonburg football players, from left, Joey Adkins, Nate Kissell, Brad Mendoza, Brady Jaso, and Addison Weaver are on the TAAC co-favorites
In its final football season in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, Gibsonburg will bid to exit with a run of three straight conference championships before departing for the Sandusky Bay Conference next year.
The Golden Bears of eighth-year coach Steve Reser are expected to battle the Rangers of perennial TAAC power Northwood, who are guided by the dean of northwest Ohio head coaches in Ken James.
James enters his 32nd season at Northwood (178-132 overall record) looking to end the Rangers’ three-year stretch without a TAAC title.
Gibsonburg (8-3, 5-1 TAAC), which shared the 2016 title with conference newcomer Montpelier (7-3, 5-1), will share this year’s preseason label as championship favorite with Northwood (6-4, 4-2). TAAC PREVIEW
From left, Liberty Center football players Nick Bovee, Caleb Carpenter, Christian Kahle, Jarrett Krugh, and North West are on the NWOAL favorites.
As if replacing a legend wasn’t a tall enough order to fill for first-year Liberty Center head football coach Casey Mohler, his Tigers were also picked in a preseason coaches poll to win the Northwest Ohio Athletic League championship.
The Tigers received five of the eight first-place votes in a poll of league coaches, and 57 of a possible 64 voting points to earn the tag as championship favorite.
Wauseon, which garnered just one first-place vote, was second in the poll with 51 points, and Archbold, which collected two first-place votes and 45 points, was picked third.
Mohler — who grew up in a Liberty Center football family, played for 32-year head coach Rex Lingruen, then coached under him the past 17 seasons — is expected to produce immediately. NWOAL PREVIEW
Port Clinton football players Demetrius Curley, Kyle Fitzpatrick, Tony Nesbitt, and Zach Murphy hope to build in the Redskins' success last season.
OTHER NW OHIO: Port Clinton looks to keep winning ways
To truly understand what coach Beau Carmon and his players at Port Clinton have accomplished the past three high school football seasons — 24-10 overall record, two playoff appearances, one conference title — some historical perspective is needed.
In the 20 seasons (1994-2013) that preceded this three-year upswing, the Redskins were 39-161 overall and 22-118 in Sandusky Conference Bay action. There were no SBC championships or postseason appearances in school history.
That two-decade stretch of no winning seasons included five 0-10 records and five 1-9 finishes. Eight years Port Clinton did not win a conference game.
So, when Carmon guided the Redskins into their first playoff game in 2015, and to their first postseason victory last year after grabbing an SBC Bay Division title share, it was time for the city along Lake Erie’s north coast to celebrate. FULL STORY
Whiteford football players from left to right Matt Taylor, Jarrett Atherton, Thomas Eitniear, and Lucas Tesznar hope to lead the Bobcats to a state title.
MICHIGAN: Whiteford aims to win state championship
Expectations are high at Whiteford as the team is coming off its best season in program history after advancing to the Division 8 state championship game and finishing 13-1 in 2016. The team is 23-4 in the past two seasons, including a 12-2 mark in the Tri-County Conference.
Sixth-year head coach Jason Mensing will rely upon 5-foot-11 senior quarterback Thomas Eitniear, who threw for more than 1,000 yards, ran for over 900 yards, and scored Whiteford’s lone touchdown in the state title game on an 81-yard run.
“Thomas is as good of a quarterback as I’ve ever had,” Mensing said. “He can run and throw. He is a tremendous athlete and anytime you have a dynamic athlete, he’s going to be a big part of what you do.” FULL STORY
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