League titles are not won during two-a-days in August, but the targets are already squarely in place for those teams that are favored to finish at the top come October.
Championship aspirations are already taking shape for high school football teams in northwest Ohio.
Here is a look at the predicted winner of the main leagues in The Blade's circulation area based on a preseason poll of coaches in each league. For full conference previews, read The Blade’s high school football preview, which will be released Wednesday.
City League: Woodward (5-5, 4-1 CL) is expected to end a title drought that stretches back to 1991 under third-year coach Robert Garber, who has led a resurgence for the Polar Bears (13-7 the last two seasons). Woodward is in good hands guided by the 2017 City League player of year Dominique McClain. The senior quarterback accounted for 1,770 yards of total offense and led the CL in scoring with 16 touchdowns. Key date: Oct. 24 at Start, the three-time defending champions.
Three Rivers Athletic Conference: Defending champion Whitmer (12-1, 7-0 TRAC), which was ranked No. 2 in the final 2017 D-I state poll, is once again expected to edge out fellow conference powerhouse Central Catholic. Either Whitmer or Central Catholic (11-3, 5-2) has won the TRAC title since the league's inception in 2011. The Panthers (11-3, 5-2) are led by sensational junior QB Riley Keller, who earned D-I first-team All-Ohio honors, heading up a balanced and potent Panther offensive attack. Key date: Sept. 28 vs. Central, which had won four straight TRAC titles before last year.
Northern Lakes League: Perrysburg (4-6, 4-3 NLL) appears primed to make a push back to the top of the highly competitive NLL after two down years of growing pains with inexperienced players. The Yellow Jackets' youth movement is expected to pay off with 18 seniors back led by junior QB Drew Sims, who started as a freshman and has already thrown for more than 3,200 yards and 32 touchdowns. Defending champion Anthony Wayne (9-2, 7-0), which won the program's first NLL championship since 1988 last season, and Springfield (6-4, 4-3 NLL) are strong contenders in what's expected to be a tight race. Key date:Oct. 5 at Anthony Wayne, which is picked second.
Northern Buckeye Conference: Genoa (8-3, 5-2 NBC), which had captured six league titles in seven seasons from 2007-13 including the last four in the former Suburban Lakes League, has experienced a four-year title drought. But the Comets, who return eight starters on offense and seven on defense, are predicted to hold off a revamped Eastwood (14-1, 7-0 NBC) team that reached the D-V title game last season. Genoa, which also earned a berth in the Division V playoffs, will be led by senior LB Andrew Bench (6-foot-5, 215 pounds), who has already received offers from Bowling Green, Ball State, and Air Force, and senior QB Jacob Plantz, who looks to rebound from a season-ending injury in 2017. Key date: Oct. 19, when Genoa plays at two-time defending champion Eastwood.
Toledo Area Athletic Conference: The dean of area coaches, Ken James, is expected to lead Northwood back to the top of the league that the Rangers dominated in their first 13 years (10 titles from 2001-13 with nine state playoff appearances). After four years without a TAAC title, Northwood (6-4, 4-2) has returning starters at 16 of 22 positions to receive seven of eight first-place votes in the preseason coaches poll. A large group of seniors — two-way starting linemen Dave Chappell and Donte Dixon, WR/S Jon Lucas, RB/NG Lamar Daniels, and CB Joey Heise — leads the way. Key date: Sept. 14, when Northwood plays at Edon (3-7 overall, 3-3 TAAC), which was picked to finish second.
Northwest Ohio Athletic League: Liberty Center (7-3, 4-3 NWOAL), which returns six starters on offense and defense, earned four of the eight first-place votes in the coaches' poll and is expected to edge out Wauseon (8-3, 5-2) in the always balanced NWOAL. The Tigers, who last won the league title in 2011, also were picked to win last year before seeing a 5-0 start dissolve into three losses in the final five games. Nineteen seniors are back to right that wrong led by senior RB Caleb Carpenter (1,181 yards, 13 touchdowns rushing) and senior QB Jarrett Krugh (829 passing yards). Key date: Sept. 28, when the Tigers play at Wauseon.
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