Archbold is expected to contend once again for a NWOAL title. Key players, from left, are Brandon Goering, Evan Wyse, Luke Fisher, Tyson Schnitkey, and Jase Grosjean.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
The Northwest Ohio Athletic League went right down to the wire in order to determine who would stake claim on the championship. When the dust cleared, Archbold and Wauseon settled on sharing the title.
This season figures to play out in a similar fashion.
"The league will be very balanced and competitive," Wauseon coach Chad Burt said. "The league's top teams appear to be Archbold and Bryan. Both are deep and talented with very good overall size."
The Blue Streaks have won at least a share of the championship the last four years and nine times dating back to 2001.
Archbold coach Doug Krauss, who is in his 29th season, expects another competitive race.
"I put the Wauseon boys right up there and I put us in the mix," Krauss said.
Krauss looks to a couple of returners, senior Evan Wyse and junior Luke Fisher, to lead the way.
Yet, Wauseon and Bryan are also teams with enough returners to make them among the favorites.
Bryan's Austin Schimmoeller and Wauseon's Noah Castle should help their teams contend.
"The league is always tough and this will be no different," Swanton coach Matt Smith said.
Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Coach: Doug Krauss, 29th season
Last season: 17-5 overall, 7-1 NWOAL
Top players: Seniors Evan Wyse, 5-11, F; Jase Grosjean, 5-8, G; Tyson Schnitkey, 6-3, G-F. Junior Luke Fisher, 6-7, C.
Outlook: They've lost several key members of last year's team that finished tied for first in the league, but their track record as a perennial contender for the NWOAL championship makes them a favorite to finish at the top. Fisher (7.3 points, 4.0 rebounds) is working with the most upside among the top returners. He held his own as a sophomore, earning All-NWOAL honorable mention.
Wyse (5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds), a two-year letterwinner, was an All-League honorable mention selection a year ago and is the most experienced returning member of the Blue Streaks. Schnitkey (5.5 points, 3.0 rebounds) is also being called on to provide more all-around output for the Blue Streaks.
Coach: Doug Billman, eighth season
Last season: 11-12, 6-2
Top players: Seniors Austin Schimmoeller, 6-1, G-F; Brock Minor, 6-0, G; Sean Culler, 6-3, G; Jake Jones, 6-0, G.
Outlook: Schimmoeller is a playmaker on the basketball court who will be looked to as a leader. He and Culler averaged a team-best 9.7 points as juniors.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Billman will be the team chemistry due to several members being involved in the school’s football playoff run.
Minor and Jones are also athletes who welcome the role of being a team leader. Their effort and hustle can be contagious for a Bryan team that figures to stack up athletically with every team in the league.
How soon the group is able to come together and mesh as a cohesive unit will go a long way in Bryan's push to end the league basketball season the way it finished football in the NWOAL.
Coach: Chad Burt, sixth season
Last season: 13-10, 7-1
Top players: Seniors Corry Byers, 6-1, F; Kris Boysel, 6-2, G; Alec Lillich, 5-10, G. Juniors Zach Robinson, 5-10, G; Noah Castle, 6-4, C; Jacob Newlove, 6-1, F.
Outlook: The Indians proved to be one of the best teams in the NWOAL a year ago — grabbing a share of the league title.
Wauseon will have to prove itself without having last year's league player of the year, Collin Bzovi, to lean on. His graduation, among a few other key members from last season's team, calls for a handful of returners to step up their games.
Castle (8.5 points, 8.5 rebounds) was an All-League honorable mention performer as a sophomore. Robinson (3.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists) is another member who could have a breakout season with more minutes on the court.
Newlove (4.0 points, 2.5 rebounds), Boysel (3.6 points, 3.0 rebounds), and Byers (2.3 points, 1.4 rebounds) give the Indians the kind of returning experience that could help Wauseon end up in the league race. Their return makes Wauseon one of the league's most experienced teams heading into the season.
Several newcomers — juniors David Williams, Caleb Andrews, Dillon Schantz, Anthony Werder, and Zach Johnson — will have an opportunity to make their mark.
Coach: Kyle Bostater, first season
Last season: 11-12, 4-4
Top players: Seniors Scott Garlinger, 6-3, G-F; Justin Callahan, 6-3, G-F; Nick Jones; Anthony Demaline; Bailey Monroe; Andrew Stickley. Juniors Alex Lutheran; Ethan Edwards; 5-10, 160; Noah Munger; Parker Phillips.
Outlook: Six seniors lead a Panthers team to be reckoned with.
Garlinger (12.0 points, 8.8 rebounds), an All-NWOAL first team player last season, and Callahan (7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds) have the game experience to assume leadership roles. Edwards (7.0 points) proved productive last season as a sophomore.
"We bring back a lot of experience this year, considering we had eight first-year letterwinners on our squad last year," Bostater said. "We also have very good size, as we have the potential to play."
Jones, Demaline, and Monroe are a part of the Panthers senior class that looks to go out as winners.
Coach: Greg Badenhop, second season
Last season: 11-13, 4-4
Top players: Seniors Kaleb Pohlman, 6-2, F-C; Konnor Pohlman, 6-2, F; Kody Chestnut, 6-7, C; Kam Pohlman, 6-1, F; Anthony Righi, 5-9, G. Junior Logan Meyer, 6-1, G.
Outlook: The Tigers hope to continue making strides under Badenhop.
Kaleb Pohlman (13.7 points, 9.3 rebounds) is one of the top returners in the NWOAL. He finished fifth in scoring and third in rebounding in the league a year ago. He certainly proved last season he knows how to effectively play near the basket.
The Tigers will also need productivity from others such as Chestnut (3.0 points, 3.0 rebounds), Konnor Pohlman (6.0 points, 4.0 rebounds) and Meyer (5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds). They're players who have the skill set to make an even better impact than they did during last season.
A fast start for the Tigers could go a long way for them playing at the end of the season for more than just finishing with a .500 league record.
Coach: Jerry Keifer, 20th season
Last season: 17-7, 5-3
Top players: Seniors Logan Pinkelman, 6-3, C; Dan Blanton, 6-1, C. Juniors Max Oswald, 6-3, F; Kyle Brighton, 6-1, G; Chad Maseman, 6-4, F; Triston Wilson, 5-10, G; Garrett Willeman, 6-0, F; Peyton Willeman, 5-10, G.
Outlook: The Vikings have enough key talent and experience back to make them a team to keep an eye on.
Pinkelman (8.5 points, 10.3 rebounds) represents the top player back from a squad that finished third in the league. He's skilled around the basket and gives the Vikings a post player capable of averaging double-digits in scoring and rebounding.
However, Oswald (7.1 points) and Brighton (2.0 points) saw playing time last year also.
"We have two returning two-year starters back," Keifer said. "We are going to rely on Logan Pinkelman and Max Oswald for scoring, rebounding, defense, and most importantly, leadership."
Coach: Kent Seemann, eighth season
Last season: 2-19, 1-7
Top players: Senior Brad Breece, 5-11, F. Juniors A.J. Wagner, 6-0, G; Ben Mangas, 5-10, G; Alex Scheele, 5-11, G; Kyler Seemann, 6-0, F; Jacob Ehlers, 5-10, G; Andrew Willford, 6-2, F; Bryce Bostelman, 5-10, F.
Outlook: Wagner (10.5 points, 6.0 rebounds) is one of the league's top returning letterwinners. He is an all-league performer a year ago, the most experienced Patriot, and most versatile player on a team that will rely heavily on a talented junior class.
Coach: Matt Smith, sixth season
Last season: 9-15, 1-7
Top players: Seniors Isaac Niedzwiecki, 6-2, F; J.D. Sanderson, 6-2, C. Juniors Clayton Ringle, 6-0, G; Liam Bloom, 6-0, G; Thomas Bryant, 6-0, C. Sophomores Robbie Gilsdorf, 6-0, F; Bryce McComb, 6-1, G.
Outlook: The Bulldogs are looking to build upon last season's improvements from the season before when they ended up winless in league.
Niedzwiecki, McComb, and Gilsdorf represent Swanton's most experienced players even though two are only sophomores.
Getting newcomers like Sanderson, Bloom, and Ringle involved early and building good team chemistry will play a significant role in how much further the Bulldogs can climb in the league competition.
Coach: Taylor Muehlfeld, third season
Last season: 1-21, 0-8
Top players: Seniors Parker Houk, 5-8, G. Juniors Alex Matzinger, 5-9, G; Jacob Leung, 5-10, G; Jared Lyons, 5-7; G; Cody Caudill, 5-5, G; Jared Shoup, 6-1, F-C; Nate McCord, 5-11, F-C. Sophomores: Dalton Surbey, 5-9, F-C.
Outlook: The Locomotives are looking for signs of being an improved team that will be able to compete in the NWOAL on most nights.
Houk (6.2 points, 3.1 rebounds) is the lone returning letterwinner on a young roster that hopes to build some team cohesiveness early in the schedule.
Matzinger, Leung, Lyons, and Shoup are among a loaded junior class Muehlfeld is calling on to serve as a nucleus for an overall inexperienced group.