Southview coach Jim Mayzes always has high expectations for his team.
After the Cougars won a state championship two years ago, others in the area now expect the same for them.
It's no wonder that Southview is predicted to win a fourth straight Northern Lakes League title.
Entering his 17th season, Mayzes has guided the team to nine NLL championships. The Cougars have won or shared three straight titles and have captured six of the last seven.
"I've never gone into a game thinking I was going to lose," Mayzes said. "So our expectations have always been high. Now everyone else has high expectations for us. Our goal was always to win a state title.
"People used to snicker about that. Now that it has happened, others have higher expectations now. It's not any different for our coaches and players."
Maumee handed Southview its lone league loss last year and the Panthers split the title with the Cougars. Maumee also earned a berth in the Division II playoffs, while Southview just missed qualifying.
"It was a disappointment that we did not make it to the playoffs last year," Mayzes said. "But we were just a fraction of a point away from qualifying."
Maumee lost five All-NLL first-team players to graduation, while Southview lost six.
But the Cougars have two Division I college prospects in defensive back/wide receiver Allen Gant and quarterback De'Nard Pinckney. Maumee senior running back Eric Long returns after scoring 18 touchdowns while averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
Among Perrysburg's 70 players are 19 seniors and the top returning passer in the league in quarterback Matt Slocum.
Anthony Wayne returns senior Matt Green, who was second in the NLL in rushing.
"I think the league is tough for us every single year," Mayzes said. "I have a ton of respect for the coaches in this league. You don't get a night off."
New coaches take over at Bowling Green, Rossford, and Springfield.
Todd Drusback moves to Rossford after leading Fremont St. Joseph to their first playoff appearance since 1997.
At Bowling Green, Steve Aungst assumes the reigns of his alma mater.
Rob Materni, the defensive coordinator at Springfield for the last seven years, also takes over at his alma mater. Blue Devils defensive lineman Kevin Williams has committed to play at Nebraska.
Here's a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Coach: Jim Mayzes, 17th year
Last season: 7-3 overall, 6-1 NLL
Last 10 years: 79-34, 50-20
Returning letter winners: 32
Returning starters: offense 5, defense 6
Schemes: Multiple sets/4-3
Top players: Seniors Ja'Darian Bowers, 5-9, 165, RB/DB; Bryan Desmond, 6-0, 180, OL/DL; De'Nard Pinckney, 6-0, 193, QB/S; Ray Okdie, 6-4, 331, C/DL; Konnor Chuba, 6-4, 222, TE/S. Juniors Allen Gant, 6-1, 205, WR/DB; Jay Fisher, 5-10, 195, RB/LB; J.Q. Bowers, 5-9, 165, CB/RB.
Outlook: Southview's nonleague schedule consists of St. Francis, Rogers, and Start.
Speed and commitment are strengths. But a near total reconstruction of the offensive and defensive lines may be an impediment. According to Mayzes, Bowers is perhaps the fastest player in the league.
Gant is a major Division I college prospect. Entering his junior year, Gant has received interest from Michigan, Ohio State, USC, and Florida. Gant's father, Tony, was a defensive back at Michigan in the mid-1980s. Gant started both ways a freshman and made several outstanding plays in the state title game.
"He has a wonderful combination of D-I ability and attitude," Mayzes said.
Pinckney threw for 855 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 555 yards.
Talented senior twins Dave (QB) and Todd (WR/CB/K) Vandercook moved in from Florida.
But Mayzes said it is the smallest senior class (15) that he has ever had.
"They are very strong and very committed," Mayzes said. "We have great support from our junior and sophomore classes. So we are optimistic."
Coach: Matt Kregel, fifth year
Last season: 7-3, 4-3
Last 10 years: 52-49, 34-36
Returning letter winners: 23
Returning starters: offense 7, defense 7
Top players: Seniors Matt Slocum, 6-1, 185, QB/S; Jake Eckel, 6-2, 220, OL/DL; Eric Blume, 6-2, 230, OL/DL; Ryan Pierson, 6-2, 260, OL/DL. Juniors Micah Carter, 5-10, 240, DL; Tyler Gordon, 6-0, 195, RB/LB; Austin McKinley, 5-9, 175, RB/CB. Sophomore Steve Slocum, 6-1, 180, WR/S.
Outlook: Kregel, who has a 28-13 career record, said this team is the hardest working group he has ever had.
"We had a great off season in the weight room and should be in great physical shape," Kregel said. "We return a good core from last year's team and seem to have great unity."
Carter was named All-NLL first team. Slocum threw for the second most yards in the league (1,270) and tossed 14 TD passes.
But Perrysburg needs to develop depth at several positions.
"We have athletic ability but lack game changing speed and quickness," Kregel said. "We will have to play above our athletic ability to beat the good teams. I think we'll get after people."
Coach: John Boles, 13th year
Last season: 9-1, 6-1
Last 10 years: 61-46, 38-32
Returning letter winners: 17
Returning starters: offense 2, defense 2
Top players: Seniors Eric Long, 5-11, 190, RB/OLB; Kurt Kolbow, 5-11, 165, WR/DB; Jake Olman, 6-3, 185, P/K. Juniors Evan Karchner, 5-10, 210, C/LB; Jake Schneider, 5-10, 170, QB/C; Jason Blair, 5-11, 205, OT/LB.
Outlook: With 65 total players, Boles has plenty of depth. He also said his team is bigger physically this season.
Long rushed for 865 yards to gain all-league and all-district first-team honors. Olman was All-NLL first team as both a punter and kicker.
Schneider, who steps in at QB, and Karchner were All-NLL second team. But the Panthers are very inexperienced in varsity situations.
"We obviously have to replace a lot of experienced and excellent players," Boles said. "Our players have worked very hard and are well prepared. I have confidence they will continue to improve throughout the season as they gain experience."
Coach: Craig Smith, 14th year
Last season: 7-3, 5-2
Last 10 years: 59-43, 41-29
Returning letter winners: 17
Returning starters: offense 7, defense 6
Top players: Seniors Andy Kujawa, 6-1, 215, OG/LB; Matt Green, 5-8, 170, RB/DB; Alex Bridges, 6-0, 200, RB/DB; Jack Henry, 6-3, 205, TE/DE; Tayo Osinowo, 5-10, 185, NG; Jared White, 6-3, 215, C. Juniors Matt Granger, 5-9, 160, DB; Reed Allen, 6-1, 175, WR.
Outlook: Green rushed for 1,143 yards on 107 carries (10.7). He also scored 11 TDs to was named All-NLL first team along with Kujawa and Henry. Bridges rushed for 650 yards (8.6 per carry).
Smith counts his Generals' team speed, chemistry, attitude, and work ethic as strong points. But lack of size and depth could be stumbling blocks.
Smith, who has a career record of 76-54, has 55 varsity players and 12 seniors.
"We had a very solid season last year and lost three very close games," Smith said. "As usual we have high expectations. Our non-league games will be a good indicator for us opening with Rogers and Start."
Coach: Rob Materni, first season
Last season: 3-7, 2-5
Last 10 years: 42-58, 27-43
Returning letter winners: 19
Returning starters: offense 6, defense 7
Schemes: Multiple sets/4-3
Top players: Seniors Kevin Williams, 6-1, 250, OL/DL; Alex Grogg, 5-8, 180, RB; Drew Weimer, 6-4, 225, OL/DL; Jake Shaver, 6-2, 220, C; Albert Phillips, 6-0, 210, TE/LB; Nick Bombalicki, 5-10, 220, RB/LB; Mason Decavitch, 6-1, 180, WR/S. Junior Leroy Alexander, 6-1, 175, S/WR.
Outlook: Materni inherits 67 total players and 21 seniors.
"We'll be leaning heavily on defense to get things done for us," he said.
He said the running game is coming into shape. But the Blue Devils do have some inexperience on the offensive line outside of Nebraska-bound Williams and Shaver, a three-year starter at center.
"Our goal is to compete for an NLL title this year," Materni said. "We had strong leadership in the off season and we expect that to carry us through the season."
Coach: Eric Keller, 15th year
Last season: 3-7, 2-5
Last 10 years: 43-58, 28-42
Returning letter winners: 20
Returning starters: offense 7, defense 9
Top players: Seniors
Addison Hirschfeld, 6-0, 205, WR/DE; Jake Severson, 6-1, 175, WR/S; Zach Ryder, 5- 8, 155, WR/SS; Mike Hojnack, 5-10, 260, OG / DT; Brian Downing, 6-0, 175, QB; Luke Armstrong, 5-11, 180, OG/DE; Tyler Schinharl, 5-11, 165, WR.
Outlook: The Wildcats' defensive secondary and wide receivers are skilled and experienced. A large senior class (20) brings good leadership. Overall team speed has improved greatly and it's a highly motivated group.
Depth and a lack of overall size could be a detrimental and an inexperienced defensive front seven must gel.
Hirschfeld, Severson, Ryder, Armstrong, and Hojnack are all two-year starters. Severson had 14 catches for 140 yards and two TDs. Ryder was the second leading tackler.
Downing, who was the backup QB and started twice, caught 49 passes for 683 yards and six TDS. Schinharl had 16 receptions for 234 yards.
"We have lacked physical size and depth during the past two seasons," said Keller, who has a career record of 60-80. "Injuries to key people have been devastating. If our OL and DL develop, and if we avoid injury, we will be competitive in the NLL."
Coach: Steve Aungst, first year
Last season: 3-7, 3-4
Last 10 years: 42-60, 36-34
Returning letter winners: 8
Returning starters: offense 6, defense 6
Schemes: Pro set/4-3
Top players: Seniors Derek Batt, 6-0, 205, RB/LB; Cole Jennings 5-11, 150, WR/QB/DB; Alex Augsburger, 6-8, 215, OL/DL; Zach Ressler, 5-9, 175, OL/LB; Justin Spencer, 5-11, 165, QB/DB. Juniors Alec Cunningham, 6-0, 250, RB/DL; Justin Christoff 6-3, 275, OL/DL; Derek Shroeder, 6-0, 175, WR/DB.
Outlook: The Bobcats will look to run effectively and control the clock. On defense, the linebackers should be the strength.
But the passing game must improve and three starters in the secondary on defense must be replaced.
"We have come a long way with hard work in the summer and during two-a-days," Aungst said.
There are 54 players including 12 seniors. Batt had 44.5 tackles and three interceptions last season. Ressler had 43.5 tackles, while Jennings finished with 25.5 tackles and four picks. Cunningham rushed for 314 yards
"Offensively, we want to develop an identity," Aungst said. "With the personnel we have, we will be able to do this. We want to bring back Bobcat pride."
Coach: Todd Drusback, first year
Last season: 0-10, 0-7
Last 10 years: 39-64, 27-43
Returning letter winners: 9
Returning starters: offense 4, defense 4
Schemes: No huddle, spread/3-5-3
Top players: Seniors D.J. Recknagel, 6-1, 195, QB,WR,RB/LB; Andrew MacFarland, 5-11, 175, WR/DB. Juniors Kyle Handley, 6-0, 195, WR/DB; Mike Jarosz, 5-11, 155, WR/DB; L.J. Buck, 5-11, 225, C/NG.
Outlook: Drusback takes over a program that hasn't won a game in two seasons and the main goal is to snap a current 21-game losing streak.
"That is the biggie," he said.
Recknagel, who led the team in tackles, is among seven seniors back. The Bulldogs' biggest strength is a good work ethic.
"When you go into a program that has not had recent success, you have to control things like effort, attitude and toughness," Drusback said
A lack of experience is a weakness. This will be the last season in the NLL for Rossford before the Bulldogs move to the Northern Buckeye Conference.
"This being our last year in the league, we want to represent ourselves well," Drusback said. "They're developing a belief they will get it done. We will be more competitive."
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