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Published: Tuesday, 8/24/2010

Win streaks on the line for Genoa team

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The numbers speak for themselves when summing up Genoa's recent dominance in the Suburban Lakes League.

The three-time defending Comets have not lost a league game since the 2006. While that perfection (20-0) is not necessarily expected to continue this season, Genoa is predicted to win its fourth straight SLL crown.

Eastwood, which had captured or shared five straight league titles before Genoa's run, is expected to contend again after finishing second.

But Genoa has not lost an SLL game since coach Mike Vicars took over the program in 2007. Vicars has led the Comets to deep postseason runs the last two seasons and has a 34-4 overall record. Genoa enters this season with a 29-game, regular-season winning streak.

Last November, Genoa had posted an 11-0 record and reached the Division IV regional semifinals. The Comets had earned a No. 4 ranking in the state poll. But they fell behind 29-8 to Orrville, and despite a furious rally, lost 36-35.

The Comets had outscored their first 11 foes, 599-31. Five players from that team who earned first team All-SLL honors return this year. Vicars also has 25 letter winners back.

"We are trying to reload," Vicars said. "Overall if we stay healthy we have a good chance to compete."

Eastwood also looks to return to the D-IV postseason after reaching the second round last year. The Eagles drilled top-seeded Galion 35-6 in the opening round of the playoffs. But in the second round they lost 48-3 to Ottawa-Glandorf.

Eagles coach Jerry Rutherford has a huge senior class back along with 18 letter winners.

Lake and Otsego also are the top threats to Genoa's reign.

"Genoa has had a nice run here and until someone knocks them off they are the league champs," Lake coach Bob Abbey said. "Eastwood is good every year. They are well coached and have a lot of kids. We think we can compete with anyone in the league. Otsego will be much improved."

Otsego is expected to make a significant rebound in coach Erik Johnson's second season after going winless last season.

Former Patrick Henry assistant coach Britton Devier takes over at Woodmore. In both of his two seasons at PH, the team went 10-0 during the regular season.

Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:

GENOA

Coach: Mike Vicars, fourth year

Last season: 11-1 overall, 6-0 SLL

Last 10 years: 54-54 overall, 33-35 SLL

Returning letter winners: 25

Returning starters: offense 4, defense 8

Schemes: Wing-T/Multiple 50

Top players: Seniors Seth Dufendock, 6-1, 188, RB/LB; Derek Allgier, 6-1, 175, SE/DB; Andrew Hayes, 6-0, 260, T/DL; Luke Sutter, 6-2, 240, T/DE; Justin Upham, 5-8, 154, G/DL; Casey Wojciechowski, 5-9, 185, G/DL; Garrett Scott, 6-1, 165, SE/DB. Juniors Brandon Roberts, 5-10, 150, RB/DB; Tyler Pickard, 5-10, 177, RB/LB.

Outlook: Allgier, Sutter, Pickard, Upham, Dufendock, and Hayes all earned first team All-SLL honors last year. Allgier had 36 receptions and eight touchdowns.

Dufendock is an outstanding two-way player, according to Vicars. Hayes and Sutter are returning starting linemen, while Wojciechowski, Upham, and Hayes bolster a stingy defensive front. Roberts anchors the defensive backfield, while Pickard was an

All-Ohio kicker last year.

Vicars views team speed and overall depth as strengths.

"Our backs are skilled and quick and we'll need them to make plays for us," he said.

But many skill positions have new players, including at quarterback.

"We lost a very nice senior class … one of the winningest of all time here at Genoa," Vicars said. "We lost several All-Ohio players and we need time for guys to adjust to their new starting roles. We have a nice hard working group, but we are very green."

EASTWOOD

Coach: Jerry Rutherford, 29th year

Last season: 9-3, 5-1

Last 10 years: 83-28, 58-11

Returning letter winners: 18

Returning starters: offense 5, defense 4

Schemes: Run and Shoot/5-2

Top players: Seniors Pernell Conner, 5-10, 215, RB; Jeff Rutherford, 6-0, 214, TE-DE; Branden Abke, 6-0, 172, LB; Taylor Link, 6-1, 185, C; Forest Ickes, 6-0, 281, OT; Nick Duncan, 5-9, 164, DE; Tony Tijerina, 5-11, 183, RB; Taylor Depew, 5-9, 157, K. Junior Kris Hayward, 5-10, 189, OG-LB.

Outlook: Expectations are high once again as the Eagles are loaded with 20 seniors.

Buoying that optimism are strong offensive and defensive lines. Running back Pernell Conner earned first team league and district honors after rushing for 942 yards and 15 TDs during the regular season.

Eastwood's special teams units could be the best in the area with Depew and Rutherford at kicker and punter, respectively. Rutherford also earned All-SLL honors as a tackle.

Holes in the defense, especially at linebacker and in the secondary, need to be filled.

"We have a big senior class and it's their team," said Rutherford, who has a 174-117 career record. "It should be interesting to see how they lead."

LAKE

Coach: Bob Abbey, fourth year

Last year: 7-3, 4-2

Last 10 years: 47-53, 31-36

Returning letter winners: 13

Returning starters: offense 4, defense 8

Schemes: I, triple option/4-2-5

Top players: Seniors Kurt McKee, 6-0, 160, WR/DB; Ben Sample, 6-2, 160, WR/OLB; Carl Brown, 5-10, 225, FB/DL; Alan Martinez, 5-11, 215, QB/DB; Robbie Vasquez, 5-10, 210, OL/DL. Junior Josh Tantari, 6-2, 160, RB/DB; Nathan Pennington, 5-11, 160, QB/DB; Dylan Hirzel, 6-4, 190, TE/OLB.

Outlook: Following the devastating tornadoes in June that destroyed Lake High School, Abbey's team was forced to share a practice field. But the Flyers will be able to play on the newly installed FieldTurf at their stadium.

"Two months ago we weren't sure if were going to be able to play at all," Abbey said. "We're just grateful with what we have."

The Flyers home opener is the second week against Northwood.

"A lot of people out here in the community are excited," Abbey said. "The kids want to put on a good show for them."

Abbey said his team has good overall team speed. Eight of 11 defensive starters return. But he also lost five of six starters on the offensive line.

"We'll hang our hat on our defense," he said.

Lake's only league losses came against Genoa and Eastwood last season.

"We'll need to avoid injuries, cut down on mistakes, and play hard every week," Abbey said.

OTSEGO

Coach: Erik Johnson, second year

Last season: 0-10, 0-6

Last 10 years: 55-50, 37-32

Returning letter winners: 17

Returning starters: offense 9, defense 9

Schemes: Wing-T/4-3Top players: Seniors Adam Bialecki, 5-9, 220, C/DT; Ian Fleetwood, 6-0, 175, HB/LB; Travis Podolak, 5-10, 145, HB/S; Ray Grosswiler, 5-10, 165, DE/G; Sam Forshey, 6-1, 190, HB/LB; Will Baughman, 6-1, 240, T/DE; Tyler Luettke, 5-9, 170, LB/G.

Outlook: With 15 seniors, Johnson said he can count on experience and leadership as strong suites this season.

After a winless season, one of Johnson's biggest hurdles will be building a winning attitude.

"We have had a very good offseason, developing ourselves physically," Johnson said. "If we have some of our younger players contribute, we can have a successful season. Leadership from our upperclassmen is vital to our team's success."

WOODMORE

Coach: Britton Devier, first year

Last season: 4-6, 3-3

Last 10 years: 43-58, 32-36

Returning letter winners: 12

Returning starters: offense 4, defense 4

Schemes: Pro-style, West Coast/5-2

Top players: Seniors Grant Weirich, 6-1, 165, WR/S; Zak Avers 5-10, 187, C; Pierce Fonseca, 5-10, 195, RB; Bryan Kuhlman, 5-10, 165, G/LB; Jake Zollinger, 5-9, 170, DB. Junior Jon Sandwisch, 6-2, 190, QB.

Outlook: "The talent here is not much different than where I came from," said Devier, who was an assistant coach at Patrick Henry when the Patriots reached the state semifinals last fall. "Our goal is to have a winning season and compete for the league and make the playoffs."

Devier said he possesses an outstanding group of skill guys. He also said he has a good core of players back on defense.

"They were successful stopping the run but they gave up big plays," he said.

Among seven seniors, Sandwisch and Weirich earned All-SLL second team honors at safety. Avers and Fonseca earned honorable mention.

Devier said he is trying to develop the offensive line.

He said because his system is new to the players, it may take some time for them to pick it up.

ELMWOOD

Coach: Vic Meyer, second year

Last season: 3-7, 2-4

Last 10 years: 59-44, 40-27

Returning letter winners: 9

Returning starters: offense 8, defense 7

Schemes: Spread/4-3

Top players: Seniors Jack Waldock, 6-0, 200, RB/DB; T.J. Waldock, 6-0, 210, WR/DL; Nate Wacek, 6-0, 200, WR/LB; Jay Hannah 6-1, 190, WR/LB.

Outlook: Meyer said the team's probable strengths are its experience on the offensive line. The biggest potential weakness is overall team speed.

Hannah (27 catches for 350 yards) and Wacek (26 catches for 344 yards) ranked fourth in fifth, respectively, in the league in receiving last season.

GIBSONBURG

Coach: Steve Reser, first year

Last season: 3-7, 1-5

Last 10 years: 36-67, 21-48

Returning lettermen: 17

Returning starters: offense 4, defense 4

Schemes: Spread/4-2-5

Top players: Seniors Nick Black, 5-11, 175, RB/DB; Nick Sneider, 6-1, 195, WR/LB; Jaime Mancha, 5-9, 235, OL/DL; Andy Ritter, 5-11, 175, WR/LB; Vince Kirsch, 5-8, 150, WR/DB; Brett Diekman, 5-11, 180, QB/DB. Juniors Logan Jones, 6-4, 210, WR/DL; Bobby Heath, 6-1, 215, OL/DL.

Outlook: Reser takes over after spending the last five years as the offensive coordinator at Tiffin Columbian.

Probable team strengths reside along the offensive and defensive lines. Reser also has 14 seniors returning. But small overall numbers (30 players) could spell trouble.

"We hope to compete and give ourselves an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter," Reser said. "If we can stay healthy we believe we can do that. Depth and experience are both issues."



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