Bryan quarterback Collin Bacon was a threat on the ground (895 yards) and through the air (768) last season as he shared duties at the position with Austin Schimmoeller (443 rushing, 797 passing).
BRYAN TIMES/DANA KUBANDA Enlarge
Talk of Bryan as the favorite to win the Northwest Ohio Athletic League championship is swirling about the communities of the NWOAL.
Such chatter can make a coach smile, yet, make a coach feel uneasy at the same time.
Bryan coach Kevin Kline knows that feeling this fall.
The Golden Bears are considered the favorites to win the NWOAL title.
Bryan received six first-place votes to lead a coaches poll, followed by Patrick Henry, Archbold, Liberty Center, Wauseon, Delta, Evergreen, Montpelier and Swanton. Patrick Henry received two first-place votes and Archbold received one.
"I don't put a lot of stock in preseason polls," said Kline, who is in his second season in charge at Bryan. "It's flattering what they said, but at the same time, there's a lot of work to be done."
With several key players back in uniform from last season's team that finished 6-2 in the NWOAL, including quarterbacks Collin Bacon (6-1, 209) and Austin Schimmoeller (6-2, 175), the Bears have playmakers to lean on for guidance.
The two signal-callers split time at the key position to combine for 2,903 yards.
Bacon rushed for 895 yards and passed for 768, while Schimmoeller ran for 443 and threw for 797.
"Our skill positions, we returned some kids who are pretty good athletes and we have some depth there," Kline said. "We still have some questions to answer."
Establishing solid offensive and defensive lines are concerns for the Bears heading into the season.
Patrick Henry senior quarterback Gabe Jones rushed for 486 yards on 79 carries last season.
Liberty Center, the defending league champion that went 8-0 in the league last season, was predicted to finish in the middle of the pack last year.
Liberty Center running back Zach Niner and quarterback Josh Drain were pivotal players in the Tigers' run to the title a season ago. Their return to the field gives Liberty Center coach Rex Lingruen and the Tigers the kind of offensive threats that should keep them in the conversation for another run at the league championship.
Patrick Henry senior Gabe Jones, who scored 13 touchdowns and rushed for 486 yards, provides the Patriots with some experience in the backfield.
"I think preseason polls are what they are," Kline said. "Liberty Center, for example, was picked to finish fourth last year and they ended up winning the whole thing. So, I don't put a lot of stock in it, especially with us because we haven't won the league since 1986 and we don't really have a track record with that."
Contact Donald Emmons at: email@example.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.