Following a 10-win season and an undefeated record in the conference, Kent Roosevelt coach John Nemec is understandably excited about being able to deploy a quarterback with a commitment to a BCS program for an additional year.
“It’s wonderful,” he said of Tra’Von Chapman, who has committed to play for the University of Pittsburgh next fall. “He’s just outstanding, he’s a captain and we’re excited for this season.”
After Chapman, the Rough Riders face a lot of uncertainty after graduating 26 seniors, including 15 starters, from a year ago.
“It’s interesting and it makes for good competition,” Nemec said. “I have good kids fighting for spots but there’s some uncertainty because we haven’t seen them perform. We’re cautiously optimistic.”
The Rough Riders will have Trei Thomas and Zak Janus, both wide receivers, back with Chapman.
Ravenna, whom Roosevelt beat 42-35 last season, stands as the biggest challenger but is facing a similar problem after graduating 20 seniors, including four offensive lineman. Just like Nemec, Ravenna coach Jim Lunardi says he’s “cautiously optimistic.”
“We just don’t want to look at it as how many schools look at it, meaning a rebuilding year,” Lunardi said. “We’re gonna try to continue to compete and make it interesting. At this point in time, I would think Kent Roosevelt would be the favorite.”
Ravenna will have to find out who is starting where right out of the gate — the Ravens open 2012 against two playoff teams in Tallmadge and Aurora in their first three games.
Next in the Metro Division are a duo of 5-5 teams from a season ago, Coventry and Field.
The Comets are one of the only schools in the conference that will be leaning on experience in 2012 as Coventry returns 20 of 22 starters. The Comets will be led by running back and outside linebacker Dillon Headrick, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and was named second-team All-Ohio as a linebacker. Coach Jerami Hodgkinson will again run his run-orientated double-wing offense, led by his senior tailback. The combination of experience and production has Coventry excited.
“We’ve been a smash-mouth team and we hope to set the tone with our offense,” Hodgkinson said. “We’ve stayed healthy and we have depth. Our motto is to win the day. I won’t give us a number of where I think we’ll be, we’re just looking to knock one off at a time.”
At Field, old times are new again. Former coach Matt Furino, who led the Falcons from 1996-2007 before becoming athletic director, has again moved into the role of head coach. Field will have a vastly different starting lineup than in 2011 with only eight returning starters.
Two sophomores, strong-armed Caleb Wohlwend and dual-threat Preston Semler, have been vying for the starting quarterback job.
New Norton coach John Tanksley, who comes from Northwest, and Springfield coach Kevin Vaughn hope for brighter futures.
Tanksley says senior Colton Costanzo has the inside track to the starting nod at quarterback because of his leadership and from what he’s seen, the team is working much harder than last year.
The youngest team might be Vaughn’s Spartans, who need to replace running back Dillon Matthews.
“We don’t have a lot of experience and we’re really young up front,” Vaughn said. “It’s a matter of do we get better each week. Not only are we young, but there’s not a lot of depth, which is what we’re dealing with.”
In the County Division, Mogadore can’t seem to stay healthy. The Wildcats will start the season without Division IV first-team All-Ohio running back Gary Strain, who had foot surgery in July and will miss at least one game. Evan Uhalley, next in line, suffered a concussion and will also be unavailable.
“We’re scrambling a little bit,” Mogadore coach Matt Adorni said. “We’re trying to persevere through all this stuff. Our first four games may be our toughest, so we have our hands full. But we have a lot of guys returning.”
Mogadore opens the season against Crestwood, Smithville, Northwestern and Woodridge.
Woodridge, a top contender in the division, will have to overcome a new pay-to-play system. Coach Eric Ervin says about 20 kids dropped football this summer.
“We feel good about the guys we have,” he said. “The players that are here are here, we’re not worried about the guys who aren’t, quite frankly. Last year, we’d consider it a down year, but we have a lot of experience returning. Our record of 5-5 in the 1990s was a great year, but for us, it was a setback.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.