The consensus among City Series coaches is there are two teams that enter the 2012 season as favorites to win the league title — Buchtel and Firestone.
Buchtel coach Ricky Powers and Firestone coach Tim Flossie are both accustomed to winning over the years as players and coaches.
Flossie guided Buchtel to Division II state titles in 1987 and 1988 as coach, with Powers playing the role of standout running back.
Powers, in his sixth season as head coach, led Buchtel to the past three City Series titles with 6-0 league marks during each season and a Division III state runner up finish in 2010.
Seniors Darnell Hubbard, Elijah Bell, Marty Drummond and Erron Cosey return this season for the Griffins along with juniors Ali Grose and Chris Davis.
“The biggest thing is we are young,” Powers said. “I don’t think that is necessarily a weakness. The guys are flying around and having fun. I really like them.”
Buchtel opens the season with three road games at Division I schools Massillon, Lakewood St. Edward and Solon and then plays Division II Firestone in Week 4 at the University of Akron’s InfoCision Stadium.
“Since I have been here, our schedule has been ridiculously tough,” Powers said. “We want our kids to play in the big stadiums and play the best.”
Flossie, who was a star quarterback at Garfield in the late-1960s, is in his 32nd season as a head coach and seventh at Firestone. The Falcons won the 2007 City Series title and made their lone state playoff appearance in Division II with Flossie as coach.
“Our first six games are a bear,” Flossie said. “We have GlenOak, Copley, Stow, Buchtel, Kenmore and Massillon. That is a tough road for six straight games. We have to avoid guys getting hurt. I think if we can do that, then we can be a balanced team offensively and defensively.”
Seniors Kevin Gladney and Jerome Lane and junior Brennan Williams return from a Falcons team that went 5-5 overall last year and 5-1 in the league. Senior Cameron Sheppard, a Norton transfer, and sophomore Reggie Rogers give the Falcons two quality quarterbacks.
Kenmore (6-4, 4-2 last season) emerged as the surprise team last year and appears poised to rise this year.
“I think Buchtel and Firestone are the two top teams,” Kenmore coach Ed Peltz said. “They are the teams that everyone is trying to be like.”
Deon’tae Moore, DeSean Ballinger and Nolan Shropshire are key seniors for the Cardinals and Michael Perry is a junior to watch.
“I am blessed to have a tremendous coaching staff, and the community has really embraced our football program,” Peltz said. “The community is really supporting us.”
Coach Joe Yost returns for his 34th season at Ellet with juniors Matt Geer and Dakota King as leaders.
“We are young,” Yost said. “We have four seniors that will play a lot.”
Juniors Hussein Hamdan and Nikolas Ricks also return for the Orangemen.
“I am real pleased with the overall attitude on the team,” Yost said. “We have a group of kids that enjoy the game of football.”
Garfield also figures to be in the mix this year with seniors Garland Brandon, Rayshawn Nevins and Troy Robinson playing prominent roles along with sophomore Darrion Powers.
“I have a good senior class,” Garfield coach Bob Sax said. “I really like the makeup of our team. We had a down year last year [at 2-8, 2-4]. I played every young kid I could play because I wanted them to come back this year with a lot of experience. I feel like for the first time in three years I have some guys that can do some things with the football.”
North coach Mike Laktash expects seniors William Duhart, Jashawn Williams and Caleb Kennedy to lead a Vikings squad heavy on freshmen.
“We are real excited about our freshman class,” Laktash said. “Depth is a concern for our team. We have players at key positions that are returnees, but after that if somebody got hurt it comes down to who are we going to put in?”
Laktash and East coach Marques Hayes are both trying to build confidence in their teams and help their kids learn how to win. Both teams were 1-9 last year.
Hayes served as an East assistant the past two years and said he expects seniors DaQuinn Nash and Trey Turner to provide leadership. Maurice Thomas and Darius Griggs are among a group of promising East sophomores.
“We are very young, but the one thing I like about them is that by default last year we had to play a lot of freshmen,” Hayes said. “Even though we have several sophomores, a lot of them played 10 games as freshmen.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.