Following last season's crushing 37-6 playoff loss to Toledo Whitmer and the decision to not renew Ron Johnson's contract, Canton McKinley is wiping the slate clean and starting anew with first-year coach Todd Filtz.
Formerly at Maple Heights, Filtz, the youngest coach in McKinley’s history, says he’s just pushing forward to his first game Aug. 25 against Walsh Jesuit.
“That’s all in the past,” Filtz said of the coaching change, which wasn’t without controversy after the school board voted 3-2 against the recommendation of former superintendent Michele Evans to renew Johnson’s contract.
“We’ve moved forward from that. Within this program right now, everybody is on the same page and working towards the same common goal.”
Filtz’s offense will be built around numerous looks and giving opposing defenses a lot to prepare for, and he says he’ll be bringing back some of the traditional offenses from McKinley’s past.
“We're gonna be multiple in our sets,” he said. “We're just trying to bring back the old McKinley football. We get into a bunch of different sets and run a bunch of different plays, and hopefully build off of the tradition here.”
Filtz won’t say who might be starting where, especially at the quarterback spot. But he loves the competition.
“Our kids, from the first workout, have been competing with one another,” he said. “We’ve been getting great effort and they’re responding well to the coaching change that happened.”
GlenOak, the top contender after the Bulldogs, will be led by McKinley transfer Reid Worstell. Worstell, whose father, Rick, quarterbacked McKinley to the 1981 Class AAA state title, might air the ball out more frequently after the departure of Ohio State running back recruit Bri’onte Dunn, and with his new blind-side blocker, senior Stephen Mathie. Both schools went 6-1 in the Federal League last season and will meet on Oct. 5 at McKinley.
GlenOak and McKinley build off strong traditions, but Jackson finished 6-4 last season, and coach Beau Balderson hopes the Polar Bears have turned a corner.
“Last year was a big turning point for our program,” he said. “Jackson hadn’t had a winning season in seven or eight years. We got a taste of what it was like to have some success. And it’s been the best offseason since I’ve been here. Our goals are high and we want to compete for a Federal League championship.”
Jackson lost nine of 11 offensive starters from a year ago and its running game — which accounted for about 90 percent of all 2011 production — will be traded in for a more balanced offense under junior quarterback Tyler Langenfeld.
“Tyler's got a strong arm and he makes good decisions,” Balderson said. “He continues to have composure and when something goes wrong, he just makes the next play.”
Jackson lost its last game to North Canton Hoover, something Vikings coach Don Hertler, Jr. hopes to build off to carry his team to a better start to the season than in 2011.
“Beating Jackson in that last game helped propel us into the offseason and we hope that same attitude carries over into this season,” he said. “We started 0-2 last year and we need to get out faster. We start with Stow, and we need to get out of the gate.”
Hertler is looking to Dom Iero, an Akron baseball recruit, to replace last year's starting quarterback, Austin Appleby, who signed with Purdue.
“Dom had a good camp and good two-a-days,” Hertler said. “He's a pretty good athlete. He runs and throws pretty well. He's more versatile than Appleby was.”
Lake coach Jeff Durbin knows last season’s 2-8 record was disappointing, but he does have positives to point to.
“We just weren’t real good last year, to be honest, but it wasn’t because we didn’t have talent,” he said. “We didn't realize the chemistry you need. We played great against GlenOak and lost on the last play and then lost on the last-play field goal to Jackson. Our kids are better buddies now. That’s good, you need to like each other. We have those things going for us.”
Perry, which also went 2-8, had to endure a rough stretch while starting several sophomores and juniors. Coach Keith Boedicker is looking for 2012 to pay off after a learning experience in 2011.
“Our kids were baptized under fire,” he said. “There were times when we had seven sophomores on the field. So we have a lot of experience back. Experience is a great teacher but we are concerned with our depth now. The Federal League is a war of attrition and depth is always a concern.”
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.