For the past two seasons, the Wadsworth football team has been the bully on the block in the Suburban League National Conference.
If Dom Loparo and Co. have anything to say, the Grizzlies could take the league’s lunch money again.
Winners of 21 consecutive regular-season games and 15 consecutive league games, Wadsworth is loaded.
“You can’t make many mistakes against them,” North Royalton coach Nick Ciulli said. “They’re really good everywhere. They’re hitting a nice run of talent. They play fast. They have tough kids and are well-coached. You have to play a perfect game.”
The Grizzlies lost all-league running back Brock Snowball to graduation, but have just as viable a back returning in Loparo, who rushed for 1,143 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Add starter Trey Shaffer at quarterback, receivers Tyler Montgomery and Barret Labus and 80 percent of its offensive line and Wadsworth is primed for another run.
Defensively, the Grizzlies return five starters, but have lost their entire secondary.
“We talk to our kids about being on a day-to-day and rep-to-rep basis,” Wadsworth coach Justin Todd said. “The moment we think we’ve arrived is when our coaches get a little wild. We start reining them back and make them realize those two previous groups are gone. It’s over. Now, as a 2019 football team, you better understand the goal has been reset to win the Suburban League again.”
Nordonia finished second last season and has incredible depth after a 9-2, 6-1 season.
Nordonia coach Jeff Fox has burners back in running back Sal Perrine and wide receiver Joel Jones, who both run sub-5.0 40-yard dashes.
They’ll go behind three-year starter Collin McConahy, who stands 6-foot-6, 305 pounds. Junior Billy Levak takes over at quarterback for his brother Robby Levak, who left as the school’s career leading passer.
“This is the deepest team we’ve had in recent years at Nordonia,” Fox said. “We have a lot of healthy competition at our skill positions. Wide receiver and running back return players that produced on Friday nights as sophomores and freshmen last year in Joel Jones, Sal Perrine, Jon Henderson and Cooper Rusk. Our defense will include a lot of speedy new players that were stalwarts on special teams as underclassmen waiting their turn to step into their roles on the Dark Knights defense.”
The SL National Conference will still be quarterback central as the best of the bunch resides in North Royalton where Joey Marousek begins his fourth year at the helm with the Bears.
The University of Akron commit has a big piece in Simon Antonio at tailback after the senior missed most of his junior season. Marousek will have Riley Knurek, Michael Singer and Nick Evanko at his disposal at receiver along with Killian O’Callahan.
“It’s like having another coach,” Ciulli said. “We call him Coach Marousek, but he knows the offense like the back of his hand. We don’t have to worry about him. He makes my life easier. We’re in midseason form right now.”
Brecksville didn’t win a game last season, but the Bees have the attention of everyone with Joe Labus returning to quarterback after suffering a season-ending injury last season in Week 2.
Add Ethan Hatcher, Garret Kubitz, Luke Gibbons, Ronny Wilson and Jeremy Jonozzo and Brecksville has 10 of 11 starters returning on offense.
Hudson is coming off a 3-7 season, but has 10 starters returning, including 30 returning letter winners.
Linemen Mason McLaughlin and Evan Knipp should pave the way for Drew Lightner and Aiden Lal at running back.
“These guys have been there before,” Explorers coach Jeff Gough said. “Last year, every game felt like we were definitely in it in the fourth quarter. We were up 13-0 on a 9-0 Wadsworth team. It’s just a matter of taking that next step.”
Stow could surprise everyone. While the Bulldogs went 5-5 in 2018, they were 5-2 in the league with their conference losses coming to Wadsworth (41-28) and Nordonia (44-42).
Seniors Joshua Andrassy, Jaelen Crider, Louie Aristide, Michael Mitchell, Carter Kline, Jacob Rosario, Seth Shinsky and Jonah Walters could be the difference on a team loaded with returning letter winners. Juniors Dalen Stovall and Clayton Mosher bring experience as well.
Twinsburg brings back 18 letter winners and 10 starters from a 5-5, 4-3 team.
The Tigers have Jamier James back at running back and Dominick Glenn at wider receiver with Aiden Corrigan, who saw time at quarterback, under center.
Defensively, Kyle Apple, James, Glenn, Antoine Branch and Dylan Crouch provide experience.
Cuyahoga Falls looks to improve after a 1-9, 1-6 season.
Quarterback Braunavan Arsenault and running back Rob Graves look to build off of 2018 seasons.
Receiver Christian Casto, linemen Jordan Tuttle and Donovan Deighton could have big years.