Tradition builds a winning culture. A winning culture delivers championships.
That’s the way it’s been for Barberton, Aurora and Highland, who look to stay at or near the top of the Suburban League American Conference again this season.
That’s not to discount what they’re doing at Revere, Copley, Tallmadge and Kent Roosevelt in what is a strong division year in and year out.
It’s also why the Magics, Greenmen and Hornets are looking at 2019 as a way to take another big step forward.
Tony Gotto has built a machine at Barberton, which has won the past two league titles. The Magics have won 25 consecutive regular-season games dating back to Sept. 23, 2016, and have reached the playoffs three seasons in a row.
Barberton is poised to do it again.
“Obviously, our kids have done really well,” Gotto said. “The goal here is to keep our kids focused. It’s a new year, so we can’t rest on our laurels. Last year was last year, but we have a pretty good group of seniors. There’s a lot of skill. We’ll share the ball and let that skill show us how to move the ball.”
Second-team All-Ohio running back Kyree Young transferred to Buchtel, but the Magics have a couple of standouts in Markim McKinnie and Maliq Spragling that have moved in.
Add that talent to returners Chase Haywood at quarterback, Ryan Watkins and Kaeleb Vega at receiver with Cameron Macon helping out at running back and there shouldn’t be a step down at Barberton.
Aurora missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons despite a 7-3 record last season. That’s been the rallying cry for a team that brings it every season.
In 2018, everything went through senior and third-team all-state selection Colin McNamara. In 2019, fans will see the more traditional, dominant Greenmen.
“We were kind of a committee at running back last season,” Aurora coach Bob Mihalik said. “We went through our quarterback, Colin McNamara. He was our main running back as well.
With Alex Moore at quarterback this season and James Austin at running back, expect the Greenmen to pick up where they left off. Add Johnny Papesh at wide receiver and Aurora is ready to get back into the conference and playoff race again.
“We’re bigger and stronger up front,” Mihalik said. “Last year, we didn’t think we had the personnel to do that, so we were more spread out and ran the ball with our quarterback. We might get back to some more traditional stuff this year.”
Highland is coming off an 8-2 season, but one in which the Hornets missed the playoffs. They lost second-team All-Ohioan Jake Rogers to graduation and have moved special mention all-state wide receiver Bryce Profitt back to quarterback where he was a backup to Jack McGinty last season.
Add that to a solid line on both offense and defense and the Hornets could be tough once again with Alex Jaworski and Brady Linder taking the lion’s share of the load at wide receiver and running back, respectively.
Revere has pieces in place to build on a 6-4 season. The Minutemen will go behind their mountain of a lineman in third-team all-state selection and Ohio State commit Ben Christman.
Brandon Trocano is back at running back and the senior will have Nate Klonowski back at quarterback, giving Revere six seasons of experience at the two biggest skill positions.
“In my 28 years here, I think Nate is the best quarterback to ever come through here,” Revere coach Terry Cistone said. “He’s just a got a strong arm. He’s intelligent. He’s a competitor.”
With 10 letterwinners and five starters back, Tallmadge will rely on first-team all-conference running back Jesse Kanatzer and Drew Cross to improve upon a 5-5 season. That squad was led by first-team All-Ohio quarterback Sam Seeker, who will play baseball at Toledo this year.
Copley brings back 11 starters from a 3-7 team that has pieces in Drew Robinson, Brendan Roddy, Marcel Sutton and Rhett Van Voorhis under first-year coach Jake Parsons.
Kent Roosevelt looks to turn around a 2-8 season with former Tallmadge coach Alan Vanderink at the helm.
Look for quarterback CJ Anderson, wide receiver/defensive back Luke Lark, tailback/linebacker Cade McDougal and linemen Nick Rothaermel and Joe Garvriloff to lead the Rough Riders.