Well wishes and talk of a highly competitive league season were the main topics of discussion at Sunday’s Northwest Ohio Athletic League Football Coaches Meeting held at Archbold.
Liberty Center was picked to win the league by the coaches, garnering four first-place votes. Wauseon was second with two first-place votes, Patrick Henry was third with one vote, Bryan fourth with one vote, Archbold fifth, Swanton sixth, Evergreen seventh, and Delta eighth.
However, the depth of the league was referenced by multiple coaches, highlighting that any team can beat another on any given night.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have multiple champs,” stated Liberty Center coach Casey Mohler. “Just teams beating up on each other each week. I think we could have two, maybe three teams win the league.”
For Fulton County, Archbold coach David Dominique was the first to present. The defending league champion Bluestreaks return 11 starters, but as a team they are small. He said they will try to counter that with their speed.
“Got some promising newcomers coming in. We were able to get some guys to come out for football for the first time. It’s good to get some new blood into our system,” said Dominique, speaking of his team.
Overall, Dominique will stress the importance of putting the work in on the practice field and in the film room.
“Being consistent in preparation,” he said of a key factor for the season. “Young guys figuring out that this is a grind. It’s not easy. You got to face the grind (of the season), otherwise it’s gonna be a tough year for you.”
Delta looks to improve on a 1-9 campaign from last season. Although picked last in the league, coach Jeff Wolford thinks his squad can surprise some people.
“We’re gonna be more competitive this year,” he said.
The Panthers have 42 players on the roster and 19 returning letter winners.
“Of those 42, 14 are seniors but of those 14, I think six of them are first year players,” said Wolford. “So really, seven or eight seniors have playing (experience). So we don’t have a strong senior class but we do have numbers.”
Nevertheless, they have put in the work in the off-season, particularly in the weight room.
“We are gonna be bigger, faster,” said the Panther coach. “I believe we got some speed this year. With 40 kids on the team, and you’ve got 30 of them in the weight room, that’s a good problem to have.”
Evergreen went from 0-10 the previous year to 4-6 last season under then first-year coach Aaron Schmidt. They will look to bump that win total up even more this season.
Continuity between the players, coaching staff, and the playbook should help the Vikings have success this season.
“This will be the second year that we’ve run our offense,” said Schmidt. “We’ll run the same offensive and defensive schemes as we did last year. Last year, we were trying to install everything. Kids’ heads were kind of spinning all the way until we picked up stuff week five or six.”
The Vikings return seven starters on offense – many on the offensive line – and nine on defense. They have roughly 40 kids total, including a few “basketball only” players who decided to come out for football this season.
Swanton will simply look to keep the success train rolling, coming off yet another playoff appearance. It was the Bulldogs’ third straight trip to the postseason last year, a season which saw them hand Archbold its only league loss.
They will look to guidance from senior leaders Xavier Williams, Michael Lawniczak, Dylan Gilsdorf, and Hunter Mix.
“We have 36 players right now. We return a good amount of guys,” said Swanton second-year coach Randy Kerns. “We got six (returning starters) on offense and five on defense. So decent experience. A solid, strong senior class.
“Good, hardworking kids. (I’m) pretty impressed with our senior leadership.”
Kerns was also first to point out the lack of change-over in terms of coaches in the league. All coaches from last year remain at their post.
When it was Wauseon coach Travis Cooper’s turn, he echoed Kerns’ sentiments.
“I think this is the first year since I’ve been in the league that we haven’t had a new head coach (to the league). So I think that’s good. That’s a good thing,” explained Cooper. “You can tell by watching film that we’ve got some good football minds. I don’t know if that’s always been the case. Sometimes, you put on film and you go like, why are they doing this. What is this supposed to be. You can see some things that every team is doing that (are) great. I think that our league is very, very strong.”
Wauseon has 57 kids out for the team this year, and Cooper is encouraged by what he’s seen so far.
“I know that we have quality (players),” he said. “The kids that are on our roster can handle the grind.”
But, the Indians did lose a lot from last year in terms of production.
“We do not have a player on our roster other than Xavier Torres that scored a point for us last year,” said Cooper. “We don’t have our punter, we don’t have our kicker. So we have a lot of question marks.”
The practices and scrimmages in the coming weeks will give the coach a better idea of what he has in his team.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010