Archbold football had one of its most memorable seasons in recent history in 2019, and they have the talent returning on both sides of the ball to make 2020 just as indelible.
The Blue Streaks (11-2) were co-champions of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League with Liberty Center, and made it to the Division VI regional final where they fell to eventual state champion, Anna.
En route to the regional final, they knocked off perennial power Coldwater, then avenged a regular season loss to Liberty Center.
“Last year was a very good year for our program,” stated head coach David Dominique. “We were led by a very good group of seniors that led by example and had great work ethic both on and off the football field. We were able to claim a share of the league title and lost in the regional finals to the eventual state champions, Anna. Although it did not end how we wanted, it was a great year for our program and we are looking to build on it this year.”
The Streaks have 13 returning starters (6 on offense, 7 on defense), including multiple players who will see time on both sides of the field.
Notable returnees on offense include quarterback DJ Newman (honorable mention All-NWOAL, All-Northwest District), running back Noah Gomez (first team All-NWOAL, second team All-Northwest District), and wide receiver Antonio Cruz (first team All-NWOAL and All-Northwest District, honorable mention All-Ohio).
Newman passed for 2,017 yards, 20 touchdowns to eight interceptions a year ago. He also tacked on 623 yards rushing and eight TDs.
Gomez nearly eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground, racking up 976 yards and 12 TDs. Cruz caught 64 balls for 952 yards and 13 TDs.
The Streaks also return receiver Brandon Taylor (honorable mention all-league), tackle Biship Tuckerman (honorable mention all-league) and guard Josh Richer (honorable mention all-league).
Defensively, they return linebacker Carson Meyer (first team all-league and all-district, second team All-Ohio), defensive end Caleb Ranzau (second team all-league, honorable mention all-district), safety Caleb Hogrefe (second team all-league, honorable mention all-district), linebacker Johnny Yoder (honorable mention all-league), defensive tackle Devon Morris, Gomez who was a safety and Taylor a cornerback.
“One area we feel that we are strong in coming into the 2020 season is our skilled positions. We have the majority of starters in our offensive and defensive backfields returning so we are going to really rely on them and the experience they have gained over the past couple of years. As a whole, we also feel that we have good team speed across the board so we will need to utilize that in order to compete each week,” said Dominique.
The Streaks will be going forward without nine starters who graduated in the spring.
Gone from the 2019 team are Matthew Gladieux (first team all-league, all-district and All-Ohio), Elijah Zimmerman (first team all-league and all-district, second team All-Ohio), Mason Babcock (first team all-league, second team all-district), Devin Witte (first team all-league, second team all-district), Tony Grime (second team all-league, honorable mention all-district), Adrian Juarez (second team all-league, honorable mention all-district), Shane Eicher (second team all-league), Spencer Short (honorable mention all-league) and Brayden Hall (honorable mention all-league).
“After losing a number of key linemen to graduation, one area we lack experience in will be on the offensive and defensive lines,” said Dominique on potential weaknesses heading into the season. “Although we lost some good players in the trenches, we are looking to continually improve up front and watch the competition for these open spots unfold throughout the preseason.”
The Blue Streak coach says his team has felt the effects of the lack of a normal offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately the pandemic has put us behind in terms of the weight room and conditioning side of things, but our guys have found various ways to keep working out and we are excited to get back at it,” explained Dominique. “If we have learned anything during this quarantine, it is to never take anything for granted and enjoy every minute of our ‘normal’ lives. Although we have lost some time together as a team, I am hoping that this time off has given everyone a chance to clear their heads and come focused for the upcoming season.”
Dominique expects to duke it out with last year’s co-league champion and rival Wauseon for supremacy in the NWOAL.
“Last year, the league from top to bottom was one of the most competitive I have ever seen and I expect it to be no different this year. With the experience coming back I expect LC and Wauseon to be near the top and a number of other teams being much improved from last season. As we found out last year though, you must properly prepare yourself each week in order to compete and find success in the NWOAL,” he said.
Archbold and the rest of the NWOAL teams have newly-formed schedules in light of the shortened season established by the OHSAA because of the pandemic. The Streaks will open at home against Bryan this Friday.