LIBERTY CENTER — Defending league champion Archbold was picked to finish first by the other coaches in the league at the Northwest Ohio Athletic League Media Night held Sunday evening at Liberty Center Local Schools.
The Blue Streaks received five first place votes, then came Liberty Center in second with three first place votes. Wauseon was picked third, Patrick Henry fourth, Bryan fifth, Delta sixth, while Evergreen and Swanton were in a tie for seventh.
Also at the meeting, each coach had the chance to speak, giving his take on both his team and the season ahead.
Archbold head coach David Dominique was first, and he highlighted his team’s strong numbers this season with 64 kids playing football. They have good numbers in their upper classes as well — including 21 juniors.
Defense is the main strength of their team. “We’re gonna be relying on them early on until our offense gets up to speed,” noted Dominique.
On offense they will be anchored by an offensive line that returns five starters from a year ago.
Dominique closed by stating how difficult he expects the league slate to be in 2022. “I got a feeling it’s gonna be a gauntlet every single week. As always, it’s gonna be tough; you better prepare well or you’re gonna end up losing.”
Delta’s Nate Ruple first noted that he has 47 players on the roster for this season. “Which is the highest we’ve had since I’ve been here. So we are happy with that number at this point,” he said.
In fact, they even have 14 seniors, many of whom saw playing time in 2021.
“So with that 14 seniors, many of those guys had to play last year; had the injury bug go around last year,” Ruple said.
A weakness for the Panthers is going to be depth.
“It’s a good group of kids. Not the biggest or the fastest, but they are just good, solid, high character kids. They love each other and they love football,” concluded Ruple.
Evergreen first-year coach Evan Karchner spoke next. At the beginning of his speech, he shared his gratitude at being a part of the NWOAL.
“First off, I want to thank you guys for welcoming us here. I think this is a really fun league and I’m excited to be a part of it. And to be able to compete with you guys week in and week out,” said Karchner.
One of his first goals in taking over the program at Evergreen is to create more excitement.
“From today, we have a total of 37 players freshmen through seniors. But we do plan on having a couple big middle school classes coming up — we have 21 eighth graders right now. So obviously keeping those guys out is important,” he said.
The Vikings this season have a good foundation of returning players.
“We have 19 returning starters, so obviously that is a good thing,” Karchner said. “But our senior class is small. I don’t know the exact number, but we have less than 10 seniors on our team. But, a lot of those returning starters are juniors so there is a bright future ahead of us.
“I’d say our strength obviously is experience. And we have really a lot of faith in our o-line and d-line.”
Later in the meeting, Swanton and Wauseon’s coaches gave their remarks. Swanton’s Eric Keller found it amusing being called a “new” coach. He brings to Swanton many years of head coaching experience, primarily at Northview but he also spent one season at Evergreen, and several more years as an assistant.
“I haven’t been referred to as a new coach for a long time. This is my 37th year in coaching,” he quipped.
Similar to Karchner at Evergreen, Keller’s goal was create a buzz around the program. He was able to add to their numbers, getting them north of 50.
“We have 52 kids, which is about 20 more than we had at the end of the year; 11 seniors, 11 juniors, we have 19 sophomores — I’m pretty happy about that. Maybe four of them are returning starters,” Keller said.
The Bulldogs have 12 freshmen as well.
“Our numbers are up, excitement is up, I like our coaching staff, and we’re gonna see what we can do together,” explained the Swanton coach.
Wauseon has 63 players on the roster according to coach Shawn Moore. They have several returning starters on both sides of the ball.
“Offensively, we got six guys back on offense. We’ve got seven guys back on defense,” explained Moore.
He is encouraged by the skill position players that are back. But a key to the offense’s success will be line play.
“We like our quarterback (Elijah McLeod) who’s coming back. But we basically are replacing all five (offensive) linemen this year. So will be looking to get some competition from some of these guys. We’ve got 16 seniors. So we’ll focus on these seniors, we’ve had some good success with kids that have stuck with us. They get to their senior year and produce for us on the offensive line,” Moore said.
The football regular season kicks off on Friday, Aug. 19, while NWOAL play starts in week four on Friday, Sept. 9.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.