The football coaches of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League met for their annual preseason meeting Sunday evening at the Swanton Board of Education office.
It was an eventful night which saw a lot of things happen, including the announcement from veteran Liberty Center head coach Rex Lingruen that he will be retiring after the season. The NWOAL also welcomed back Bill Inselman who returns to coach Patrick Henry following a brief two-year retirement.
Lingruen’s Tigers were picked first among the coaches, followed by Swanton who was tabbed for second, Wauseon third, Patrick Henry fourth, Archbold fifth, Delta sixth, Bryan seventh and Evergreen eighth.
Although Wauseon was picked third, coach Travis Cooper is unsure what to expect from his group as they lost a lot of talented skill position players off last year’s team. They will be looking to grab the league title for a third straight season after sharing it with Swanton last season and winning it outright in 2014.
“Our numbers are not great for the size school we have,” explained Cooper in his presentation about his team. “We’ve got 59 kids – only six seniors. Which, is really really small for us. So we are gonna be real young.
“We’ve got some good athletes in our younger grades. But again, I would rather have an 18-year-old than depending on a 15 or 16 year old.”
Swanton, who won a share of the league crown and was picked second, has a senior laden group.
“We have a nice senior class of I think we have 12 seniors,” said Swanton coach Mike Vicars. “They all contribute to us in some way shape or form.”
Vicars is encouraged by the hard work his team has displayed in the offseason, particularly in the weight room behind the guidance of defensive coordinator Tim Spiess.
“Those guys I felt like had a really good offseason,” he said. “We probably have one of the bigger and stronger teams that I’ve been around.”
Evergreen continued to improve under coach Paul Amstutz last season as they went 5-5, increasing their win total by three from the previous season. However, this year could be a step back for the Vikings according to Amstutz.
“We lost just about everybody. We lost 12 kids,” said the coach. “(Nick) Etue had 3,300 of our 3,600 yards on offense. He is gone.”
But there are some positives for Viking fans.
“The upside is we do have 47 kids,” noted Amstutz. “Some would say that’s a bad thing but for us it’s good. We started out with 35, and we’re at 47 after two years. We have shown improvement – won games over time.”
Delta also lost a lot of talent off last year’s squad that made the playoffs for a second straight season and won a playoff game.
“We are very young,” said Panther mentor Jeff Wolford. “We lost 11 really quality seniors last year. We lost a lot of good players. Our whole defensive backfield, three key guys on the offensive line, (and) the league’s co-MVP on defense (Chance Veller). It is gonna be different this year without having that big monster in the middle.”
Archbold definitely went through their ups and downs in 2015, beginning with the stepping down of coach Bryan Miller just weeks before the start of the season. David Dominique, who served as the interim coach last season, was hired for the position in the offseason.
Although the Blue Streaks were only 4-6 a year ago, big numbers and a great offseason has left Dominique feeling pretty good about the state of his team.
“This offseason was very good to us,” he said. “(We) had great attendance in the weight room. We got a little bigger. I know a lot of times people would look at us last year, our d-line up front for average (was) 155 pounds. But they got bigger, faster, stronger. So it is good to see.”
Much of Archbold’s talent lies within their junior class.
“We are definitely going to rely on our big junior class,” said Dominique. “We have 22 juniors out and a lot of them, about 15 of them started for us last year.”
The 2016 season will get underway Aug. 26.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010