PRESEASON FAVORITE … Jonas Tester makes a move toward the sideline after making a catch last season against Delta. Tester is one of the top returners for Wauseon who was voted by league coaches as the preseason favorite. (FILE PHOTO)
By: Nate Calvin
The 2020 league race came down to a trick play in the final minutes that lifted the Bluestreaks to a 36-35 win over Wauseon. At the NWOAL Media Night on August 8th, the coaches in the league seem to think this year could follow a similar path.
The Fulton County rivals each received three first-place votes in preseason voting, with the Indians edging out Archbold by one point in the overall tally to take the top spot.
Wauseon brings back 15 letterwinners from 2020 but will have holes to fill on both lines and they will be looking for a new quarterback with Connar Penrod gone due to graduation.
Despite Archbold having some new faces on the offensive line, the Bluestreaks do return 1st team All-NWOAL quarterback in senior DJ Newman.
Archbold will travel to Wauseon on October 15th.
A team to watch this year will be the Delta Panthers with their 11 returning letterwinners as they were third in voting followed by Liberty Center in fourth, Patrick Henry and Bryan tied for fifth, Evergreen was seventh, and Swanton took the eighth spot.
Below is a team-by-team preview in order of the coach’s preseason voting with last season’s results in parentheses.
1. Wauseon (6-2, 6-1 in NWOAL; Lost in Division IV 2nd Round to Clyde 28-15)
HEAD COACH: Shawn Moore-3rd Season
KEY LOSSES: Connar Penrod QB/DB; Isaac Wilson OL/LB, Tyson Britsch RB/LB, Kolton DeGroff (WR/DB), Jaden Banister (OL), Jack Shema (OL), Samuel Blanco (K), Hunter Nofziger (OL), Cooper Lane (OL), Andrew Figgins (LB)
KEY RETURNERS: Jonas Tester (WR/DB) 34 rec. 563 yards 3 TDs, 39 tackles; Bryson Stump (RB/LB) 45 tackles, 2 TFLs; Matthew Shaw (OL/DL) 21 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFLs; Tucker Dulaney (OL/LB) 19 tackles; Teren Garcia (OL/DL) 41 tackles, 4 sacks, 9 TFLs; Kyle Moore (OL/DL), Jude Armstrong (WR/DB) 35 rec. 452 yards, 11 TDs; Ethan Borton (WR/DB); Logan Carroll (RB/LB; Justin Duncan (OL/DL); Zaidan Kessler (QB/LB); Jack Leatherman (WR/DB); Sam Smith, Jr. (WR/DB) 17 rec. 438 yards, 6 TDs; Chance Snow OL/DL) 15 tackles. 2 TFLs; Tyson Rodriguez (WR/DB/K)
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Chase Santiago (OL/DL); Austin Kovar (RB/LB); Elijah McLeod (QB); Ian Martin (OL/DL)
SEASON OUTLOOK: The Indians are the coach’s pick to win the league this season despite the fact they will be looking for a new signal caller.
Wauseon will have speed and experience at wide receiver as Jonas Tester, Jude Armstrong, and Sam Smith, Jr. return for third-year coach Shawn Moore.
“We will again have good leadership this year coming from a lot of guys that played significant roles on our team last year”, commented Moore about this year’s team.
“We will also have lots of athleticism at the skill positions on both sides of the ball. “We will continue to look to get those guys the ball in the open field and allow them to make some plays.”
“We will be looking for someone who can manage our offense by making the correct reads and getting those guys the ball in space”, added Moore.
Moore say the Indians will need to fill some spots on the offensive and defensive lines along with improving the overall team depth.
“We must also continue to play swarming defense looking to not give up the big plays that set us back in our losses last season”, concluded Moore when talking about concerns entering this year.
LEAGUE OUTLOOK: “The league will again be very competitive from top to bottom this year. I see returning Champions Archbold and Liberty Center having strong teams again this year and should be the teams to beat, but every team will need to bring their “A” every week.”
ABOUT THEIR SCHEDULE: Wauseon will travel to Fairview on August 20th for the season opener and then start the NWOAL slate on September 10th at Liberty Center.
2. Archbold (8-1, 6-0 in NWOAL (League Champions); Lost in Division VI Regional Semifinals To Columbus Grove 34-20)
HEAD COACH: David Dominique-7th Season
KEY LOSSES: Noah Gomez (RB/DB), Carson Meyer (C/LB), Antonio Cruz (WR), Brandon Taylor (WR/DB), Caleb Hogrefe (DB), Caleb Ranzau (T/DE), Gavin Schaffner (DL), Jayden Schulze (TE), Zeke Miller (DL), Biship Tuckerman (T), Josh Richer (G)
KEY RETURNERS: Seniors-DJ Newman (QB/DB), Cayden Alvarado (TE/LB), Charlie Krieger (TE/DE), Gavin Bailey (WR/DB), Hunter Cullen-Lemley (WR/DE), Spencer Simon (T/DL), Donmonic Simpson (WR/DB), Quinn Cline (G/DL); Juniors-Carson Dominique (RB/LB), Devon Morris (G/DE), Karter Behnfeldt (WR/DB), Hayden Dickman (T/DT), Krayton Kern (DB/K), Kaleb Gigax (WR/DB), Gabe Chapa (G/LB), Chase Cornell (G/DE); Sophomores-Brian Burrowes (C/DT), Josiah Gomez (RB/DB), Mason Siegel (T/DE), Jack Hurst (WR/DB), Stephen Diller (WR/DB)
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Juniors-Lance Bauer (DT), Seth Foth (G/DT); Sophomore-Jordan Massengill (DT), Lucas Dominique (RB/DB), Chase Miller (WR/DB), Wyat Ripke (G/DE), Cade Brenner (QB/DB)
SEASON OUTLOOK: The defending league champs return four starters on each side of the ball including 1st team All-NWOAL quarterback DJ Newman.
“I think one of our main strengths on the offensive side of the ball will be at the skill position”, said head coach David Dominique, who was the coach of the year in the league last season.
“We return our starting QB along with a RB, TE, and WR crew that was able to gain valuable experience throughout the season last year. “As a group on offense, we will have very good team speed across the board which we must utilize to our advantage.”
“Our main concern on the offensive side of the ball will be the lack of experience on the offensive line.”
“We return two starters and several guys who were able to get secondary reps last year, but they must get used to speed and physicality of varsity football quickly in order for us to succeed”, Dominique continued.
“Defensively, our main strength will be our front six. We return three starters in this group and they are a physical group of guys.”
“We feel that we will have some depth at these positions and will try to get as many of these guys on the field as possible to stay fresh into the second half.”
“A concern for us defensively will be the lack of experience in our defensive backfield.”
“We lost three quality seniors here so that is never easy to recover from, but I think the younger guys were able to gain valuable insight and experience playing behind them last year.”
“They too must get acclimated to the speed of the game and learn how to lead the defensive backfield.”
Getting the new faces adjusted to varsity football will be a key for Archbold to have a successful season according to Dominique, who has a 44-20 overall record as the Bluestreaks head coach.
“As I already mentioned, the biggest thing we must do is get the new faces acclimated to the speed and physicality of varsity football as quickly as possible. If we can do this, I feel that we will be able to compete every week.”
“Along with this, we must keep our players healthy heading into the second half season.”
“We do have some depth at certain positions but there are a couple others that we are lacking depth at and must stay healthy”, concluded Dominique.
LEAGUE OUTLOOK: “As a whole, I think the NWOAL will yet again be a competitive league from top to bottom.” “I look for Liberty Center, Wauseon, and Delta being at the top of the league but also could see other teams like PH and Bryan push for the top spot.”
“In my mind, the team that is able to stay healthy will be the one you see at the top after week 10.”
ABOUT THEIR SCHEDULE: Archbold will start the season at Genoa on August 20th and start defense of their NWOAL title on September 10th at Bryan.
3.Delta (4-4, 3-3 in NWOAL; Lost in Division VI 1st Round to Seneca East 32-28)
HEAD COACH: Nate Ruple-3rd Season
KEY RETURNERS: Seniors-Austin Kohlhofer (OL/DL), Josh Tresnan-Reighard (RB/LB), Evan Perry (OL/LB), DJ Davis (WR/DB), Rollin Robinson (OL), Zane Shindorf (OL), Kalvin Tenney (LB), Shawn Cook (DB); Juniors-Jerremiah Wolford (RB), James Ruple (QB/DB), Bryar Knapp ((RB/DB),
SEASON OUTLOOK: Eleven letterwinners return for Delta as they look to build off last year’s 4-4 record. Delta’s Wing-T offense will be led in the backfield by senior Josh Tresnan-Reighard, who was 1st team NWOAL at running back with 141 carries for 607 yards and five touchdowns.
Jerremiah Wolford (79 att., 390 yds, 4 TDs) and Bryar Knapp (41 att. 256 yds, 2 TDs), along with quarterback James Ruple (28/65, 284 yds, 4 TDs) return to the offensive backfield for head coach Nate Ruple.
A wealth of experience returns on defense as well for Delta featuring linebacker Evan Perry, who was 2nd team all-league and all-district as he recorded 70 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 TFL.
“We return multiple positions on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball from the 2020 team”, said Ruple. “Continuing to build on the experience of those returning players will be critical for success in 2021.”
“We will need to work to build depth and may need to rely on some younger players as key contributors at some positions.”
“The development of our defensive line will be key to the success of our defense as we suffered significant losses due to graduation at that position group”, added Ruple.
ABOUT THEIR SCHEDULE: The Panthers open the season at home on August 20th against Ayersville and start NWOAL play at home versus Evergreen
4. Liberty Center (7-3, 5-2 in NWOAL; Lost in Division VI Regional Quarterfinals to Colonel Crawford 35-28 (OT)
HEAD COACH: Casey Mohler-5th Season
KEY LOSSES: Max Phillips-RB (220 att., 1495 yds, 23 TDs), Cam Krugh-QB (88/152, 1300 yds, 16 TDs), Evan Cramer (OL/DL), Dylan Matthews (RB/DB), Karter Kern (RB), Trey Patterson (WR/DB), Evan Hogrefe (OL/DL), Brecken Garretson (RB/DB), Cole Kahle (OL/DL), Asa Killiam (K), Riley Weaver (OL/DL), Devin Robinson (OL/DL), Zane Garber (OL/DL), John Smith (OL/DL), Carson Hageman (TE/OLB), Noah Collins (WR/DB)
KEY RETURNERS: Owen Johnson-OG/LB (59 tackles, 2 sacks), Evan Conrad-TE/OLB (16 rec., 339 yds, 2 TDs), Camren Foster-WB/OLB (55 tackles, 3 sacks), Owen Long (DB), Riley Chapa (WR/DB), Owen Box-OT/DL (38 tackles, 4 sacks), Gavin Gerken (WR), Emmett Perry (WR/DB), Luke Leatherman (OG/DL), Kyle Huffman (OT/DL), Jesse Noll (C/DL), Ethan Tampurages (WR/DB), Aiden Hammontree (TE/LB/DB), Tanner Kline (G/LB), Josiah Johnson (WR/DB)
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Zane Zeiter (QB/DB), TeJay Moore (RB/DL), Landon Bockelman (OL/DL), Landon Amstutz (QB/DB)
SEASON OUTLOOK: Head coach Casey Mohler has good numbers this year so there will be plenty of competition for playing time. Sixteen letterwinners graduated from last year’s squad so there are plenty of positions up for grabs.
Among the biggest losses from last year for the Tigers is All-Ohio running back Max Phillips and All-District quarterback Cam Krugh.
Linebackers Owen Johnson and Camren Foster are the top returning tacklers on defense for Liberty Center while tight end Evan Conrad is the top returner for a very young offense.
“We are inexperienced and our schedule is very challenging, especially early in the season”, commented Mohler. “We must grow up quickly and find out who can be counted on come Friday night. We hope to compete every week and give ourselves a chance to win.”
LEAGUE OUTLOOK: “Wauseon is the team to beat in my opinion followed by Archbold and PH. The next four teams will all be very close together.”
ABOUT THEIR SCHEDULE: The Tigers start the season with a huge challenge at Tinora on August 20th and they will host league favorite Wauseon to start the NWOAL schedule on September 10th.
T5. Bryan (6-4, 4-3 in NWOAL; Lost in Division IV second round to Huron 44-22)
HEAD COACH: Grant Redhead-7th Season
KEY LOSSES: Caleb Kepler (WR/CB), Titus Rohrer (TE/DE), Dakota Shaw (WR), Breven Deckrosh, Dylan McCandless (DE), Christian Hollister (DT/OT), Ethan Wasson (QB), Canon Lamberson (DB)
KEY RETURNERS: Seniors-Jaylin Damron (WR/DB), AJ Martinez (WR/DB), Quinn Brown (P/K/WR), Carter Brown (WR/S), Craig Jackson (WR/DB), Conor Brown (TE/DE), Mikey Wolff (RB/LB), Korbin Shepherd (RB/DB), Nick Herold (OL/DL), Noah Phillips (OL/DL); Juniors-Ayden Pelz (RB/LB), Parker Vollmer (G/DE), Tyler Spisak (OL/DL), Zain Bell (OL/DL)
SEASON OUTLOOK: The Golden Bears are coming off a solid 2020 season which included a first round playoff win. Senior AJ Martinez is expected to step in at quarterback to replace Ethan Wasson with Dylan Dominique and Jase Kepler also competing for the job.
The running game led by Korbin Shepherd figures to be the focus of the Bryan offense early in the season as the passing game develops.
“Our offensive line and running game should be a strength for us and with a new quarterback and some receivers lost to graduation that will be a concern this year”, commented head coach Grant Redhead.
Redhead expects the front seven to be the strength of the defense this season while he has concerns about the secondary.
“How well our quarterback and receivers develop this season and staying healthy will be keys to a successful season”, said Redhead.
LEAGUE OUTLOOK: “Delta and Wauseon should be very strong. Archbold, PH, and LC are still tough and always competitive. If you’re not focused you can get beat by anybody.”
ABOUT THEIR SCHEDULE: The season starts on August 20th at home against Division IV state champion Van Wert and league play also starts at home on September 10th when the Archbold Bluestreaks come to town.
T5. Patrick Henry (3-6, 2-4 in NWOAL; Lost to Hopewell-Loudon in Division VII second round 41-6)
HEAD COACH: Bill Inselmann-29th Season
KEY LOSSES: Caleb Rosengarten (C/DE), Clayton Feehan (WR/CB), Corbin Johnson (RB), Owen Jardine (DB), Layke Crossland (TE)
KEY RETURNERS: Noah Kistner (LB), Emilio Raymundo (OG), Will Seedorf (T), Timmy Johnson (WR/CB), Josh Tyson (OG), Aiden Behrman (WR), Landen Wensink (OT/DT), Braden Hall (DB), Gavin Jackson (QB), Kaden Rosebrook (WR), Draken Kestner (DT), Ty Northrup (OT), Drew Rosengarten (OG), Mason Schwiebert (LB)
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Nash Meyer (QB), Landon Johnson (WR/CB), Ryan Kurtz (WR/DB)
SEASON OUTLOOK: For the first time in his 29 years of coaching a Bill Inselmann led team will not use a tight end as the Patriots make the switch to a spread offense.
The 2020 squad was a young football team and Inselmann hopes the experience last year will pay dividends in 2021.
“We will have experience and competition back on the offensive line. However, that was one of our weaknesses last year. We also have experience and competition back at the WR position as well”, said Inselmann.
“It will be a challenge this year learning a new offensive scheme, for the players and the coaches.” Inselmann anticipates the front four will be the strength of the defense while filling holes at defensive back and linebacker is a concern.
“We will have more competition and more depth than we have had for the past several years. Our defense will have to be an early season strength as our coaches and players adjust to learning a new style of offense.”
LEAGUE OUTLOOK: “Liberty Center and Wauseon will be the favorites. Archbold and Delta will be very competitive as well.”
ABOUT THEIR SCHEDULE: The Patriots will head to Hicksville on August 20th to open this season and will start NWOAL play at home against Swanton on September 10th.
7. Evergreen (2-8, 1-6 in NWOAL; Lost in Division VI first round to Ashland Crestview 49-0)
HEAD COACH: Aaron Schmidt-5th Season
KEY LOSSES: Colin Smith (WR/DB), Jake Fuller (OL/LB), Tanner Pollard (HB/LB), Logan York (OL/DE), Jacob Riggs (WR/DB), Brenden Matuszak (DT)
KEY RETURNERS: Seniors-Payton Boucher (QB/DB) 72/150, 815 yds, 8 TDs, 9 INTs; 122 carries, 407 yds, 3 TDs; 34 tackles, 1 sack; Landen Vance (HB/DE) 54 tackles, 3 sacks; Alex Peete (K) 9-11 PATs; Ashton Sayers (OL/DE), Cody Sheller (OL/DT); Juniors-Sam Worline (OL/DE), Conner Hewson (RB/DB); Andrew Geer (OL/DT); Camden Schlueter (OL/DE); Sophomores-Riley Dunbar (WR/DB), Grant Richardson (WR/DB), Diesil Stoykoff (OL/DT), Robbie Pennington (OL/DE)
SEASON OUTLOOK: After a slow start in 2020 the Vikings were able to win their last two games of the season and hope to carry that momentum into 2021.
“We started off slow, due to a lot of young kids playing for the first time and no scrimmages,” commented fifth-year coach Aaron Schmidt when reflecting on last season.
“As the season progressed, we dealt positively with adversity and made strides offensively, defensively and on special teams.”
The Evergreen offense will lean on returning quarterback Payton Boucher and receivers Riley Dunbar and Grant Richardson to move the ball this season.
“We only return two starters on the offensive line. It will be fun to see who wins those positions through camp and throughout the season”, said Schmidt.
“We will need the offensive line to mature quickly if we plan on being a formidable offensive unit.”
On defense, the Vikings return starters on the defensive line along with one in the secondary. Schmidt says they will need to be the leaders on defense to get off the field on third downs and keep the opponents out of the end zone.
“We do lose three starters at linebacker. We will need some kids to step and/or move positions to fill the needs here at the linebacker position to help shut down opposing run games”, continued Schmidt.
“With some run heavy offenses early in the season we will need the kids who fill these positions to step up and step up quickly.”
“We will need our experienced players to step up and help the new kids on both sides of the ball”, said Schmidt when forecasting what the Vikings need for a successful season.
“We will need to have some leaders emerge to help lead our team through hard times and keep us focused during good times.”
“Offensively we will need to establish a run game and control the clock and get our play makers the ball in space. Defensively we need to do a better job of not giving up the big play, which has been an achilles heel for us in the past.”
LEAGUE OUTLOOK: “I suspect Archbold to be at the top, along with Liberty Center. Delta returns a solid group from last year and I see them knocking off some good teams this year.”
“Wauseon and Bryan being the larger schools in the league always are competitive as are PH and Swanton.”
“Any team on any given Friday night can beat another in this league. It should be another fun season.”
ABOUT THEIR SCHEDULE: Evergreen hosts North Baltimore in their season opener on August 20th and travels to Delta on September 10th for their NWOAL opener.
8. Swanton (1-8, 0-7 in NWOAL; Lost in Division V first round to Lima Bath 37-0)
HEAD COACH: Denton Saunders-3rd Season
KEY LOSSES: Devon Crouse (WR/DB/P), Trent Weigel (QB/DB), Eric Bettinger (OG/ILB), Conner Cass (OG/ILB), Ian Saunders (RB/ILB), Kadin Keivens (WR/DB), Josh Townes (OL/DL)
KEY RETURNERS: Seniors-Lathan Pawlowicz (TE/DE), Bryce Marvin (OL/DE), Austyn Gossett (OL/ILB), Aaron Thomas (OL/DE), Hunter Gowing (RB/ILB); Juniors-Cole Mitchey (QB/OLB), Nate Vance (RB/ILB), Drew Smigelski (OL/DL), Kayden Davis (WR/OLB), Ethan Hensley (WR/DB/K), Xander Wiemken (WR/OLB), Kamon Molina (RB/ILB), Mike Cohn (OL/DL)
SEASON OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs have 13 letter winners back this season as they look to replace seven starters for head coach Denton Saunders.
“The 2020 season presented many challenges but I believe this team has learned a lot from last year and we are ready to move forward and will keep improving and competing week in and week out”, commented Saunders.
Going into the season, Saunders thinks his team will be solid at the skill positions, especially in the backfield, where Nate Vance, Hunter Gowing, and Kamon Molina expect to see action.
“I am concerned with lack of experience and depth overall on offense. I am curious how our offensive line will come together”, added Saunders.
Lathan Pawlowicz and Bryce Marvin return at defensive end for the Bulldogs and are expected to anchor the defensive line as Swanton implements a new defensive scheme, the 3-3 stack.
“We need to come together as a team and compete every day to get better in order to have a successful season”, concluded Saunders.
LEAGUE OUTLOOK: “I consider Wauseon the league favorite followed by Archbold, Liberty Center, Delta, Bryan, Patrick Henry, and Evergreen.”
ABOUT THEIR SCHEDULE: The 2021 season for Swanton starts August 20th with a trip to Rossford and the league schedule starts on September 10th at Patrick Henry.
Nate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org