PREBLE COUNTY — Coming off a season in which four Preble County football teams qualified for the state playoffs – one team reached the regional finals, and another made it to the regional semifinals — coaches are again optimistic for more success this season.
Preble Shawnee had its most successful season in program history in 2021 going 13-1 while winning a league title for the first time and playing for a regional championship.
Eaton returned to the top of the Southwestern Buckeye League by winning the West and reached the regional semifinals for the first time since 2010, while finishing the season 11-2.
Eagles ready to soar again
EATON — As head coach Brad Davis begins his eighth year at the helm of the Eagles program, he said the expectations are as the same as they have been for the past several decades – win a league title and make the playoffs.
Eaton returns nine starters from last year’s team which fell to Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas (33-14) in the regional semifinals.
Returning are Brock Ebright (Sr/QB) 3-yr starter, 3rd Team Div. IV All-Ohio, Brady Rice (Sr/OL & DL) 3-yr starter, 1st Team All-SWBL OL and DL, Reid Tinstman (Sr/OL & DL) 3-yr starter, 2nd Team All-SWBL OL, Zac Schaffer, (Sr/OL & DL) 2-yr starter, Drew Michael (Sr/K) 4-yr starter, 1st Team All-SWBL K, Leslie Orr (Jr/WR & DB) 3-yr starter, 2nd Team All-SWBL WR, Chris Atkins (Jr/WR & DB) 2-yr starter, 2nd Team All-SWBL DB, Devon Rader (Jr/LB) 2-yr starter, 2nd Team All-SWBL LB, and Brayden Deem (Jr/WR & DB) 2-yr starter, Honorable Mention SWBL.
Davis said he also looking for sophomore Cordis Berard (RB), who lettered as a freshman, to make an impact.
Davis added Garrett Cole, Danny Caldwell, Brandon Couch Connor Bach, JT Gels, Cooper Wilson and Dominick Gramaglia most likely have earned starting spots.
“Our expectation at Eaton is and will always be to compete for league championships,” Davis said. “We were able to accomplish that goal last season, but this team understands that was last year. This group hasn’t won anything. Our expectations are to prepare at the highest level and perform at the highest level. Like all teams, we’re trying to get better each day and see where that leads us.”
Eaton is scheduled to open the season on Friday, Aug. 19, at home, against Greenville. In Week 2, The Eagles will travel to Springfield Shawnee for a Thursday (Aug. 25) night televised game. Eaton will close out it’s non-league portion on the scheduled when it hosts Talawanda on Friday, Sept. 2.
SWBL play begins on Friday, Sept. 9 when Eaton travels to Bellbrook.
Trail looking to challenge WOAC’s elite
NEW PARIS — National Trail returns 19 starters from last year’s playoff team and veteran coach Mark Hoffman will be leaning on that experience to hopefully guide the Blazers to the top half of the Western Ohio Athletic Conference and a repeat playoff trip.
The Blazers finished last season 4-7 overall and 4-5 in the WOAC.
Back this season are Jayce Bottoms, Ben Browning, (2021 WOAC 2nd team), Aiden Byrd, Cayden Clark (2021 WOAC special mention), Jordan Heck, 3-year letterman, (2021 WOAC special mention), Burgan Hoffman, Gage Lesh, Phoenix Lewis, Sean Roberts, 3-year letterman, (2021 WOAC 2nd team), Brodie Strawser, 3-year letterman (2021 WOAC special mention), Brenden Simpson, Drew DeWitt (2021 WOAC 1st team), Cooper Lee, Joey Roberts, Chase Ruebush, (2021 WOAC 2nd team), Logan Smith, Bryce Thompson, Jamison Watts, and Josh Welz.
“We expect to play and compete with last year’s league leaders,” Hoffman said as he begins his 13th year as head coach and 18th overall with the program.
Trail is scheduled to begin the season on Friday, Aug. 19 against Milton-Union, at home,
The Blazers will begin conference play the following week with a trip to Tri-County North on Friday, Aug. 26.
Arrows return several from regional runner-up team
CAMDEN — Coming off its first-ever conference championship, Preble Shawnee returns several key players and will be looking to make a run at hanging another banner.
The Arrows finished 9-0 in the WOAC and 13-1 overall last season. The only loss was to eventual Division V state champion Versailles in the regional final.
Returning starters on offense for the Arrows are Sr. QB Brayden Doran (1st team all-WOAC, second team all-district, special mention all-state), Sr. RB Cooper Roell (1st team all-WOAC and 2nd team all-district), Sr. WR Dylan Campbell (2nd team all WOAC), Sr. WR Dylan Zornes (special mention all-WOAC), Sr. WR Sayge Stephenson (special mention all-WOAC), Sr. OL Beau Nemeth (1st team all-WOAC and 2nd team all-district), Sr. OL Evan Riley (1st team all WOAC), Jr. OL Garrett Campbell, and So. OL Brody Lynch (special mention all-WOAC).
Back on defense are Sr. DL Brayden Doran (1st team all-WOAC, second team all-district, special mention all-state), Sr. LB Cooper Roell (1st team all-WOAC and 2nd team all-district), Sr. LB Dylan Campbell (2nd team all-WOAC), Sr. DB Dylan Zornes (special mention all-WOAC), Sr. DB Sayge Stephenson (special mention all-WOAC), Sr. DL Aiden Walters (1st team all-conference, 2nd team all-district), Sr. DB Grady Hutchinson (1st team all WOAC, 1st team all-district, 2nd team all-state) So. LB Brody Lynch (special mention all-WOAC), and So. DB Isaac Blankenship (1st team all-WOAC).
Maddox said Sr. WR/DB Casey Schatzle, Sr. DL Donnie Ledford, Sr. DL John McKnight, So. WR Kaden Taylor, So. WR/DB Lane Lovely, and So. RB/LB Landon Lovely will also have an impact this season.
He noted three players who are new to the roster should also play a key role include Jr. RB/LB Riley Stevenson, Jr. RB/LB Ashton Agnew, and Fr. OL Cooper Shrout
Maddox said his team has a good chance to repeat as WOAC champions.
“There are a lot of good teams in our conference. It will be tough, but I expect us to contend for another conference title,” he said. “We have a lot of guys returning that have a lot of varsity experience. We graduated three very good players, but we have guys that are going to step up and fill their shoes.”
Maddox said staying focused and humble will be two keys if the team is to be successful.
“We are very excited for this upcoming season because we have the potential to be very successful,” he said. “We just have to stay humble, stay focused, and continue to work hard.”
Shawnee will begin the season on Friday, Aug. 19 against Miami East. A key WOAC showdown looms in Week 2 when the Arrows are scheduled to travel to Tri-Village on Friday, Aug. 26.
New coach to lead TCN
LEWISBURG — Trace Smitherman has been named the new head coach at Tri-County North and he will be looking to turn around a program that has struggled over the past couple of years.
The Panthers went 4-6 last year, after starting 3-1, and were the only county team not to qualify for the state playoffs.
North returns nine players for Smitherman’s first season at the helm in Lewisburg.
Smitherman said one of his main goals is to get the Panthers “back on top”.
North opens the season on Friday, Aug. 19 when it hosts rival Brookville.
The Panthers will begin WOAC play in Week 2 when they host National Trail.
South ‘All-In’ in hopes of league title
WEST ALEXANDRIA — As Chris Fogle begin his third season as Twin Valley South’s head coach, he is optimistic his team will be near the top of the WOAC standings by season’s end.
The Panthers, who finished 4-7 overall and 4-5 in the WOAC, qualified for the playoffs last season for the first time since 1999.
South boasts several returners including Cais Kingsley (RB-JR) who rushed for 1,030 yards on 150 carries last season with 8 TDs.
“Cais has put in a tremendous amount of work in the off season and has gained speed and strength. He will be a key player in the offense,” Fogle said.
Caiden Kingsley (RB-SR) had 586 yards on 100 carries with 3 TDs.
“He is more of a blocking back for his brother but can run with authority,” Fogle said.
Cole Bishop (WR-JR) played QB last year and ran for 630 yards on 68 carries for 9 TDs and threw for 850 yards and 5TDs.
“Cole is making the switch to WR – he has speed,” Fogle said.
Whyatt Lakes (QB-SR) had 500 yards on 31 receptions last year and 5 TDs. He also had 3 kickoff returns for TDs.
“He is switching to QB and has made great strides with the new role,” Fogle said.
Brayden Koeller (RB-JR): Koeller will rotate in at RB and is a great receiving threat out of the backfield.
Fogle said the offensive line has been revamped this year but will be stronger than ever with returning starters Paul Day (JR) and Austin Earich (JR).
South has several key defensive returners as well.
Gage McQueen (DT-SR) returns after early season injury last year and will anchor the D-line.
Kingsley had 117 Tackles last season.
“He is everywhere on the field and a main leader of the defense,” Fogle said.
Koeller added 76 tackles last season and missed the games.
“He shut down the middle of the defense and created havoc for defensive linen, “Fogle said.
Harley Young (LB-SR) and Gage Crase (LB-JR) return to a strong Linebacking core.
The Defensive backfield returns all the starters which include Clayton Woodgeard (FS-JR), Lakes, and Bishop
“I strongly feel we will be competing for the top of the WOAC this season,” Fogle said. “We return a strong core at the skill positions. Our biggest team improvement and attribute for the year is our overall team speed. The kids had tremendous off-season gains in strength and speed. Our success on the track (Bishop and Lakes going to the state meet) and weight room will be very evident this year on the field. I strongly believe we can contend for the top of the WOAC this season. Our success will rely heavily on our athletes raising the team’s expectations and every player being “All IN”.
South opens the season at Carlisle on Friday, Aug. 19. The Panthers will begin WOAC play on Friday, Aug. 26 against Arcanum, at home.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr