It’s hard to believe, but we’re exactly six weeks away from the start of high school football here in Ohio.
It looks like just yesterday Ursuline was playing for a state title at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, but it’s off to another season of high school football. So with that in mind, starting today, the Tribune Chronicle and Vindicator will be discussing some of the most intriguing matchups from each week of the season until it’s time for Week 1 previews of begin.
We will start with week 1 and week 2 today, week 3 and week 4 will come next week and so on.
With Thursday and Friday matches in Week 1, you will receive a double dose for the first week of the season.
Springfield vs. South Range
This one is quite simple. The Tigers are entering a new era without Beau Brungard under center, and after losing a slew of talented seniors, Sean Guerriero will rely on a new core of players to lead Springfield this season.
The Raiders are coming off the Division V, Region 17 championship after an undefeated run throughout the regular season. South Range also lost a key group of seniors. Running back Dylan Dominguez left for Youngstown State, where he will team up with Brungard, and a few other seniors headed off to college. But, the Raiders are still returning star quarterback Billy Skripac and a plethora of key players to help the Raiders rise this season.
South Range won this game in Week 1 last season in a 41-21 affair, but look for another interesting game this time around.
Brookfield versus Ursuline
Ursuline is coming off the state championship last season, where the Irish lost to Clarksville Clinton-Massie, 29-28, on a last-second play. But, much like other schools, Ursuline fell victim to graduation, losing quarterback Brady Shannon, running back Demarcus McElroy, receiver Dean Boyd and several other key players. But, the Fighting Irish reloaded, bringing in quarterback DC Ferrell, who threw for 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns for Liberty last season. The second up also rushed for 421 yards and seven touchdowns. He is sure to revamp the Fighting Irish.
Brookfield won’t be an easy opponent in Week 1, however. Donovan Pawlowski returns under center for the Warriors after a stellar junior season, and one of his favorite targets, Isaiah Jones, is back on the outside. Connor Heater is also back to anchor the Warriors offensive line.
Given the comebacks and key additions, Ursuline and Brookfield are set for a big game in Week 1 that could set the tone for the rest of their seasons. If the Warriors pick up a win, they can build on a victory over the defending State runners-up. If Ursuline wins, they’re back in the driver’s seat after losing a talented senior class.
Chaney vs. Poland
There are a few things that make this an interesting match. First, you have Seth Antram’s return to Chaney, where he led the offense as offensive coordinator when the Cowboys brought football back. He’s also getting his quarterback Jason Hewlett back, whose season ended early last year when he broke his leg against Austintown Fitch in Week 1. Cincinnati’s verbal commitment is expected for a solid senior season and could lead his Cowboys on a strong run this season.
The Bulldogs are poised for a rebuild after losing a talented senior class that included quarterback Jack Fulton, wide receiver Ross Dedo, tight end Dom Parker, fullback Christian Colosimo and many more. Tom Pavlansky is still leading the way, giving the Bulldogs a steady voice to build on, but a matchup against the Cowboys in Week 1 will be tough.
Canfield v West Branch
This will feature two of the best quarterbacks in the region in Canfield’s Broc Lowry, a commitment from Indiana, and West Branch’s Dru DeShields. Both quarterbacks lit up the airways last year and were the stars of two big offenses.
Lowry lost a few targets a year ago in running back Mikey Crawford, lunge back Drew Carroce and wide receiver Oliver Kovass. The Cardinals also lost a leader along the offensive line in Nicholas Bowen. But they’re returning plenty of targets for their Big Ten-bound quarterback that could put them back in position to fight this year.
Much like the Cardinals, the Warriors have lost a few talented players in wide receiver Nick Wilson and running back Steven Marra, but they still have enough goals for DeShields to repeat their performances from last season.
Expect this match to be high score and thrilling.
Warren JFK vs Champion
These two teams met in Week 1 last season and the Eagles won 48-6. Both teams have gone through some changes this offseason, but are returning a myriad of players who will make an impact in this game.
Patrick Valent leads the way in the trenches for the Eagles and will provide plenty of disruption in the Champion backfield. Caleb Hadley returns under center for JFK, and although players like Gavin Shrum and Antwan Brown have graduated, the Eagles will still have plenty of targets for Hadley. With their depth and returning talent, JFK should be in as good of a position as they were last season.
When you bring Champion into the mix in this game, you think of one person, and that’s lead quarterback Joey Fell. He did it all for the Golden Flashes last year and is something of a ‘spark in the pan’ under center. He can throw and run, and can affect the game in several different ways. Fell could be a game changer on August 19 when these two teams meet to kick off the season.
Girard versus Liberty
The famous Battle of Belmont cannot go unnoticed. Joe Simon is entering his second season in charge of the Leopards, and he will be looking to win his first game against the Indians as coach this season. He’ll have to do it without his quarterback from a season ago when Ferrell, then a freshman, transferred to Ursuline. The Leopards are still returning wide receiver Chris Cunningham, who had just over 1,000 receiving yards last season and caught 14 touchdowns. He also rushed for just over 150 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Girard coach Pat Pearson fires both Nic Bengala and Triston Valley, who each saw time under center last season. Bengala threw for 1,017 yards and rushed for 632 additional yards while Valley, who has been battling injuries for most of the season, threw for 706 and rushed for 321 yards. The two players combined for 26 touchdowns. Senior running back Mike Palmer also returns to the field after rushing for 1,174 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. He also caught 33 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Palmer is just as strong defensively, having had 91 tackles last season, including 10 for a loss.
Chaney vs. Boardman
This one returns to the sidelines as Seth Antram returns to Boardman after spending last season with the Spartans. Now he will find himself on the opposite sideline for this game of 2022.
The Cowboys will have plenty of talent with Cincinnati rookie Jason Hewlett leading offensively and a plethora of athletic talent on both sides of the ball. DJ Dota will have another tough game to start his time at Boardman. This young Spartans side could be looking to get the air off the ball and slow play enough to keep the Cowboys off the field, which would make for an interesting game.
Canton McKinley vs. Austintown Fitch
After a clash with Foothills in Week 1, the Falcons get Canton McKinley in Week 2. Fitch emerged victorious the same week last year with a 42-28 win. The Falcons will have a few holes to fill this year, including a big one under center, where they will need to find a replacement for Devin Sherwood. However, Fitch brings a lot of talent elsewhere.
Rising junior Brian Robinson has exploded onto the scene this year and received major offers from Georgia and several other top programs. Along with Robinson, head coach TJ Parker will reunite with running back Jamell James along with wide receiver/safety Cam Smith, an Iowa State draftee, defensive back Deshawn Vaughn and wide receiver Jayden Eley. Second-year running back DJ Williams also had a big impact last season.
With the talent the Falcons are returning to, they could be in line to struggle this year and a win over Canton McKinley in Week 2 could set the tone.