Friday marks the first day of the 2015 season in Ohio high school football. The first Friday night when the lights are turned on all across Ohio to shine light on the high school gridiron matchups. Last season, Northeast Ohio had a slew of successful teams make it deep into the playoff with Benedictine and St. Edward being the two teams in Northeast Ohio who raised the trophy in their respective divisions as state champions.
As classes graduate and players move on to college, the landscape changes. Teams will rise and fall from their previous season’s fate. With that, I present a look at my top ten Northeast Ohio teams coming into the 2015 football season, my pick for Mr. Football and also some of the notable players around the area.
Mayfield returns their third-year starting quarterback, Mario Monastero. Last season, Monastero threw for 1,493 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He will need to carry the offense after losing star running back Andy Isabella to graduation. The team will most likely need to rely on their passing game to succeed on offense this season. The team will be playing in the new Western Reserve Conference this season.
Archbishop Hoban received a big transfer this season, 2017 Ohio State quarterback commit Danny Clark. Clark is a big time talent who previously played for Massillon High School last season. Clark will pair with fellow 2017 Buckeye running back commit Todd Sibley to form a dangerous backfield at Hoban. Sibley ran for 1,576 yards and 17 touchdowns last season for Hoban. They will be one of the more dangerous offenses in Northeast Ohio.
Avon brings back their star quarterback Jake Sopko to lead their high-powered offense. Sopko threw for 2,864 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions this past season. Alongside him in the backfield is running back Gerett Choat, who rushed for 562 and 15 touchdowns, while also catching 14 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown. Avon will enter a new league this season, the Southwestern Conference.
Benedictine comes back this season to try and win a second straight state championship, this time moving up to compete in Division III. The Bengals have playmakers all around the offense, both in the running and passing game. Receiver Justin Layne, a Michigan State commit, leads the passing attack after catching 36 passes for 866 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The running game is led by the talented duo of Dontez Rash and DeCavilon Reese. Rash rushed for 1,827 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Reese rushed for 1,240 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Glenville had an off season last year, losing in the first round of the Division II playoffs to Willoughby South. This season, the Tarblooders get back their quarterback Marcus Drish, who missed time last season with injuries. The team will once again have great athletes all over the field, but after losing all but three starters from last season, the team will be very inexperienced. Ted Ginn Sr. will get his players ready to compete and they are once again going to control the Cleveland Senate League.
Midview had one of their most successful seasons in school history, but this season could be a tougher challenge because of their move to the tough Southwestern Conference. Once again, their talented quarterback Dustin Crum will lead the Middies high-potent offense. Crum threw for 3,323 yards, rushed for 1,175 yards and scored an unbelievable 57 combined touchdowns last season. Crum will need to repeat his success in order for Midview to continue their success this season.
Bedford will be led by their talented running back Chawntez Moss, who rushed for 1,407 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. He will be the center of the offense that will focus once again on running the ball. The Bearcats will be able to control the clock with their tough running game, but they will need some help from their passing game in order to make defenses honest. It will be fun to watch Bedford run down the throats of their opponents.
St. Edward will look to repeat as Division I champion, but it will be a tall task after returning just eight starters and replacing their two-time championship coach Rick Finotti, who left for Michigan, with Tom Lombardo. The Eagles will look to rely heavily on their stud running back Cole Gest, who rushed for 1,854 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. The Eagles could be a team who will look to control the clock with their running game and then rely on their defense to stop their opponents from scoring.
Just like almost every Mentor team in the recent past, the Cardinals boast an explosive offense who can score through the air and on the ground, along with a talented defense. Running back Alex Mathews leads the squad after rushing for 938 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. The Cardinals return two talented receivers in Jason Blizzard and Malik Porter. Blizzard had 40 receptions for 702 yards and eight touchdowns last season, while Porter had 35 catches for 510 yards and five touchdowns. Their season will be determined by the play of the quarterback, which will be manned by one of three first-year players, Manning Trubisky, Tadas Tatarunas or Mike Zeuli.
St. Ignatius will be led by their talented offense, who is returning most of their starting lineup, including quarterback Dennis Grosel and receiver Jack Cook. Grosel threw for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, while Jack Cook had 47 catches for 870 yards and 12 touchdowns. The offense boasts a huge line anchored by Notre Dame commit Liam Eichenberg. The offense will have time to throw, along with a lot of running room for running back James Norris to run through. The Wildcats will be very good in coverage defensively, but will need to rely on a young defensive line to develop quickly. Chuck Kyle and the Wildcats are in position to contend for yet another Division I State Championship this season.
Demario McCall, RB, North Ridgeville
Demario McCall could be the top offensive playmaker in the entire state. Last season, the Ohio State commit rushed for an amazing 2,302 yards and 35 touchdowns. He has big play ability to take any run all the way for the touchdown. He is the center of the North Ridgeville offense and will carry his team on his back. He could have won last season’s Mr. Football, too.
Demario McCall, RB, North Ridgeville
McCall rushed for 2,302 yards and 35 touchdowns last season.
Justin Layne, WR, Benedictine
Layne caught 36 passes for 866 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Chawntez Moss, RB, Bedford
Moss rushed 158 times for 1,407 yards and 22 touchdowns last season.
Alex Mathews, RB, Mentor
Mathews had 126 carries for 938 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
Jason Blizzard, WR, Mentor
Blizzard had 40 catches for 702 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Michael Ballentine, CB, Mentor
Ballentine had two interceptions and five fumble recoveries last season.
Cole Gest, RB, St. Edward
Gest rushed 289 carries for 1,854 yards and 25 touchdowns last season.
Dustin Crum, QB, Midview
Crum threw for 3,323 yards, 39 touchdowns and six interceptions, while also rushing for 1,175 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Jake Sopko, QB, Avon
Sopko threw for 2,864 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions last season.
Dontez Rash, RB, Benedictine
Rash rushed 221 times for 1,827 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, along with catching 10 passes for 100 yards.
DeCavilon Reese, RB, Benedictine
Reese rushed 152 times for 1,240 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.
Todd Sibley, RB, Archbishop Hoban
Sibley rushed 190 times for 1,576 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
Danny Clark, QB, Archbishop Hoban
Clark threw for 1,519 yards, 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions last season with Massillon.
WR Jaylen Harris, Cleveland Heights
Harris had 983 receiving yards and six touchdowns in just four games last season.
Tony Butler, CB, St. Edward
Butler had three interceptions and one fumble recovery last season.
Dennis Grosel, QB, St. Ignatius
Grosel threw for more than 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
Jack Cook, WR/DB, St. Ignatius
Cook had 47 receptions for 870 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Defensively, he also had 20.5 tackles, 10 pass breakups and three interceptions.
Joey Bachie, LB, Berea-Midpark
Bachie had 62 solo tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss last season.
All Stats from Cleveland.com