The more things change, the more they stay the same.
At the annual Sandusky Bay Conference media and coaches preseason outing at Sawmill Creek on Monday, little change is expected in the forecast for the upcoming 2014 season.
Clyde, Perkins and Huron are still viewed as the ‘Big 3’, while Oak Harbor and Edison are seen tightly-contested, with Port Clinton and Margaretta viewed as another tight race at the bottom of the standings.
Practice for the season officially begins on Monday, with Week 1 kickoff slated for Aug. 29.
Since 1992, only twice in 22 seasons has Clyde, Perkins or Huron not won at least a share of the SBC title: Margaretta (1996) and Oak Harbor (2006).
Clyde and Perkins were the unanimous choices by the coaches and media to finish first and second, with Huron closely voted behind Perkins in third. A year ago, all three teams won playoff games in their respective regions, with the Fliers and Pirates meeting in the second round in Division III.
Clyde won the game en route to a state semifinal appearance, while the Tigers fell in a regional championship game in Div. V.
Clyde earned all six first-place votes in the coaches poll, while Perkins had 13 points and Huron was next at 16. The rest of the coaches poll showed Oak Harbor (19) in fourth, just three points ahead of Edison (22). Margaretta (34) was sixth and Port Clinton (40) was seventh.
The media poll showed similar results, with Clyde (13) first, Perkins (26) second and Huron (29) third. They were followed by Oak Harbor (40), Edison (42), Port Clinton (58) and Margaretta (66).
Below is a brief synopsis of each team after the coaches gave a brief rundown at Monday’s event:
Clyde (12-2, 6-1): The Fliers were hit hard by graduation at the skilled positions, but the cupboard is far from bare for second-year coach Ryan Carter. A year ago, Carter was simply an interim football coach as the longtime basketball coach at the school, but made the switch this season to give up basketball and become the full-time football head coach.
“I’m excited with the direction of the program, and I’m just trying to continue it from where it was,” Carter said. “That said, we lost a lot on both sides, especially with the skilled guys on offense.”
Clyde will have roughly 85 players amongst the four grade levels, including 18 seniors. The Fliers bring back six starters on offense and seven on defense, anchored by first team All-Ohio linebacker Kade Long.
Perkins (11-1, 7-0): No one was hit harder by graduation than coach Jason Ziegler and the Pirates, who buzzsawed through the SBC and regular season at 10-0 in 2013. Perkins had 22 seniors on last season’s team, and will only have about 10 seniors on this year’s roster, including three playing for the first time.
In all, Ziegler expects 55 players out in the top three grades with about 30 freshmen.
“We’re just trying to get better every day,” he said. “We had a great summer, the kids have shown a lot of toughness and attitude. We’re going to be doing the same things, and we want to try to be a very physical team.”
The top returners for the Pirates include lineman Jacob Yaratch, and Matt Schweinfurth, a starter in the secondary a year ago, and a QB fill-in late in the season when David Doster went down to injury.
Huron (9-4, 5-2): Longtime coach Tony Legando admits he doesn’t have the marquee athlete he did a year ago in Cody Thompson. But he knows he’s got some size.
“This is the biggest team we’ve had in a long time, and we’ve got some guys we hope can use that and fire off the ball strong,” Legando said. “We feel pretty good about where we’re at, and with our depth.”
Legando noted he’ll have about 60-plus kids in the top three grades, and while he’s got three kids competing to replace Thompson at quarterback, his line play should be solid.
“Our biggest plus has and is our continuity,” he said.
Oak Harbor (5-5, 4-3): Mike May will bring back 43 in the upper three grades, including seven starters on both sides of the ball and 16 letterwinners. However, the schedule again offers no breaks for the Rockets, who face Ottawa-Glandorf, Genoa and Eastwood before jumping into conference play.
“We went 5-5 last year and lost to five playoff teams,” May said. “This is the most depth we’ve had in my tenure, and it’s the strongest and fastest team we’ve had. We’ve been in that 5-2 and 4-3 range in the conference these past few years, and our kids have a chip on their shoulder about that and want to do more.”
The Rockets will be led by Cole Weirich and Heberling, who each ran for more than 800 yards last season.
Edison (5-5, 3-4): Jim Hall is low on numbers in the senior class (seven) in his 14th season guiding the Chargers, and is low on size. Extremely low.
“We weighed our kids just the other day, and we’ve got five total who are over 200 pounds,” Hall said. “And two of them barely made cracked it. We just don’t have the size we’ve had in the past.”
The Chargers will bring back five starters on both sides of the ball, led by quarterback Keegan Hall (23-of-60, 601 yards, 9 TDs) and receiver Clay Goodwin (20 caches, 510 yards, 5 TDs). On defense, lineman Sam Proctor, defensive back Owen Moyer and Goodwin are key returners.
“Size is a concern, but this group is strong,” Hall said of his line play. “We’ll be relying heavily on our juniors and sophomores to contribute.”
Margaretta (3-7, 1-6): Second-year coach Andy Zuk is hoping to build off a large senior class and a strong offseason. Margaretta is entering camp with 21 seniors, which is up from just five in 2013. However, the Polar Bears have just six juniors and four sophomores. Additionally, there are 13 freshmen.
“We won’t be able to field a junior varsity team,” Zuk said. “Sometimes I feel like a college coach trying to recruit in the hallways, but it is what it is. We’ve had great attendance in the offseason, and hope to build off that as we get going this year.”
The Polar Bears will be led by quarterback Dylan Bailey.
Port Clinton (0-10, 0-7): Second-year coach Beau Carmon knows it was a rough campaign in 2013 for the Redskins.
“Admittedly we were playing kids who weren’t ready,” he said. “But we’ve come a long way in strength and conditioning, and have stressed competitiveness and getting tougher mentally and physically in the offseason.”
Port Clinton will bring back 10 starters on offense and nine on defense, led by QB Brandon Moore, who threw for more than 1,000 yards and ran for 500-plus yards last season. Receiver Nathan Stubblefield (38 catches, 426 yards, 4 TDs) also returns along with tailback Emerson Lowe.
Tristan Mallory returns at defensive tackle as the lone All-SBC returner for the Redskins, who anticipate 40-to-45 kids in the upper three grades and about 25 freshmen this season.
“Looking at us, there is nowhere to go but up,” Carmon said. “But we’re still at the bottom of the ladder until proven otherwise. We have to earn that respect, and we know that.”