It is going to be a season where we will see several very good teams in the FAVC Scarlet emerge, but schedule strength may be what keeps them out of the post season. The league is compromised of Division II schools except for Division IV, Norwood. Four league members will play against two Division IV teams and four members will play at least three contests against schools in smaller divisions. Harbin points are going to be hard to come by.
Edgewood, Ross and Mount Healthy have recent playoff histories to build upon. Not making mistakes in non-conference play will continue those runs. Northwest looks to create a new tradition and could easily spoil someone’s trip to Week 11.
It is going to be nail-biting all the way to the finish as the conference will come down to which team can create their own opportunities and the survival of the mentally tough.
Here is an overview of the FAVC Scarlet:
MOUNT HEALTHY OWLS
Division II, Region 8
Head Coach: Arvie Crouch (13-10 @ Mount Healthy, two years, 13-10 overall)
2010 Record: 9-3, 5-0 FAVC Scarlet
Overview: If you’re not a fan of Mount Healthy head coach Arvie Crouch and a “Hooter Rooter” yet, you should be. The Owls won their first playoff game in school history last fall under Crouch in just his second year at the helm. They’ve got it going on at the Owls’ Nest on Friday nights and there is no reason why they can’t keep it soaring. This program is going to be tested in 2011. The program is going to find out how deep it really is after graduation took many veteran players who had been through the battles.
One glaring advantage that Mount Healthy will have over almost all of their opponents will be on special teams. Junior kicker Mason Bolser and punter John Enderle were All-FAVC Scarlet performers in 2010. Speedy return man Tyrell Hines is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
The duo of Demond Jackson and Hines combined for 12 interceptions for 305 return yards and two touchdowns last season. The secondary is the veteran and tested group on defense. Filling holes up front is the challenge for Crouch. There is not as much beef on the line as there has been in the past. Linebacker Anthony Cornist registered three sacks as a junior.
The diminutive Greg Green gets the nod at quarterback over Michael Tucker, who will share snaps under center. They have many weapons at their disposal. Explosive receiver Vince Turnage averaged 27.5 yards per catch as a junior. Eric Davis, Hines and Jackson will be a three-headed monster at running back.
Division II, Region 8
Head Coach: Phillip Mauro (0-0 @ Edgewood, first year)
2010 Record: 5-5, 4-1
Overview: For the first time in over two decades Steve Channell will not be patrolling the sidelines at Edgewood. The Phillip Mauro-era begins in Trenton. The Cougars had built one of the top Division II programs in Southwest Ohio under Channell. The past two seasons however, the team has failed to make the playoffs after a run of 10 post-season appearances in 12 years, including a state runner-up in 2003. Mauro is no slouch. He comes from Canal Winchester where he went 36-9 in four campaigns that saw the Indians make the post-season in of those years.
One immediate change for Edgewood will be Mauro’s wide-open style on offense. The Cougars averaged just 8.2 points per game in their five losses in 2010. Junior Matt Barger will be the workhorse runner. David Jones will also see his role and carries increase out of the backfield. They will look for holes behind First-Team All-FAVC Scarlet lineman Jon Spisak. Cody Halland Jake Browning offer tall targets as receivers. There is a quartet of players vying for the starting quarterback position, including the versatile Browning. Who we see in Week 1 may not be the same guy under center in Week 10.
The Edgewood defense held opponents to eight points or fewer in four of their five victories last fall. The Cougars have some quality pieces returning to make this side of the ball even better. They are led by defensive tackle Brad Neumeier. He was a First-Team All-FAVC Scarlet selection as a junior. Linebackers Al Pieratt and Ryan Chambers have the ability to elevate their games to Neumeiers’ status. The secondary can shuffle players in and out with worry as they are deep with Kyle Spampinato, Mason Back, Browning, Hall and Jones.
Division II, Region 8
Head Coach: Brian Butts (73-28, nine seasons @ Turpin)
2010 Record: 7-3, 3-2
Overview: Ross is a legitimate contender for the FAVC Scarlet crown. They have the right combination of players, experience and depth to take the throne. What the Rams have most of all is motivation. The 2010 season ended on a sour note with losses to Mount Healthy by two points and Edgewood in Weeks 9 and 10 after they started 7-1. Despite the very good season the squad did not take care of enough business to earn a playoff berth. This group has the desire to erase those memories and forge on to the postseason. There is little margin for error so head coach Brian Butts will have to get the most out of his troops on every snap.
It could be an all out aerial assault for the Rams with all their speed and size at the skill positions. Senior Tyler Noonan moves from receiver to quarterback. Brennan McGuire is a Division I college prospect at split end. At 6-foot-4, junior tight end Gus Madden is a large target. Ross adds depth on the outside with juniors Brandon Fernandez, Dylan Foley and sophomore Blake Ballard. The offensive line must replace four starters and they aren’t particularly big. Butts will look to center Ben Warman to lead senior Nate Gander and monstrous sophomore Gavin Peacock up front. The running game will have a new scheme and new faces executing it. Sophomore Andrew Dunn could emerge at running back.
Butts is excited about his defenders. The unit was rock solid last year and could be a lot better this year. Their leading tacklers and playmakers are back with Cody Lotton and Ben Smith at linebacker, Frank Heimkreiter at defensive tackle, Joseph Jones and McGuire in the secondary. Heimkreiter will be joined on the line by Jason Siegel, Austin Woods and Gander. Drew Chase and Madden will go at outside linebacker. Jake Shields and Ballard might just benefit from all the pressure from the front seven with big interception totals in 2011.
Division II, Region 8
Head Coach: Chad Murphy (2-8 @ Northwest, one year 2-8 overall)
2010 Record: 2-8, 2-3
Overview: It has been two decades of futility as Northwest has not had a memorable season. That almost directly coincides with the rise of the northwest district’s other high school, Colerain and their quest for gridiron greatness. Now second-year head coach Chad Murphy thinks that his Knights have the talent to reverse those negative trends with a hungry group of seniors and strong sophomore class.
The offense is very explosive with star running back Ron Turner and exciting quarterback Ramar Hairston. Turner ran for 955 yards, caught 13 passes and amassed 1,224 all-purpose yards while posting 12 total touchdowns in 2010. The senior can score from anywhere on the field he had touchdown runs of 56, 83, 77, 50, 66, 82, 45 and 82 yards. Hairston came into his own as a signal caller in the Knights’ final two contests last season. He threw for 302 yards, ran for another 125 while tossing three and rushing for two scores. His number one target will be Kamerin Huntley. He had three touchdown receptions of over 42 yards as a junior. Across the field from him is TJ Dula, who averaged 22.9 yards per catch in 2010. Linemen Devin Thomas, Jacob Ruth and Teron Taylor are all returning starters.
There are pieces to the Northwest puzzle that fit into position against anyone in the league. The linebacking trio of Rasheen Jones, Nolan Miller and CJ Thompson is one of them. They will flat out tag people. Jones is already getting serious looks from college recruiters. Those fellows would not be afforded their freedoms if it weren’t for the play of Ameer Daniels, Ruth and Taylor up front. The linemen’s play also allows secondary members DeQuan Render and Turner to make big plays.
That sophomore class that Murphy likes so much includes wide receiver Keshun Horton, wide receiver/running back Willie Robertson, defensive back Cory Roberson offensive lineman Sterling Clark. Horton will probably handle kicking duties as well. Clark has the size and might be one of the best big men in the Class of 2014 after this season is all said and done.
Division II, Region 8
Head Coach: Mike Wright (22-38 @ Talawanda, six years, 22-38 overall)
2010 Record: 1-9, 1-4
Overview: There is no secret for what Talawanda needs to do in order to have a successful season and that is take care of the football. The past two seasons have been more than a headache for head coach Mike Wright as he watched his squad squander away possession after possession on a weekly basis. The Braves are 3-17 since the beginning of 2009 and have committed 75 turnovers in that span. They are minus-46 in turnover margin. Ten times they have ended a game with at least a minus-3 or more disadvantage in that category.
The defense has been taxed plenty the last two campaigns and being tired won’t be an excuse in 2011. Linebacker Zach Sens and Dalton Prater were Second-Team All-FAVC Scarlet performer as juniors. Sam Hornsby will line up alongside of Sens in the middle of the field. The line has plenty of new faces that need to step and prove themselves early if this side of the ball to make an impact in games.
The Braves will look to get out of the gate faster than they did last year on offense. In the first seven tilts of 2010 the teams scored a grand total of 14 points in the first half. Quarterback Casey Abrahams is back for his third year under center. He must cut down on his turnovers if Talawanda is to put ups “W’s.” Prater is also in the mix for snaps under center. Sawyer Johnson will get a shot at winning the starting tailback job. Andrew Richardson showed signs of being a big play receiver as a junior.
Division IV, Region 16
Head Coach: Chris Majors (0-0 @ Norwood, first season, 0-0 overall)
2010 Record: 0-10, 0-5
Overview: It will be a season of major transition for Norwood and new head coach Chris Majors. The Indians, who moved down to Division IV, still play in a league of very good Division II squads which has made competing very difficult. Next year the team joins the SBAAC where the playing field levels out. So with one more go around in the FAVC and coming off and 0-10 campaign anything Majors can get out of his youngsters in 2011 is only going to be gravy moving his program forward.
Eight times last fall Norwood scored seven points or fewer in a game. The team just didn’t have enough size to move the ball on a consistent basis. Left tackle Josh Hobbs was a Second-Team All-FAVC Scarlet performer as a junior. Add in Zak Marksbury and Scott Stapleton and the line has a solid foundation. Quarterback Jake Faulkner and running back Gabe Rice will need to remain healthy and productive so the offense doesn’t sputter again. One bright spots was the play of Jared Peters, who led the team in receptions, receiving yards and total touchdowns (3) as a freshman in 2010.
The defense did not fare much better allowing 40 or more points seven times. Andrew Conover, had a very good debut on this side of the ball. He earned Second-Team All-FAVC Scarlet honors as a freshman at defensive back. Conover is also vying for the starting quarterback position. The secondary looks strong with Robert Boston and Peters joining Conover. There are still plenty of questions in the front seven for the Indians. They will need some fresh faces to step in and immediately contribute or else it could be another long season.
Written by: Greg Shoemaker, TriStateFootball.com