SBAAC set to open football season Friday night


The 2022 high school football season is upon us.

Seems like just yesterday Clinton-Massie was winning its third state championship at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, with the greatest comeback in the history of Div. IV Ohio championship history. Massie defeated Youngstown Ursuline 29-28 after trailing 28-7 in the second half.

The Falcons have won or shared the last five SBAAC American Division championships while Bethel-Tate has won two straight and three of the last five National crowns. Blanchester had won three of four titles until the Tigers won the last two.

Here is a look at each SBAAC team for the season and week 1. The News Journal reached out to each football coach in the league for this information. Some responded (thank you) and some did not. Clinton County teams are previewed elsewhere.


Batavia (A) Williamsburg

Bethel-Tate (H) Cin College Prep

Blanchester (H) Paint Valley

Clermont Northeastern (H) Clark Montessori

East Clinton (H) Dayton Christian

Goshen (A) Piketon

New Richmond (A) Cin Northwest

Wilmington (A) Ross

Clinton-Massie (A) Waynesville

Western Brown (H) Hillsboro

All games are scheduled to kick-off at 7 p.m. Friday.


BETHEL-TATE: Until someone beats them, the Tigers are the team to beat in the National. Coach Jeff Essig will go for the trifecta with a vastly different cast of characters as a large and talented class graduated in the spring.

”We want to continue to compete at a high level,” said Essig. “This year’s team has a lot to live up to and expectations are always high. We graduated a great class of young men last season. This year’s players must take the torch that has been passed and continue to run with it. We have an uphill battle and the target will be on us, but at the same time we are confident that our players will continue the tradition of not giving up and finish each game strong.”

Essig said “many” of the team’s potential week 1 starters are first-year varsity starters.

“We are still working on getting some of our players back from injury,” he added. “We also liked how our defense was able to perform against the speed of Deer Park and Shroder in scrimmage two. Something we did not like and need to work on is the effort on some plays away from the ball on offense. Our younger players are still adjusting to playing in a varsity game.”

On offense, Bethel-Tate will rely on junior quarterback Cameron Snider, who passed for 2,043 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. He won’t have Gauge Dunn or Wyatt Burton to throw to in 2022. They combined for 84 receptions, 1284 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Nor will Snider have Mikey Molley (228-1693-16) to hand off to in the backfield. The only returnees on offense are Jordan Essig (WR), Korbin Dearing (OL) and Hunter Darnell (OL). There are more returning players than not on defense, with ends Austin Brookenthal and Blake Brookenthal leading the way. Tackle Caleb Lanigan also returns and gives Bethel-Tate a formidable front line.

As for CCPA in the opener, Essig said Donald Bailey will be one of the defenders the offense must stop. Mark Smith was an All-Ohio QB last year but he graduated.

CCPA was 8-3 last season in the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference and won its first playoff game over Fayetteville. The Tigers won last year’s meeting 20-6.

WILLIAMSBURG: Nick Ayers is another first-year head coach at his SBAAC school, having been named the head coach at Williamsburg.

Ayers takes over for Chad Ward, who was 18-24 in four years at WHS. Last year Williamsburg had its first winning season (7-5) since 2015 and the program’s first-ever playoff win with a 17-14 triumph over Brookville.

“SBAAC is gonna be interesting,” Ayers said. “We can win or lose any game we play. Very excited to see how we do.”

Ayers said his squad’s ball-handlers will be “exciting to watch.” Trystan Greis leads the way, coming off an 18-touchdown rushing season with 1,115 yards on the ground, despite missing a game. He was All-Ohio in Division VI.

JJ Miller will start at quarterback. Alex Ervin, Jase Canter, Bryce Lillie and Pierce Ayers are also threats with the ball.

On defense, Ayers said Toby Humphries is the best defensive player in the conference

The Wildcats open the year with a crossover battle against neighboring rival Batavia.

“Batavia is a lot better this year than last,” said Ayers. “Twenty-plus more kids on the team, better product and more belief. Coach (Wayne) Stacy has done a great job getting his guys ready.”

CLERMONT NE: Former CNE defensive coordinator Steve Thompson is the new head coach, taking over for Jeremy Fishback, who stepped down after four years.

The Rockets were 2-7 last season, but last seven in a row to close the season.

CNE opens with Clark Montessori, a team it defeated 21-6 last season.


NEW RICHMOND: Brian Pitzer takes over the Lions program from Patrick Burke, who has moved on to Dixie Heights (Ky.).

“We are excited for the 2022 journey,” Pitzer said. “We are in a very competitive league and we’re just trying to be our best every day and be 1-0 every week.”

Pitzer has been pleased with his team’s response to the off-season development program and also impressed with how each student-athlete has responded to challenges.

Quarterback AJ Metzger returns for NR but top offensive player Bo Snider has graduated. Snider accounted for eight touchdowns in the final two weeks of 2021.

“We are excited to see how our players perform Friday night,” said Pitzer. “We’re excited to see how our team goes out and performs.”

Pitzer said the offensive and defensive lines for New Richmond will be the key in the opener against Northwest, 3-7 last season as a member of the Southwest Ohio Conference.

”They look very solid, they have some very talented skill players in their secondary on defense and their quarterback play is very consistent,” said Pitzer.

GOSHEN: The Warriors travel to Piketon for a tough opener. The Redstreaks were 10-1 last season and a Div. V Region 19 playoff qualifier. The only loss was a 30-22 defeat in the final against Columbus Academy.

Goshen was 1-9 overall and 1-4 in the American Division last season.

Shane Elkin takes over the program from Greg Miller, who resigned after three seasons.

BATAVIA: Former Wilmington College standout Wayne Stacy takes over the Bulldogs.

Batavia was 1-8 last season, 2-6 in 2020, 1-9 in 2019.

They open with National Division rival Williamsburg. The Wildcats won last year’s meeting 41-6.

WESTERN BROWN: The Broncos are coming off a historic season in 2021. They were 13-1, won three post-season games and lost three games by a total of 23 points.

Drew Novak, the all-world quarterback, gives Western Brown a chance against any opponent. Novak threw for 5,269 yards and 56 touchdowns a year ago while rushing for 1,202 yards and 21 touchdowns.

The offense (700 points last year) won’t be the problem but the Broncos will need to find a defense (350 points allowed) in order to better last year’s results.

WB opens at home against Hillsboro. The Broncos won last year’s meeting 62-21.

Western Brown’s Drew Novak (2) is the top returning player in the SBAAC this season. He accounted for 77 touchdowns last season. Brown’s Drew Novak (2) is the top returning player in the SBAAC this season. He accounted for 77 touchdowns last season. News Journal File Photo

By Mark Huber

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Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or on Twitter @wnjsports

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