SBAAC schools kick-off football season Friday, Saturday

The 2017 high school football season kicks off for the Southern Buckeye Athletic & Academic Conference Friday night with seven games on the schedule. Two games are slated for Saturday kickoffs.

Fayetteville-Perry at Manchester

The Rockets make the trip to Manchester with the hopes of repeating last season’s 61-0 victory. The Greyhounds “have some athletic players at skill positions and some big linemen,” Fayetteville-Perry head coach Kevin Finch said.

Finch said there have been some changes made in the program “but the players have been very coachable” throughout the process. The Rockets were 6-4 last season but will be competing in the SBAAC National Division for the first time this season. They lost to Williamsburg (18-14) and Bethel-Tate (55-34) while defeating Clermont Northeastern (22-10) in non-league games in 2016.

Finch like what he sees in the 2017 Rockets but inexperience must be overcome to be success.

“We still need to correct some of the smaller mechanics,” he said. “Our pursuit to the ball on defense and passing on offense have been good so far. We are still inexperienced at certain positions but the players competing for those spots continue to improve daily.”

Finch said Luke Wiederhold QB, Mark Wolfer OL/OLB, Dalton Novak OL/DL, Hunter Jester RB/ILB, Seth Allen ILB/RB, Bowen Doane WR and Chase Lockwood DB/WR are players to watch for FPHS.

Holy Cross (Ky.) at Goshen

The Warriors will open the season Saturday afternoon at Jim Brown Stadium against Holy Cross from Kentucky.

Goshen was 5-5 last season but was not that far out of a the playoffs. Losses to Ross and Amelia hurt their chances. This year, coach Ryan George said his squad needs to be “tougher and finish.”

That may be difficult against Holy Cross, a team that went 12-3 last season.

George said the Warriors defense has been solid to this point in the pre-season and is led by linebackers Adam Slusher, Jimmy Strunk, Brandon Harrison and Payton Leugers and linemen Jake Tatman and Austin Jones.

Waynesville at Bethel-Tate

Despite going 5-5 in 2016, the Tigers were just two spots out of the playoff picture. A late-season loss to a 3-7 Western Brown proved to be costly.

This year, though, coach Jeff Essig sees improvement in several areas.

“We have a lot of depth,” he said. “Our numbers are higher than last year and competition is a great motivator.”

Waynesville went 0-10 in 2016 but Essig said the Spartans are similar to the Tigers on offense “in formations and how they like to attack defenses.” They are aggressive on defense and are well-coached.

On offense, sorting out the quarterback situation will be one of the keys but one good problem in that regard is Essig has three solid players to choose from — senior Chris Wheeler (single season passing leader in school history) is 412 yards away from becoming the all-time career passing leader in school history; senior Seth Becker (Western Brown High School transfer) was second in the city last year with 2,955 yards passing; and sophomore Alex Manz started in 3 games last year and threw for 596 yards.

Essig believes the linebackers are the strength of his defensive unit and several of them use skills they obtained from others sports to improve on the football field.

“Owen Holtke (senior) is also wrestler who uses his mat skills to take-down ball carriers,” Essig said. “Nate Owens (senior) ran track last year and it has really helped with is speed and endurance. Charlie Paul (junior) is also a basketball player who can adapt his court vision from the court, to the field. He uses is to cover the pass and attack the run.”

Williamsburg at Batavia

These to neighboring rivals met in Week 10 of the 2016 season, Batavia coming out on top 33-9 in what was an SBAAC National Division game. Batavia has moved to the American Division this season.

The Bulldogs run the Wing-T offense and will be multiple on defense.

The Wildcats were National Division champions and playoff qualifiers in 2013 and 2015, and seek to return to that level in 2016. Nate Bogan, senior quarterback, passed for 1400 yards and 11 scores while running for 600 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016.

Indian Hill at New Richmond

Indian Hill went 9-2 last season, losing to Kettering Alter in the first round of the playoffs. The Braves defeated New Richmond 49-36 in the season opener in 2016. Indian Hill be looking to replace starting quarterback Reed Eichholz, a signal-caller Clinton-Massie fans are familiar with over the past couple seasons.

New Richmond was 10-2 in 2016, defeating Mount Healthy 35-33 in the playoffs before losing to Trotwood-Madison 47-10.

Western Brown at Hillsboro

The Broncos bounced the Indians 48-22 in the 2016 season opener.

From there, Western Brown lost its next five games and finished a dismal 3-7.

Defense will be the key for Don Sizer’s squad. They surrendered at least 22 points in each game last season. Sizer played his collegiate football at Wilmington College.

Jack O’Rourke’s Hillsboro squad went 4-6 but the Indians won their final three games in 2016 and hope to carry that momentum into the current campaign.

Clermont NE at Clark Montessori

The Rockets will sit out Friday night and open its season Saturday night.

The two teams combined to win just three games in 2016. Both teams played underclassmen in key roles a year ago and will be hoping that experience pays off this season.

The Cougars have a new head coach, Ross Baker who took over the post after serving as an assistant at Wilmington College.

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By Mark Huber

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