BRYAN – Evergreen, Swanton and Delta – two of which are breaking in new head coaches – were picked sixth, seventh and eighth Sunday at the annual Northwest Ohio Athletic League football coaches meeting held in Bryan.
Patrick Henry was the presumptive favorite amongst the league coaches. The Patriots, who last season went unscathed through league play while on their way to the playoffs, received seven of eight first place votes.
Bryan was picked second in the voting, Archbold and Liberty Center tied for third, Wauseon fifth, followed by the trio from Eastern Fulton County.
The show of faith in PH and veteran coach Bill Inselmann, came after he highlighted how low the school’s enrollment numbers are. He said, with a lighthearted tone, that he was ‘disappointed’ his fellow coaches would pick them when they are the “smallest kids on the bus.” Something his father taught him never to do growing up, Inselmann joked.
Swanton’s Denton Saunders is one of three new head coaches in the league, with the others being Delta’s Nate Ruple and Wauseon’s Shawn Moore.
Saunders will have 17 returning letter winners to work with this season. At the meeting, he referenced going from the Wing T to more of a spread offense being a challenge for some of his players. But, he said the players are ‘picking it up.’
“We have good athletes on the edge. We’ve got good team speed,” said Saunders of his team. “Our players have a lot of Friday night experience. And there is excitement around the program right now.”
The Bulldogs had their first scrimmage Friday with Montpelier, and Saunders called it the ‘perfect’ scrimmage in terms of what they took away from it.
“We did some good things, we did some really bad things, and nobody got hurt,” said the first-year coach. “We left that scrimmage feeling good in some aspects. Still had film and was able to teach off of that film. And we’re healthy.”
Ruple returns to coach his alma mater, where he previously coached from 2009-12.
The Panthers have 39 kids out this season, a good number according to Ruple. However, with only six returning seniors, experience is hard to come by.
“We are gonna be young, very inexperienced,” explained Ruple. “We have a fairly new system going in this season. So for us, it’s all about getting better each week. Teaching those fundamentals and getting our kids to play as hard as they possibly can week in and week out.”
Evergreen has 41 kids on the roster, but only 29 come from the top three grades. As a result, depth could be an issue.
The Vikings, who were 4-6 last season, will be solid in the trenches on the offensive and defensive lines according to coach Aaron Schmidt. That’s even with losing four starters on the offensive line from a season ago.
They will also be solid at the offensive skill positions.
Scrimmages continue this week and next week with the first Friday slate of games set for Aug. 30.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010