High School Football: Experienced Northeastern has high expectations in OHC

SPRINGFIELD — A year after hosting its first playoff game in school history, the Northeastern High School football team has high expectations this fall.

With 10 seniors and a strong group of returning letterwinners on both sides of the ball, the Jets are hoping to make a run at their first Ohio Heritage Conference North Division title this season. The Jets last won the old eight-team OHC back in 2003.

Last season, the Jets finished third behind league champion Mechanicsburg and West Jefferson in the loaded OHC North. Four of the six OHC North squads qualified for the expanded playoffs last season. The Jets fell to Anna 17-3 in a Division VI, Region 24 first-round game.

“I think they’ve got a little bit of confidence from getting to the dance last year,” said Jets coach Jake Buchholtz. “It obviously didn’t end the way we wanted, which I think left them a little hungry especially when you’ve got a lot of seniors and four-year starters back. It makes it easier as a coach because they’re kind of steering the ship a little bit for us. We’ve got some high expectations, but I hope we continue to worry about ourselves and focus on the things that we’re trying to do as a team.”

The Jets return two All-Ohio players in senior quarterback/linebacker Cade Houseman and running back/defensive end Hunter Albright, as well as three of their four leading wide receivers — senior Dylan Haggy, sophomore Johnny Guevara and senior Gunnar Leonard. Junior Cody Lookabaugh and sophomore Garrett Chadwell will also get touches at running back, Buchholtz said.

After last season’s playoff run, the Jets know they won’t surprise anyone this fall. The key will be to take it one game at a time and focus on getting better each week, Buchholtz said.

“We’ve got a lot of good teams on our schedule and if we overlook anybody, it could be a long night for us,” he said.

The Jets moved up to D-IV, Region 20 this fall. They’ll play five programs who won playoff games last season -- Riverside, Greeneview, West Jefferson, Mechanicsburg and Fairbanks.

“We know there’s teams we’re going to play who are going to make deep runs in the playoffs,” he said. “If we can handle those games and if we get a chance to play in the playoffs, we know our guys will be battle-tested.”

OHC South

Greenon

The Knights are seeking their third OHC South Division title in four seasons.

After winning back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020, they fell to Greeneview 28-14 in Week 10 in a game that decided the division title. Greenon and Greeneview are the only two teams to win the OHC South title since the conference expanded to 12 teams in 2017.

Greenon also qualified for the D-V, Region 20 playoffs last season, falling at Preble Shawnee 21-13.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces we’re excited about and key kids back in some positions,” said Knights coach Josh Wooten. “Our goal is to win the OHC South and hopefully that gives us a chance to get into the playoffs.”

Greenon graduated 10 players from last year’s squad, including leading rusher Trevor Stewart and leading receiver Clay Hough.

The Knights return All-Ohio third team linebacker Zack Stevens, as well as quarterback Kaden Wooten. Stevens will transition to running back on offense, Josh Wooten said.

Greenon has 15 seniors, as well several young players who may see playing time on Friday night, he said.

“We’ve got some good young talent we’re excited about,” Josh Wooten said.

Catholic Central

After a breakout season last fall, the Irish are seeking their first league championship since 2010. Catholic Central went 7-4 last season, falling to Fort Loramie 38-17 in a D-VII, Region 28 playoff game.

The Irish have 11 seniors, as well as seven returning starters on both sides of the ball and a strong group of underclassmen.

“I think we’ve got an opportunity to have a very good season,” said Irish coach Jim Dimitroff, who took over as head coach this summer after serving as offensive coordinator last season. “Most people would say they’re cautiously optimistic, but I would say I’m cautiously very optimistic.”

The Irish graduated OHC South Player of the Year Ashton Young, a University of Dayton recruit, but return three strong running backs in senior Tyler Young and juniors Darrien Stapleton and Daniel Kamara. The Irish also return their entire group of offensive and defensive linemen in seniors Sam Peabody, Ivan Escamilla, Aiden Thomas, Tim Gnau and junior Adam Thomas.

The Irish will play West Unity Hilltop at Van Wert High School at noon on Saturday. They’ll face four teams who qualified for the playoffs last season, including Troy Christian, Greenon, Greeneview and West Jefferson.

“We have to take it one game at a time,” Dimitroff said. “We’re not good enough to look past anybody. We have to make sure that regardless of the quality of the team we play, we’ve got to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves. We’ve got to make sure that we’re executing on each side of the ball and on special teams.”

Southeastern

The Trojans went 2-7 last season and are seeking their first league championship since 2001. They return eight seniors and a large junior class who hope to compete in the division this fall.

“The most important game is always the next one,” said Trojans coach A.J. Woods. “That’s what I’ve tried to instill here, a mindset that we need to live in the present. We can’t look too far ahead.”

Junior Zach McKee will play quarterback, while sophomore Hayden Davis, senior Thomas Sulfridge and junior Jonah Asebrook will all see time in the backfield.

Asebrook, a D-VII third team All-Ohio selection who had six interceptions at safety last season, and junior linebacker C.J. Wilt will lead the defense this fall.

The Trojans will face a tough schedule this fall, including six OHC teams who qualified for the playoffs a year ago.

“It’s always competitive,” Woods said. “Each week you’re getting great schools and great coaches. You’ve got to be well-prepared because each night is a dogfight.”

AT A GLANCE

OHC South

Catholic Central

Coach: Jim Dimitroff, first season

Conference: Ohio Heritage Conference South Division

OHSAA designation: Division VII, Region 28

Playoff history: 13 appearances, last qualified in 2021

2021 record: 7-4, 3-2 OHC South

Greenon

Coach: Josh Wooten, sixth season

Conference: Ohio Heritage Conference South Division

OHSAA designation: Division V, Region 20.

Playoff history: Two appearances, last qualified in 2021

2021 record: 6-4, 4-1 OHC South

Southeastern

Coach: AJ Woods, third season

Conference: Ohio Heritage Conference South Division

OHSAA designation: Division VII, Region 28

Playoff history: Six appearances, last qualified in 2009.

2021 record: 2-7, 1-4 OHC South

OHC North

Northeastern

Coach: Jake Buchholtz, fifth season

Conference: Ohio Heritage Conference North Division

OHSAA designation: Division V, Region 20

Playoff history: Nine appearances, last qualified in 2021

2020 record: 7-4, 3-2 OHC North

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