Ohio Heritage Conference preview: Greenon seeking OHC South three-peat

Greenon1: Greenon's Trevor Stewart brings down Shawnee quarterback RJ Griffin during their scrimmage game on Friday, Aug. 13 in Springfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER
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Greenon1: Greenon's Trevor Stewart brings down Shawnee quarterback RJ Griffin during their scrimmage game on Friday, Aug. 13 in Springfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

SPRINGFIELD — In the three seasons prior to Josh Wooten’s hiring, the Greenon High School football team lost 31 straight games.

Four seasons later, Greenon is seeking its third straight Ohio Heritage Conference South Division championship in 2021.

That’s quite a turnaround for a program that won just two games between the 2012 and 2016 seasons.

“We’ve been very blessed and we’ve had some really talented kids who are passionate about Greenon football and did what we asked them to do,” Wooten said. “That’s been the big thing. From a staff standpoint, our staff has done a great job in putting our kids in the right position to be successful.”

The Knights next challenge will be staying on top, Wooten said.

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“With the success that we’ve had, we’re not going to sneak up on anybody,” Wooten said. “That was the easy part. The difficult part is staying on top.”

Greenon returns several skill players from a squad that went 6-2 and 5-0 in the OHC South and earned the program’s first-ever postseason victory. Senior wideout Clay Hough led the team in receiving last year, while senior running back Trevor Stewart was the team’s leading rusher.

Knights junior Kaden Wooten will take over at quarterback, replacing graduated Evan Davis, who threw for 1,390 yards and 14 touchdowns with just one interception last year.

“We’re excited for the season to get started,” Wooten said. “We’ve got a lot of key pieces coming back. The kids we have to replace from last year, we feel good about those kids that are stepping in. Any time you transition from one year to the next, you’ve got to get those kids varsity ready. We feel good about the kids we have.”

Greenon is preparing for a dogfight in the OHC South, which has seen four new coaches enter the division in the last two years. Catholic Central’s Ty Myers and Southeastern’s AJ Woods are each in their second year, while Madison Plains’ Shane Cahill and Cedarville’s Austin Steward are each in their first year.

“We know that we’re going to get their best, specifically on our side,” Wooten said. “The new coaches are now in Year 2 and their players understand the expectations on offense and defense and special teams. We know it’s going to be a challenge week-in and week-out.”

Here’s a look at the other Clark County teams in the OHC South:

Catholic Central

A year ago, the Irish entered the shortened COVID-19 with a new coach and a roster full of underclassmen. They were quickly thrown into the fire, Myers said.

“We were just trying to build their confidence every week,” Myers said. “We were playing against some teams with 13 or 14 seniors. There’s a huge difference between a 14- or 15-year-old kid and an 18-year-old kid. We used that as a building block.”

The Irish (2-7) finished the regular season with back-to-back victories over Ridgedale and Ridgemont, snapping a 31-game losing streak.

A year later, the Irish return their entire roster, including sophomore quarterback Ty Myers, Jr., junior wide receiver Ashton Young and sophomore wideout DaShawn Martin. The Irish hope to make some noise in the OHC South.

“We’ve established a standard and everybody is being held accountable,” Myers said. “The kids know what we expect. We’ve been working as hard as anybody. It’s time for us to focus and start enjoying the hard work.”

Southeastern

Southeastern went 4-6 last season, which included a first-round D-VII postseason victory against Lehman Catholic, in Woods’ first-year as head coach.

The Trojans have eight seniors this fall, but four of them are new to the program, Woods said.

They’ll rely on two returners — senior Wade Eriksen and junior Thomas Sulfridge — to lead them this season. Eriksen is a four-year starter who’ll see time at quarterback and running back. He’ll also play linebacker. Sulfridge will also play running back and defensive back.

With a year under their belts in Woods’ system, the Trojans hope to be even more competitive in the OHC South.

“We’re going to be young, but we’re going to be physical,” Woods said. “We’ve got a tough group of kids.”

After last season, the Trojans also understand the importance of playing every down like it’s your last each week, he said.

“We call it BGOTY,” Woods said. “It means ‘Biggest Game Of The Year.’ Every game is the biggest game of the year in the COVID world. You just never know what’s going to happen.”

OHC North Division

Northeastern

The OHC North is one of the elite small school conferences in Ohio. Mechanicsburg and West Jefferson each made state semifinal runs in recent years, while West Liberty-Salem advanced to the D-V regional finals in 2019.

After finishing last year with three straight wins, the young Jets hope to make waves this fall.

“The kids learned how to win and compete last year,” Jets coach Jake Buchholtz said. “It carried over into the offseason and hopefully we pick up where we left off last year.”

The Jets return junior quarterback Cade Houseman, as well as several skill players including juniors Gunnar Leonard, Hunter Albright and Dylan Haggy and senior Colton Moone.

“There won’t be a lot of new Friday night shock for the kids,” Buchholtz said. “They kind of know what to expect. Our expectations have grown for them obviously. I do think that they’re ready to compete with those better teams.”

AT A GLANCE

OHC South

Catholic Central

Coach: Ty Myers, second season.

Conference: Ohio Heritage Conference South Division

OHSAA designation: Division VII, Region 28

Playoff history: 12 appearances, last qualified in 2011.

2020 record: 2-7, 0-5 OHC South.

Greenon

Coach: Josh Wooten, fifth season.

Conference: Ohio Heritage Conference South Division

OHSAA designation: Division V, Region 20.

Playoff history: One appearance, 2020.

2020 record: 6-2, 5-0 OHC South Division champions

Southeastern

Coach: AJ Woods, first season, third overall.

Conference: Ohio Heritage Conference South Division.

OHSAA designation: Division VII, Region 28.

Playoff history: 4-6, last qualified in 2009.

2020 record: 4-6, 2-3 OHC South.

OHC North

Northeastern

Coach: Jake Buchholtz, third season.

Conference: Ohio Heritage Conference North Division

OHSAA designation: Division IV, Region 16

Playoff history: Eight appearances, last qualified in 2003.

2020 record: 4-6, 0-5 OHC North.