The Truckers were the overwhelming favorites in both the preseason coaches and media poll to win the SBC Lake Division this season. The SBC Media Day was held Monday afternoon at Green Hills golf course in Clyde.
Norwalk is expected to return 17 of its 22 starters on offense and defense, along with most of its special teams, from a team that reached the Division III state semifinals in 2018.
In the poll voted on by the coaches, Norwalk received 25 points, well ahead of Tiffin Columbian (18), Clyde (16) and Sandusky (16). Bellevue (10) was voted fifth and Perkins (5) sixth.
In the media poll, Norwalk finished with 45 points, ahead of a second-place tie for Clyde (26) and Columbian (36). Sandusky (33), Bellevue (28) and Perkins (10) rounded out the media voting.
Last season, the Truckers stormed out to a 7-1 start. But they lost a chance to win the SBC Lake title with a 32-31 overtime loss vs. Clyde and a 34-13 loss at Columbian to end the regular season.
Norwalk then responded by beating Bowling Green (42-14), Rocky River (56-7) and Sandusky (20-17) to win the Region 10 championship before falling to Kettering Alter (34-13) in the state semifinals.
As a result of the first state semifinal appearance in 44 years, second-year head coach Todd Fox is expecting more than 90 players to report on Thursday for the first official practice of the season.
“I feel great for our program and community that our conference respects us like that,” Fox said on Monday. “For us, it just means we have to keep working harder and getting better. We’re trying to win the moment; win the day, and then the day after that.”
Fox said there have been as many as 96 kids participate in summer football activities. The Truckers will have 24 seniors this fall, and are scheduled to open the season on Aug. 30 with a stern test at Mansfield Senior.
“Our conference is tough, so it doesn’t mean a lot really,” Fox said. “But it’s great for the kids to see, so they can keep their eyes on the prize.”
Edison seeks bounce back
After the best three-year stretch in program history from 2015-17, the Edison Chargers took a step back to a 3-6 record in 2018.
Longtime Edison coach Jim Hall, entering his 19th season at his alma mater as the longest-tenured SBC Bay coach, is expecting 57 players on the roster this fall.
Edison is expected to bring back 17 letterwinners and nine starters on offense and six on defense.
The predicted finish in the Bay was the same in both coaches and media rankings. Oak Harbor (25 coaches, 25 media) was picked to win the league.
Huron was second to the Rockets with 20 point in the coaches and 38 in the media, followed by Port Clinton (17 coaches, 27 media), Edison (14 coaches, 26 media), Vermilion (9 coaches, 21 media) and Willard, (5 coaches, 11 media).
Edison went to back-to-back state semifinal games and reached the playoffs three straight years in Div. V from 2015-17, compiling a 32-7 record in that span.
“As a program, the kids who have been a part of some of those other teams that have had success want to get back to that level,” Hall said. “They are determined to get there, and as a result the work ethic has been great. Attitude and effort has been great, and I think our leadership is going to be very good.
Among the key starting points, the Chargers will bring back their entire offensive line to the triple option offense.
“I think these guys are very determined to get it back to where we’ve seen it,” Hall said. “We really want to get things turned back around and headed in the other direction. From that standpoint, we’re excited to get started.”
The Crimson Flashes moved up to the Bay Division after going 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the River a year ago.
Needing to replace Britton Devier in May, Willard hired 23-year old Kade Long, a 2015 Clyde graduate, as its new head coach.
An All-Ohio linebacker for the Fliers, Long continued his education and athletic career at NCAA Division II Tiffin University.
In 2016, Long served as the linebackers and offensive line coach at SBC River Division member Lakota. He was the defensive coordinator for the Raiders in 2017, along with the junior varsity head coach.
Last season, Long was co-defensive coordinator at Tiffin Columbian, helping the Tornadoes go from 0-10 to 8-3 and SBC Lake co-champions.
The Flashes lost two games by a combined eight points last season, but Long said he will have just two seniors this year to lead the way.
“It’s exciting to be here, but also kind of weird to look out and see a lot of the coaches that schemed against me in high school,” Long said on Monday. “We’ll be very young with just two seniors, and we have a new system on offense and defense for them to put in place.”
Long indicated the Flashes will have a pass-heavy, run-and-gun offense, and a 3-4 scheme on defense.
The Chargers open the season on Aug. 30 at home vs. Firelands, while Willard visits South Central in its opener.
Calvert, Gibsonburg top River picks
Gibsonburg topped the coaches voting in the River with 27 points, just three ahead of Margaretta. Lakota was third with 22, followed by Tiffin Calvert and Lakota sharing fourth with 20, Fremont St, Joe in sixth with 14 and Danbury with eight.
St. Mary Central Catholic received five votes from the coaches — but will not be playing 11-man football this fall due to lack of numbers.
Calvert took top honors in the media poll with 64, followed by the Gibsonburg (60), Hopewell-Loudon (44), Lakota (39), Margaretta (36), Fremont St. Joe (24) and Danbury (14).