Look for the Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division prep football race to be a tight one this season.
Defending champion Valley View and Franklin finished in a tie for first place in the preseason SWBL coaches poll. Bellbrook was a close third, followed (in order) by Brookville, Oakwood, Eaton and Monroe.
“It doesn’t surprise me how it shook out,” Franklin coach Brad Childers said. “The expectation at Franklin is always to win. I’m fortunate to be the head coach, and I know and understand what the expectations are in our community.
PRESEASON PREP FOOTBALL POLLS
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“We had eight major injuries last year, so we had a lot of young kids that got experience, and we’re fortunate to have a lot of those kids back. I’m excited for our group. There’s a lot of energy in this group.”
Valley View got hit hard by graduation after going 6-0 in Southwestern Division play last season.
Junior Cade Cradlebaugh, a southpaw, moves from wide receiver to quarterback this year. He does have some returning skill guys in senior running back Max Shuey, senior slotback Jarrett Lynch and senior wide receiver Aaron Valenti, who’s also set to play cornerback.
“I think any one of those top three teams could win it,” Valley View coach Bob Skidmore said. “I know Bellbrook’s got a ton coming back, and Franklin from what I’ve heard has a huge amount of kids out.
“Being voted No. 1 doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it’s nice to be well thought of. A lot of that’s based on what we did last year, though, so we’ve got a lot of proving to do.
“I would say our skilled guys on both sides will have to carry us. We’ll be young on the line. That’s where we lost two- and three-year starters. We’ll still have a lot of seniors that are playing there. They’re just not guys that have played a ton before.”
Franklin brings back senior linebacker Matt Centers, who’s bearing down on the school’s all-time tackles record, and junior quarterback Braden Woods, who had a strong season in replacing the injured Braden White.
Woods isn’t just being handed the job this year. Childers said he’s competing with senior Jake Bowermaster for the starting position. Bowermaster was at Franklin as a freshman and at Centerville as a sophomore, and he sat out the first five games last year after returning to FHS.
“Those guys are in a competition, and I love it. It’s great for our team,” Childers said. “I have great confidence in both of those kids right now. They both like to throw it, but neither one of them is afraid to run it.”
Franklin’s quarterbacks are thriving under the direction of new offensive coordinator Mike Schneider, who’s been coaching for more than four decades and is generally regarded as one of the state’s top QB coaches.
Monroe is coming off a 1-9 campaign — ironically, that one win was over Division V state semifinalist Madison — and has a new head coach in former head coach Brett Stubbs, who directed the Hornets from 2010-12.
“Things haven’t gone too well the last couple years, so it’s no surprise that the coaches have us in the basement,” Stubbs said. “It doesn’t surprise me, but it doesn’t make me happy either. It should be motivation for our kids. We’ve got some things to prove this year.”
Stubbs is making some changes. Monroe will run a Wing-T offense and a 3-3 stack defense after using the spread and a 4-3, respectively, in 2017. Stubbs is the defensive coordinator, and Jason Osterman is the offensive coordinator.
The Hornets don’t have great numbers (40 players in grades 9-12), but they do have some standouts returning in 2018. Senior quarterback Nick Osterman is back after throwing for 1,665 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, and classmate Tyler Hendricks is expected to get plenty of touches in and around the backfield this season.
SWBL Southwestern: The Vote
Here’s how the coaches voted in the preseason Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division football poll, with point totals and first-place votes (in parentheses):
1. Valley View (3) 41
1. Franklin (2) 41
3. Bellbrook 38
4. Brookville 25
5. Oakwood (1) 22
6. Eaton (1) 18
7. Monroe 11