WHO'S NEW: Lots of teams, including just about all of the perceived favorites. Columbus DeSales drops from Div. II into Region 10 and will have five future NCAA Div. I players on the field at any given time. The other early favorites come from Div. IV, Region 13. Those teams are Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (Region 9), Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (Region 9) and Steubenville (Region 11). Can the Big Red or another public school navigate this loaded division full of parochial heavyweights? It's almost time to play the games and find out.
REGION BY REGION: A glance at some of the top players and top teams ...
9: The defections from Div. IV, Region 13 are good news for the teams still there but have made Region 9 a meatgrinder. Mooney and St. Vincent-St. Mary appear to lead the pack, but keep an eye on D2 droppers Akron Hoban and Parma Padua, which graduated an outstanding group but still has plenty of talent. You know it's an outstanding region when the likes of Hoban, Benedictine, Hubbard and Akron Buchtel are far from playoff locks - and this is one outstanding region. Mooney will again be strong in the trenches and speedy on the outside with Braylon Heard and Ray Vinopal. SVSM should be very strong defensively, but can the Irish create enough offense to survive a brutal schedule and a brutal region?
10: DeSales will have to find a new quarterback but brings back plenty of talent and size, including but not limited to 6'3 WR Chi Chi Ariguzo, big-time linemen Travis Jackson and Alex Vance, and Adam Griffin, son of Archie, as the likely primary ballcarrier. Tipp City Tippecanoe brings back plenty of talent from a 9-1 team, and Clyde is strong and experienced in the trenches; plus, 1,000-yard rusher Kade Kramer returns. Lima Shawnee figures to be very much in the mix after narrowly missing the playoffs last year. Bexley returns plenty from a team that made its first-ever playoff appearance in Region 12 last year. Columbus Eastmoor graduated the core of the team that made a surprising run to the state title game.
11: In recent years this region has provided great competition and some memorable games among teams from the Northeastern Buckeye Conference (Canal Fulton Northwest and Canton South), Dover and Licking Valley. Steubenville's return changes the dynamic, and the Big Red are big favorites with 15 starters back from last year's Div. IV runner up. Northwest will be well coached and has gone to a pass-heavy, spread offense much like the one Dover has had success with, but does Dover return enough guns to win in the postseason this year? Storm Klein is gone, but Licking Valley has built a solid program and should be in the playoff mix again. Don't rule out New Lexington, which returns a solid group from last year's Div. IV state semifinalists.
12: There aren't many "name" programs in this group, but Waverly has a name player in QB Derek Roback, who accounted for 25 touchdowns in his first year as a quarterback last season and has committed to the University of Toledo. Circleville Logan Elm will look to continue its rebound; a year after going 0-10, Logan Elm went 12-1 and made the regional finals last year. QB Johnnie Brown returns after accounting for almost 2,500 yards of offense. Cincinnati Wyoming and Dayton Oakwood have enough athletes to win what appears to be a wide open region.
FAB FIVE: This is by no means a list of the top five players in Div. III; just an alphabetical list of five dynamic players who figure to have a say in which teams are still standing come November.
Jibreel Black, DE, Cincinnati Wyoming -- Dominating defensive end drew attention of college programs throughout the Midwest before picking Indiana. He's capable of changing games in his final high school season.
Doran Grant, RB/DB, St. Vincent-St. Mary -- The lone junior on this list is a true shutdown corner who makes a tough Irish defense downright scary. His speed could help on offense this season, too.
Braylon Heard, RB/DB, Mooney -- The Cardinals are going to run the ball, and this West Virginia commit figures to be the primary carrier. Added strength and experience should make him even more dangerous than he was last year.
Dwight Macon, QB/DB, Steubenville -- Three-year starter makes the Big Red go. By now he has big-game experience to match his superior athleticism. Macon should make Steubenville a very tough out come November.
Jerald Robinson, WR/DB , Canton South -- Michigan commit is always a big-play threat and also had 7 interceptions last year. His three-year QB has graduated and he'll face double and triple teams, but he'll still produce.
STEPPING OUT: Five intersectional matchups to watch that should provide a good gauge of where perceived contenders actually stand
Columbus Watterson (Region 10) at St. Vincent-St. Mary: The Irish believe they're building something special under Dan Boarman. This one will provide a great barometer; points figure to be at a premium.
DeSales at Mooney: Is it a state championship preview? At very least, it's a matchup of two precision offenses and loaded rosters.
Cincinnati Anderson (DI, R4) at DeSales: A rematch of last year's Div. II state semifinal and an early-season battle between two of the state's top programs.
Napoleon (Region 10) at St. Vincent-St. Mary: It's a long trip from Western Ohio for Napoleon, but SVSM shouldn't be expecting a homecoming-night pushover from this perennial playoff contender.
Massillon (Div. I, R2) at Steubenville: Two of Ohio's winningest programs renew acquaintances. A boatload of computer points could be at stake.
LAST WORDS: Steubenville hasn't lost a regular season game in six years…Watterson was just 5-6 last year, but the Eagles lost to DeSales twice, 20-17 and 21-17. That's not real good news for the rest of Region 10 as both schools have dropped into that region…Hoban and St. Vincent-St. Mary will play the first high school game in the University of Akron's new stadium on Sept. 19…The Div. III playoffs will be played on Friday nights this year.