Ohio Capital Conference - Buckeye Division Preview
The OCC – Buckeye Division will have a new crop of teams for the 2020 season as part of the conference’s realignment plan. However this division will maintain rivalries as Pickerington Central, Reynoldsburg, and Lancaster will each enter from the Ohio Division, while Groveport-Madison and Newark will each enter from the Capital Division. Central Crossing rounds out the six teams as it will enter from the Central Division. Three of the Buckeye Division’s new teams reached last year’s postseason in a smaller field, and this number could increase with the talent on each team given the conference’s upcoming playoff expansion.
Pickerington Central Tigers
Pickerington Central enters as the likely favorites to this division after winning last season’s Division I state championship versus Cincinnati Elder, making it twice in three seasons as the Tigers also won the state championship in 2017. Head Coach Jay Sharrett will be entering his 18th season with the Tigers where he has led the team to twelve consecutive playoff appearances along with four straight regional championships, and three title games overall. The next quarterback of Pickerington Central will have big shoes to fill following the departure of four-year starting quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw, who won Central District Offensive Player of the Year as well as Male Athlete of the Year, and has committed to Youngstown State in the fall. Other players to watch for are in the senior class which includes safety Garner Wallace who has committed to Northwestern, running back Nick Mosley who has committed to Bowling Green, and wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. who has committed to Notre Dame. A player to watch for in the junior class is guard Kyle Imboden who already has an offer from Cincinnati. Despite the change at quarterback, the Tigers are set up well for another title run.
Reynoldsburg enters the 2020 season with aspirations to go further in the playoffs after losing to Pickerington Central in the opening round last season. The Raiders, who finished last season with an overall record of 7-4, will be led on offense by junior quarterback Dijon Jennings who already has offers from Kentucky and Eastern Michigan, as well as interest from both Ohio University and Wake Forest. Jennings will continue to be supported on his blindside by senior left tackle Dalton Hall. Another player to watch for is senior linebacker Myles Carter who returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in last season’s playoff game. This season will mark the tenth for Head Coach Buddy White who in 2018 led the Raiders to its best season, and has guided the team to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. With the returning experience on offense the Raiders should be able to advance deep into the playoffs, although seeding may come down to its final regular season game versus Pickerington Central.
Lancaster Golden Gales
Lancaster will look to rebound after finishing last season with a 2-7 record, but with one of its wins coming against Newark. The Golden Gales will be led by Head Coach Rob Carpenter who will be entering his 23rd season with the team. The team will attempt to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016 led on offense by senior George Sherrick who plays both running back and cornerback. Another player to watch for is senior quarterback Titan Johnson who could replace graduating-quarterback Curtis Young. The Golden Gales will need to recreate the magic from 2018 when it won six straight games at one point before dropping its season finale against Reynoldsburg. Starting strong will be important for the Golden Gales in order to carry early momentum into division play which could make or break this team’s season.
Groveport-Madison has high hopes for 2020 after winning its first league championship since 1982 and reaching the Regional Final where it was defeated by now-division-rival Pickerington Central. However the Cruisers will look for a fast start under new Head Coach Mitchell Westcamp following the resignation of former Head Coach Bryan Schoonover. Westcamp has indicated that he expects the offense to run through senior running backs Te’Ron Coleman and Jalil Underdown who each have amassed over 2,000 rushing yards for the Cruisers. Although the offense will turn to a new quarterback this season, it should be helped with the return of senior wide receiver John Motton. While he should continue to help the Cruisers on defense at cornerback this unit should be led by senior linebacker Clarence Gossett for a unit which surrendered just 11.1 points per game last season. The Cruisers were the only team to defeat Pickerington Central last season, and with the returning players on both sides of the ball, this team has the potential to go far in the playoffs.
Newark will be led by Head Coach and longtime Newark-resident Bill Franks who will be entering his second season in his second stint with the Wildcats. Franks, who previously coached from 1997-2001, will attempt to improve upon last season’s 1-9 record by continuing momentum gained from the team’s season finale with its highest scoring output in a 41-30 win over Franklin Heights. The Wildcats will roster quarterbacks Jake Sherman, Daylin Felix, and Avery Edwards who will each look to get playing time following the graduation of Jaden Woods. Players to watch on offense include seniors wide receiver and cornerback Garrett Ramsey who scored both an offensive and defensive touchdown in last year’s season finale, and running back Mason Wheeler who looks to contribute to the running game in place of graduating seniors ahead of him. Winning in the division will be a key to success this season as the Wildcats lost games to both Lancaster and Central Crossing last year.
Central Crossing Comets
Central Crossing enters the 2020 season following a 3-7 record with one win coming against Newark. Led by Head Coach Trevor White who will enter his fourth season with Central Crossing, the Comets will attempt to have its first winning season since 2015 when it last reached the postseason. This offense will likely be led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Degerick Jr. who seeks to make his varsity debut following the graduations of three senior quarterbacks. Vying for significant playing time in the backfield this season will be juniors Alec Boyd and Jae’Von Pass. On defense, this team’s struggles last season can be attributed to having all new starters along the defensive line and at linebacker. Led by seniors lineman Jonathan Mathers, and Tristen Needham this defensive unit looks to build upon the experience that it gained from last season. However there will be a complete turnover in the defensive backfield which, last season, was composed of all seniors. Overall, the Comets will need to overcome inexperience on both sides of the ball in order to contend for the postseason.