Youngstown, OHIO (WKBN) – This year marks the EOAC’s third year of existence and it also returns three defending champions. Those co-winners from 2018 were Columbiana, Southern Local, and United as they all recorded a 6-1 league mark.
With the departure of Toronto from the conference following last season, the league will only have seven member schools playing in the league this year. In addition to the returning three champions, the league will also include East Palestine, Leetonia, Lisbon, and Wellsville.
The Columbiana Clippers will have a good opportunity to repeat as champions as they return a large portion of their offense including stand out QB Jake Cross and several skill position players. They also return nine starters on defense.
“This new league has proved to be balanced with great competition almost every week,” Clippers head coach Bob Spaite remarked. “As far as the contenders in the EOAC, in my opinion, it will come down to my old friend and a fierce competitor in D.J. Ogilvie who returned to United. And Southern Local under the veteran leadership of proven winner Rich Wright. He has them looking not only to win the EOAC but to make a run in the playoffs.”
“Leetonia looks to improve greatly under one of the winningest coaches in the area with Paul Hulea, and Lisbon has great talent and a fiery coach in Alan Mikovich,” Spaite continued. “East Palestine is an unknown factor as they enter life without Parker Sherry, but veteran coach Tony Foster always has had teams with a great attitude. Wellsville will be greatly improved as third-year head coach Moose Ramsey gets his system fully installed.”
“We have some good skill returning from last year and have some depth at the back positions. But we will need to find some linemen and some young kids are going to have to give us key depth,” Eagles coach D.J. Ogilvie said.
Those skill players include Bodey Kiko and Brutus Ogilvie who shared the signal-calling duties. While on defense, Kiko is also a team tackling leader as he returns as a starting linebacker, in addition to senior defensive end Christian Barnes.
“We return some good outside and inside linebackers on defense. We will have a great battle for playing time on the line and in the secondary,” Coach Ogilvie remarked.
“We are cautiously optimistic that we can have a really good season if our senior leadership develops and the offensive line solidifies itself and we find depth there. Our schedule is much more difficult this season which will be a big challenge,” Coach Ogilvie stated.
“The 2019 outlook is very positive. We had a tremendous offseason in the weight room and a great summer. Special teams, we lost our punter and kicker. This is an area of concern because this is so important,” Ogilvie added.
The Southern Indians, much like Columbiana, return a large number of starters from last year. That in itself makes the Indians one of the favorites in the EOAC this year. They return a very athletic quarterback in Jayce Sloan along with his top receivers Cam Grodhaus, Bradly Sloan, backfield with Jayce Sloan at tailback. The Indians line will be anchored by returning starters Tommy Redman, Stephen Craig, and Steven Richards.
Last season the Indians led the league in scoring offense averaging almost 37 points per game while surrendering just 20, second only to United on defense. The success the Indians enjoyed last season gave them both taste of a league championship and the OHSAA playoffs. With a senior-laden team, they will have high expectations to repeat both accomplishments in 2019, and even advance farther in this campaign.
“Everything we do plays off the running game, so we need to be successful there and bring along the new guys and youth within our team to have a successful season,” Lisbon head coach Alan Mikovich explained the offensive key to the Devils campaign. “If we can continue to grow in our knowledge of the defense and play together as a team defensively, we will give ourselves an opportunity to be successful and that’s all we can ask for this season.”
As Mikovich explained, the Devils will need to step up on the offensive side this year in order to be successful. The Devils only managed 12 points a game on the season and just under 5 points in league play. But defensively, the Devils gave up a respectable 20 points in league games. Like most teams, the Devils will need to avoid injuries that severely hampered them last season.
As mentioned by Spaite, the East Palestine Bulldogs enter a new era of life without standout quarterback Parker Sherry. The Bulldogs also lost a tremendous athlete in Domick Posey along with Jordan Fristik, Mike Fraser, Brock Chuerco, and Abel Figley. They do return Dominick Cathers and Cameron Wischerman to help propel the Bulldogs skill players.
As head coach Tony Foster heads into his seventh season with the Bulldogs, he will need to rebuild the offense around a number of new starters. But more importantly, the Bulldogs will need to tighten down the defense this year is they hope to challenge for a league title. Last season the Dogs surrendered over 28 points a game to opponents.
The Leetonia Bears made huge strides forward last year under first-year head coach Paul Hulea, winning four games after only mustering three wins in the previous four years combined. With Hulea having his system installed, the Bears look to be more comfortable in the schemes and techniques, not to mention the off-season weight program that the coaches have installed.
The Bears did lose standout tailback Roman Ferry and quarterback Brook Simpson, but they do return All-NEO Inland player Connor Hick on the line. The Bears will also have another Ferry running the ball as Roman’s brother Marc, along with o will be one of the Bears top skill players.
Much like Leetonia, The Tigers are also looking to improve from 2018 where they finished with a disappointing 2-8 record. They also have a younger brother looking to make his mark this season as Darien Suggs takes over for his brother Derrick who graduated last year.
Other than Derrick, the Tigers will return a number of skill players from last season, and only have a couple of holes to fill in the offensive and defensive lines. The Tigers will return their quarterback in Troy Carter.