Back for more; West Branch looks to defend EBC title as Salem returns Johnson at QB

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Warriors won their first league championship since 2012

Eastern Buckeye Conference High School Football

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BELOIT, Ohio (WKBN) – For the first time since 2012, West Branch earned a conference title by cruising through the EBC landscape with a perfect 5-0 mark in league play.

The Warriors outscored their league mates by an average of 24 points in their five outings.

Coach Ken Harris’s team went from a 2-8 team in 2019 in his first year to an 8-2 championship squad last fall.

Brock Hillyer was the EBC’s Player of the Year after starring as the Warriors’ signal-caller in 2020 (as a senior) by throwing for over 2,000-yards (2,282) and completing 66.5% of his passes (181-272) and 25 touchdowns while leading West Branch in rushing with 790 yards (13 TDs).

Canton South was one win shy of winning the league championship. After the Wildcats’ 5-0 start, South lost to West Branch in what was the “league title” tilt: 44-14.

Freshman Poochie Snyder threw for 935 yards and completed 55.7% of his tosses. The offense will have to get by without the efforts of Trent Chavers (697 rushing yards, 12 TDs) and Shamar Blackmon (252 receiving yards, 3 TDs) who both were seniors.

The Wildcats have a new coach in former New Philadelphia head man Matt Dennison, who replaces Greg Reed who retired after last season.

Coach Jim Tsilimos’ Carrollton group scored four touchdowns or more in seven of their 10 games a year ago. The Warriors averaged 29.1 points per game and tallied 335 yards of total offense.

The combination of Luke Warner (1,432 yards, 12 TDs) to Talen Timberlake (631 receiving yards, 6 TDs) used up their eligibility; however, the offense will be led by their 1000-yard rusher in Chase Oehlstrom, who ran for 1,241 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Salem returns Jackson Johnson at quarterback. Last fall, he threw for over 2500 yards (2,831) and ran for over 1,000 more (1,078). His favorite target Blaize Exline will be welcomed back after catching a school-record 112 passes and 1,345 yards to go along with 19 touchdown grabs.

The Quakers accumulated an average of 379 yards of total offense a year ago.

Marlington returns 22 lettermen this summer. The Dukes’ QB Connor Evanich threw for 910 yards and 10 scores in just five games last year. Senior Rome Sims will also be back after hauling in 35 passes for 615 yards (17.6 avg, 6 TDS). On the defensive side of the ball, Sam Dine (7 QB sacks), Danny Grimes (84 tackles) and Luke Tortola (62 tackles) are all back in the fold for their senior seasons.

Alliance won the final Northeastern Buckeye Conference title in 2017 and the first two in the EBC (2018, 19). Alliance went three seasons without losing a league contest.

Last year, the Aviator defense allowed an average of 16 points per game in their two wins. However, they permitted an average of 32.6 points per game in their eight losses.

In late April, the Aviators head coach Seth Whiting stepped down. Alliance hired Tim Goodman to lead the program on May 25.

Minerva has lost 10 league matchups in a row. The Lions must break through without running back Jimmy Common (759 yards, 2 TDs) and defensive lineman Jarrett Burress (5 QB sacks).

2020 EBC Standings
West Branch – 5-0 (8-2)
Canton South – 4-1 (5-3)
Carrollton – 3-2 (7-3)
Marlington – 3-2 (3-5)
Salem – 3-3 (5-6)
Alliance – 1-5 (2-8)
Minerva – 0-6 (2-8)

2020 Team Statistics
Scoring Offense
West Branch – 43.3
Carrollton – 29.1
Salem – 26.5
Alliance – 26.1
Canton South – 26.0
Marlington – 20.3
Minerva – 13.9

Scoring Defense
Carrollton – 19.3
Canton South – 23.4
West Branch – 25.1
Marlington – 26.8
Salem – 29.0
Alliance – 29.3
Minerva – 37.3

2020 Individual League Leaders
Passing Yards: Jackson Johnson (Salem/SO) – 2831
Completion Percentage: Brock Hillyer (West Branch/SR) – 66.5%
Passing Touchdowns: Jackson Johnson (Salem/SO) – 30
Rushing Yards: Chase Oehlstrom (Carrollton/SO) – 1241
Yards per carry: Jackson Johnson (Salem/SO) and Chase Oehlstrom (Carrollton/SO) – 6.5
Rushing Touchdowns: Chase Oehlstrom (Carrollton/SO) – 17
Receiving Yards: Blaize Exline (Salem/JR) – 1345
Receptions: Blaize Exline (Salem/JR) – 112
Receiving Touchdowns: Blaize Exline (Salem/JR) – 19

2021 Schedules
Alliance Schedule
Aug. 20 – at Lake
Aug. 27 – Niles
Sept. 3 – at Bedford
Sept. 10 – Minerva
Sept. 17 – Salem
Sept. 24 – at Carrollton
Oct. 1 – at Canton South
Oct. 8 – West Branch
Oct. 15 – Louisville
Oct. 22 – at Marlington

Canton South
Aug. 20 – Akron North
Aug. 27 – at Claymont
Sept. 3 – at Northwest
Sept. 10 – at Carrollton
Sept. 17 – West Branch
Sept. 24 – at Marlington
Oct. 1 – Alliance
Oct. 8 – at Minerva
Oct. 15 – at Salem
Oct. 22 – Howland

Carrollton
Aug. 20 – St. Clairsville
Aug. 27 – at Coventry
Sept. 3 – at St. Thomas Aquinas
Sept. 10 – Canton South
Sept. 17 – Kenmore-Garfield
Sept. 24 – Alliance
Oct. 1 – at West Branch
Oct. 8 – Salem
Oct. 15 – Marlington
Oct. 22 – at Minerva

Marlington Schedule
Aug. 20 – Coventry
Aug. 27 – Northwest
Sept. 3 – at Ridgewood
Sept. 10 – at West Branch
Sept. 17 – at Minerva
Sept. 24 – Canton South
Oct. 1 – Salem
Oct. 8 – New Philadelphia
Oct. 15 – at Carrollton
Oct. 22 – Alliance

Minerva Schedule
Aug. 20 – at United
Aug. 27 – at Sandy Valley
Sept. 3 – Beaver Local
Sept. 10 – at Alliance
Sept. 17 – Marlington
Sept. 24 – at Salem
Oct. 1 – Southeast
Oct. 8 – Canton South
Oct. 15 – at West Branch
Oct. 22 – Carrollton

Salem Schedule
Aug. 20 – at Crestview
Aug. 27 – Beaver Local
Sept. 3 – at East Liverpool
Sept. 10 – Firestone
Sept. 17 – at Alliance
Sept. 24 – Minerva
Oct. 1 – at Marlington
Oct. 8 – at Carrollton
Oct. 15 – Canton South
Oct. 23 – West Branch

West Branch Schedule
Aug. 20 – at East Liverpool
Aug. 27 – at Woodridge
Sept. 3 – Revere
Sept. 10 – Marlington
Sept. 17 – at Canton South
Sept. 24 – Howland
Oct. 1 – Carrollton
Oct. 8 – at Alliance
Oct. 15 – Minerva
Oct. 23 – at Salem

League History
Last 3 champions
2020 – West Branch
2019 – Alliance
2018 – Alliance

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