Columbiana High School football preview

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Columbiana Clippers, High School Football

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COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WKBN) – Columbiana looks to rebound from its first losing campaign in six years. The Clippers must replace eight starters on defense and six on offense this summer.

Coach Bob Spaite, whose head coaching career has spanned over the past 32 years mostly at Columbiana (1994-present) and previously at Southern (1980-84), is four wins shy of reaching the 200-win plateau.

The Clippers open the 2021 season by hosting Lowellville Friday, August 20.

2020 Record: 4-5 (3-3, T-4th place in EOAC)
Coach: Bob Spaite, 28th season at Columbiana (183-102)

Previewing Columbiana’s Offense
Scoring Offense: 17.9 (45th in area)
Total Offense: 239.7
Returning Starters: 5
Key Returnees: Trevor Dearing, SR/WR; Tony Kocanjer, SR/QB
Key Losses: Xathon Cross, WR; Jacob Kamperman, OL; Collin Schick, WR
Name to watch for: Tony Kocanjer, QB

Coach Spaite points out that many of his skill position players return to help second-year starter Tony Kocanjer at quarterback.

“Tony has had a year to learn under very trying circumstances,” Spaite said. “Look for him to mature in decision making, understanding the game plan and becoming more of an impact player.”

Last year, Kocanjer completed 59 passes for 1,168 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing with 333 yards and 5 touchdowns on 91 carries (3.7 avg).

However, questions are abounding along the offensive line and the Clippers haven’t identified a proven fullback entering the summer.

“We lost seven of our eight linemen that played a significant number of downs either through graduation or transfer. All five starters from our playoff game [against Western Reserve] are gone. Only junior Cory Thurstone returns with any real game-time repetitions.”

Previewing Columbiana’s Defense
Scoring Defense: 19.9 (19th in area)
Total Defense: 282.7
Returning Starters: 3
Key Returnees: Ethan Clark, SR/LB; Treavor Dearing, SR/DB; Tony Kocanjer, SR/DB
Key Losses: Xathon Cross, DB; Brady Dixon, LB; David Graff, DL; Creed Green, DL; Jake Kamperman, DL; Chandler Parrish, LB; Collin Schick, DB
Name to watch for: Ethan Clark, DB

Four of the Clippers’ nine games, the defense held their opponents to 10 points or less a year ago.

With only three returning starters, coach Spaite said, “We want to see our defense play with attitude, enthusiasm and play with pride for the tradition of the program.”

Defensive coordinator Ryan Holmes saw his unit force 15 turnovers last fall (10 interceptions/5 fumble recoveries) while permitting just 283 yards per game.

“Our defense was gutted by graduation [this spring], and by transfer and some choosing other opportunities. We’re looking to the few remaining returnees like Tony Kocanjer, Trevor Dearing and Ethan Clark to play a major role in rebuilding our defensive unit,” Spaite said.

Kocanjer tallied 45 tackles and 3 interceptions as a junior in 2020. Clark picked up 33 defensive stops a year ago as well.

2020 EOAC Standings
United – 5-1 (7-3)
Leetonia – 5-1 (7-2)
Southern – 5-1 (5-3)
Wellsville – 3-3 (4-6)
Columbiana – 3-3 (4-5)
Valley Christian – 2-4 (2-6)
Lisbon – 1-5 (4-7)
East Palestine – 0-6 (1-9)

Aug. 20 – Lowellville
Aug. 27 – at McDonald
Sept. 3 – at Wellington
Sept. 10 – Wellsville
Sept. 17 – Southern
Sept. 24 – United
Oct. 1 – at Valley Christian
Oct. 8 – at East Palestine
Oct. 15 – Leetonia
Oct. 22 – at Lisbon

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