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August 14, 2009

2009 Football Preview: GMC

Few conferences in the entire Buckeye state can match the amount of talent from top to bottom as the Greater Miami Conference.

Colerain has long dominated the GMC, but as Middletown proved last season they can be defeated.

We take a look at each team in the power conference and the players to watch in the season ahead:

COLERAIN CARDINALS (11-2, 6-1 GMC)
HEAD COACH: Tom Bolden

HOW THEY FINISHED: Despite seeing their 61-game conference winning streak come to end with a loss at Middletown, the Cardinals cruised to yet another GMC title. Their season ended with a devastating 27
20 overtime to loss to Elder in the regional finals.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Quarterback Greg Tabar and running backs Tyler Williams and Traiyon Durham combined for 3,482 rushing yards and 46 touchdowns on the ground. Louisville commit Tyon Dixon is the man middle for the defense with Chris Dukes anchoring an extremely athletic secondary.

IT STARTS UP FRONT: Colerain always seems to find new "hogs" to fill in up front on the offensive line. Brandon Good anchors that group, but don't be surprised if others emerge as possible college prospects.

FINAL TAKE: After starting seven sophomores in 2008, Colerain is loaded and ready for a big playoff run in the season ahead. They start the year ranked atop the QueenCityHigh.com Preseason Ohio Division I rankings should be considered legitimate contenders for a state title.


SYCAMORE AVIATORS (8-2, 5-2)
HEAD COACH: Scott Datillo (27-6 three years @ Sycamore)

HOW THEY FINISHED: Sycamore missed the playoffs for the first time in three years despite only losing two games. Losses to Colerain and Hamilton were the downfalls.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior John Coddington and sophomore Kyle Sess are the top candidates for the quarterback position. Mike Reese, Kevin Carroll and Paul Yanow return as linebackers. The trio combined for seven sacks and three takeaways last season.

TURNING IT AROUND: In the two years prior to Datillo's arrival the Aviators won a combined seven games. Sycamore has won at least eight games a season and made two playoff berths under the coach's direction for a 27-6 record during his tenure.

FINAL TAKE: Although this Sycamore squad may lack the veteran experience and a couple Division I stars it had a year ago, look for Datillo to find a way to lead his Aviators to another winning season near the top of the GMC.


HAMILTON BIG BLUE (7-3, 5-2)
HEAD COACH: Jim Place

HOW THEY FINISHED: Hamilton just missed out on a playoff appearance after stumbling against Princeton and Oak Hills late in the season. However, they won back-to-back contests to close out the campaign on a strong note.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: They return one of the league's best pass rushers in Darius Gilbert. Quarterback Drew Townsend made great strides as a junior. Juniors Chris Tarrant and Devin Jarrett make for a nice tandem at running back they combined 1,245 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago.

DEFENSE DOMINATES: Hamilton was the toughest team to score against last season in the conference. They gave up just 12.9 points per contests and ceded seven points or less five times.

FINAL TAKE: The Big Blue has all the pieces to make the playoffs and make a deep post-season run. The conference schedule starts off tough with Lakota West, Colerain and Sycamore. If they can weather that storm their possibilities seem endless.


MIDDLETOWN MIDDIES (6-4, 5-2)
HEAD COACH: Jason Krause

HOW DID THEY FINISH: The Middies were in the drivers' seat, sitting at 5-0 in the GMC and destined for the playoffs following an upset of Colerain. However, they dropped their next two games to Lakota West and Hamilton and fell out of the playoff mix.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Quarterback Caleb Watkins has thrown for 4,134 yards and 48 touchdowns in his career. Running back Antonio Banks ran for 966 yards and 12 TD's last season. There are very few players that have the game-breaking skills that defensive back and return man Jerry Gates possesses. Sam Current anchors the defensive line.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This year were going to have to take it game by game and not worry about anything other except our next game. Right now all that's on our minds is beating Aiken (Week 1 opponent). We will worry East St. Louis about after Aiken." - Quarterback Caleb Watkins

FINAL TAKE: The Middies lost some good talent, but still have enough left in the tank to be considered contenders for a league title and a playoff spot. Finding consistency in their performance will be key.


LAKOTA WEST FIREBIRDS (6-4, 5-2)
HEAD COACH: Larry Cox

HOW DID THEY FINISH: The Firebirds experienced their fair share of ups and downs during the 2008 season. After starting out 0-2 they rolled up three straight games, but their loss to Princeton midway through the season hindered their playoff hopes. They won three of four games to wrap up the year.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Linebacker Jordan Hicks is worth the price of admission to watch play. Massive offensive lineman Kevin Schloemer and tight end Alex Smith, both UC commits, lead the way up front on the offensive side of the ball. Senior quarterback John Peters looks to improve upon his first season as signal-caller.

QUITE A LIST: Hicks, who is ranked as the 16th best prospect in the nation by Rivals.com, has narrowed his list of many offers down to six schools - Texas, Florida, Georgia, USC, Oklahoma, and Ohio State.

FINAL TAKE: This talented squad certainly has the potential to make some noise and be a threat in the GMC Conference. The schedule favors the Firebirds as they will not have to face Colerain or Middletown, two of top teams in the GMC.


PRINCETON VIKINGS (5-5, 4-3)
HEAD COACH: Bill Leach

HOW THEY FINISHED: The 2008 season started with so much promise, but the Vikings couldn't string together consistent performances and faded out of the mix late in the year after dropping two of their final three games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: LSU commit Spencer Ware has run for 2,433 yards, passed for 5,265 yards, thrown for 34 touchdowns and added 44 more scores on the ground in his career. Ashton Hood is a huge presence on the offensive line. Defensive back Josh West returns after four interceptions a year ago.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We will be young and inexperienced, but we have a lot of athletes in the program. We will have some wrinkles and plenty of athletes on the field to contend with." - Head coach Bill Leach

FINAL TAKE: The team will be tested early as it opens with Wayne and Massillon Washington. That should give them an idea of where they need to improve to finish up strong against the conference as they tangle with Colerain, Lakota West, Hamilton and Middletown in four the last five weeks of the season.


LAKOTA EAST THUNDERHAWKS (3-7, 2-5)
HEAD COACH: Greg Bailie

HOW DID THEY FINISH: After a promising start a year ago, the Thunderhawks couldn't overcome injuries to key players as the season progressed. They lost six of their last seven games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Pedro Powell ran for 789 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Lineman Matt Luers anchors the offensive line. Michael Boyd is a sleeper entering this season regardless at what position he ends up.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have several players on this team that understand their role. Execution is what it takes to win ball games though." - Head coach Greg Bailie

FINAL TAKE: The Thunderhawks didn't catch too many breaks last season and though they are still overmatched at this point in the GMC, some improvement in the standings should be within in range in '09.


OAK HILLS HIGHLANDERS (3-7, 1-6)
HEAD COACH: Kurry Commins

HOW DID THEY FINISH: The Highlanders won their first two games last season only to lose seven of their final eight contests to end the season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Junior Linebackers Ben Russell and Thomas Reuss were the team's top two tacklers in '08. Quarterback and leading rusher Steve Gebing comes back for his senior year. Tommy Konkoly is a versatile producer on offense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "What pleases me about our program after three years of being here is the development, growth, and maturity our kids have made towards being a total football program." - Head coach Kurry Commins

FINAL TAKE: The schedule favors the Highlanders early in the season. It is conceivable that this team could start out 6-0. Big strides will be made in the program in the year ahead.


MASON COMETS (2-8, 1-6)
HEAD COACH: Dave Sedmak

HOW THEY FINISHED: The Comets gave up at least 32 points in six of their 10 contests as they won just two of their ten games. Their lone conference win came at home versus Fairfield.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: David Fulcher Jr. led the team in rushing a year ago despite playing in just six games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are looking forward to the challenging 2009 schedule and plan on making this the season that they make an impact on the Greater Miami Conference." - Head coach Dave Sedmak

FINAL TAKE: The going has been tough for the Comets in their first two seasons in the GMC, going 4-10 in league play and 5-15 overall in that span. It remains to be seen if they can sustain the intensity it takes to win in the GMC week in and week out.


FAIRFIELD INDIANS (1-9, 1-6)
HEAD COACH: Aaron Fitzstephens

HOW THEY FINISHED: Doc Gamble's first year at Fairfield also proved to be his last. The coach resigned after winning just one game in 2008. Sycamore assistant Aaron Fitzstephens takes over his alma mater.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Arryn Chenault, a Cincinnati commit, is a lock down corner and a playmaker when he gets his hands on the ball. Senior Justin McRay has two years of starting experience at quarterback, but he will battle junior Jordan Ammon for the starting job.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We plan to follow the pyramid of success, set high expectations and always have a positive attitude." - Head coach Aaron Fitzstephens

FINAL TAKE: Despite being just 2-27 in the last three seasons, Fitzstephens aims to make believers out of his kids. It's going to take time though to get the program headed in right direction. They will struggle once again in GMC play.


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