High school football is back and WTAM 1100 has returned for another year of in-depth coverage for schools all around Northeast Ohio. Each week WTAM will release the Power 11 Rankings which breaks down the top high school teams in the Greater Cleveland Area regardless of division. Keep in mind, this is a “power poll”, which means we are simply ranking the best teams in order of who would beat who. Be sure to check back each week for the WTAM Power 11 Rankings which are now going into their sixth season.
1. St. Edward Eagles: Heading into the 2013 season they are hands down the best team in Northeast Ohio and maybe even the entire state. Head coach Rick Finotti’s squad is nationally ranked by various media outlets and right now it seems well deserved. The Eagles have big-time size on the offensive and defensive lines to go along with big-time playmakers like WR David Dowell and RB Andrew Dowell. Similar to a year ago St. Edward could rule Division I Region I as they finished atop it after the regular season, but unlike last year Finotti’s squad probably won’t be an early exit from the OHSAA Playoffs. Week 1 vs. # 4 Glenville 8/31.
2. Mentor Cardinals: How can the Cardinals expect to have success in 2013 after losing Ohio’s Mr. Football Award winner QB Mitch Trubisky to graduation? Let’s start with the fact that they bring back 16 starters and finally their regular season schedule has been lightened up a bit. Playing good teams every week is fine, but what head coach Steve Trivisonno’s squad was playing week in and week out was border line ridiculous. QB Conner Krizancic will move from wide receiver to take over the duties under center and North Carolina recruit WR Brandon Fritts is back at wideout. Offensively this team will do what it always does: put up points. Defensively there are some questions that will have to be answered as the season moves along. Week 1 vs. McDowell (PA) 8/30.
3. St. Ignatius Wildcats: Last season it appeared that the Wildcats were destined to win their 12th OHSAA State Championship under head coach Chuck Kyle as they improved week after week, before falling in the Division I Regional Championship game to Mentor 57-56 in triple overtime (one of the greatest games in Ohio history). This year St. Ignatius could take a step back from that team a year ago, but don’t be surprised if the Wildcats reload and find themselves right back in that Regional Championship game again. The Wildcats defense is led by Ohio State recruit LB Kyle Berger and with athletes all over the field that boast speed, this fundamentally sound bunch will keep teams out of the end-zone. A Week 2 match up against No. 2 Mentor will tell us a lot about this St. Ignatius team. Week 1 vs. Birmingham Brother Rice (Mich.) 8/31.
4. Glenville Tarblooders: With new OHSAA realignments with seven divisions now, the Tarblooders got bumped down to Division II for the 2013 season. When it comes to the WTAM Power 11 rankings that won’t change much, this is still one of the fastest teams in Ohio regardless of division and boasts a ton of athletes all over the field. Right now they are the favorite to win the OHSAA Division II State Championship and that should come as a surprise to nobody. Glenville’s final seven games in the Senate Athletic League are still laughable, but the first three weeks will provide us with the perfect measuring stick and an opportunity for the Tarblooders to pick up some major computer points. After opening up the season with No. 1 St. Edward at Lakewood Stadium, Glenville makes trips to No. 11 Solon in Week 2 and always-tough Cleveland Heights in Week 3. QB Quan Robinson is back under center for the third-straight season and WR/DB Marshon Lattimore, who could be the best overall player in the state of Ohio, will make an impact on both sides of the football. Week 1 vs. # 1 St. Edward 8/31.
5. St. Vincent – St. Mary Fighting Irish: In high school football, no matter which division, it is very difficult to repeat as state champions, however; the Fighting Irish have a rare opportunity to do that this upcoming season. St. Vincent – St. Mary won the OHSAA Division III State Championship a year ago defeating Bellevue 42-21 to win their fifth state crown in school history. A sixth is not out of the question for head coach Dan Boarman’s squad. Led by two Ohio State recruits in LB Dante Booker and RB Parris Campbell, the Fighting Irish boast a ton of speed, size and balance on both sides of the football. St. Vincent – St. Mary’s regular season schedule features Akron Garfield, Walsh Jesuit, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, Massillon and Youngstown Ursuline…certainly not an easy slate, but also a lot of opportunities to rack up OHSAA computer points. Week 1 vs. Akron Garfield 8/29.
6. Midview Middies: Can the Middies take the next step? That’s the big question for head coach Bill Albright’s squad and program as a whole. Midview put themselves on the map a year ago scoring 27.5 points per game behind QB Cody Calloway and playing more consistent football like we’ve never seen out of Grafton. This year Calloway, a Bowling Green recruit, returns for his senior season and the expectation is that this bunch will be finding the end-zone a ton once again. Defensively there are certainly some question marks surrounding the Middies and despite injuries playing a factor, this team had some games that made you wonder how they were even one of Northeast Ohio’s top teams. With an easy docket of games slated for 2013, Midview will again likely be in the OHSAA Playoff hunt, this time they look primed for a deeper run though. Week 1 vs. Lorain 8/30.
7. Avon Eagles: In years past after a run to the OHSAA Division II Regional Championship game in Region VI, the belief may be that Avon would be getting set for a rebuilding-type year; however that is not the case this upcoming season. Head coach Mike Elder has done a tremendous job in a short time building a program that reloads with talent on both sides of the football. Yes, the Eagles lost impact players on both sides of the football from the squad that finished 11-2 a year ago, but this team should be fine especially against a schedule not filled with juggernauts. Out of the gate in Week 1 though Avon will battle cross-town rival Avon Lake and in Week 3 it’s a showdown with Twinsburg. Those two games will tell us a lot about this squad, led by DL Domonic Bodnar and LB Kevin Maloney and the rest of a solid defensive unit. Week 1 vs. Avon Lake 8/30.
8. Hudson Explorers: The Explorers are no strangers to the WTAM Power 11 rankings, but this is the first time in a long time that they have begun the year with such high expectations. By season’s end this is a team who could finish near the top of this poll if they continue to improve as they did a year ago. People forget that Hudson came closer to defeating Toledo Whitmer in a 39-28 loss in last year’s Regional Semifinal, than Mentor did in their 62-34 loss to the Panthers. Yes, all games are different especially against different opponents, but the Explorers look primed to take the next step as a team and a program. Led by junior QB Mitchell Guadagni the offense is dangerous both on the ground and through the air and defensively it is a fundamentally sound group. This Hudson squad will have its eyes on a first round home playoff game all season long and an even deeper run at the postseason. Week 1 vs. Euclid 8/30.
9. Aurora Greenmen: For most schools losing a talented senior class to graduation can mean a long fall season of football awaits…but not at Aurora. Head coach Bob Mihalik has reloaded with talent once again and his team also returns to Division III with new OHSAA realignments, a division they are very familiar with. Why is Division III so familiar for the Greenmen? Last time they were there they won the OHSAA State Championship back in 2008. Along with No. 5 St. Vincent – St. Mary, the Greenmen may already be one of the favorites to win the Division III crown in 2013. Aurora boasts size on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football and always play fundamentally sound, can new faces at the skilled positions step in though? That is a question the Greenmen will find the answer to early on in the season. Aurora’s schedule is filled with solid teams like Twinsburg, Ravenna, Chagrin Falls and Kenston…the good news for Mihalik’s squad is that those contests are also filled with tons of OHSAA computer points. Week 1 vs. Twinsburg 8/30.
10. Shaker Heights Red Raiders: No, this is not a misprint. The Red Raiders have playmakers and Division I college recruits all over the field on both sides of the football…the question now is: Can they put it all together? Despite finishing last season with a record of 8-2 Shaker Heights was on the outside looking in when the OHSAA Playoffs began. Close losses at Solon and Brush probably made the difference for the Red Raiders. However, this season a ton of explosive pieces return to an offense that averaged 40.6 points per game and the defense has speedy athletes all over. Size in the trenches for this senior-laden bunch will not hurt either. Defensively the Red Raiders are led by DE Joe Henderson and LB Gregory Clayton Jr., while the offense has flash such as WR Odell Spencer. Similar to last season the 2013 schedule is not the most difficult docket of games for Shaker Heights, but a Week 5 match up with Mentor will provide us with the perfect measuring stick to see just how good this squad is. Week 1 vs. University School 8/31.
11. Solon Comets: Over the last 18 years it has been a rare sight not to see Solon playing in the OHSAA Playoffs and even more hard to fathom them finishing 5-5 in a regular season. Both occurred last season, but head coach Jim McQuaide should feel pretty confident that those things don’t happen again. While question marks do remain at quarterback and some of the skilled positions, both the offensive and defensive lines for the Comets bring back loads of talent. Led by OL Desmond Holmes and OL Ben Emery, this senior-laden group will provide protection and open up holes for the ground attack. Defensively this team is fast and physical, but questions remain whether this offense can score points consistently. A fundamentally sound group that is probably a year away from making a deep run into the OHSAA Playoffs, Solon should be much better this season. Week 1 vs. Kenston 8/30.
Other teams to watch for: Nordonia Knights, Kenston Bombers, Wadsworth Grizzlies, Chagrin Falls Tigers, Avon Lake Shoremen, Brush Arcs, Ravenna Ravens, Bedford Bearcats, Elyria Pioneers, Chardon Hilltoppers, Cleveland John Hay Hornets and Hawken Hawks.
- Nick Camino