Defending co-champions Springfield (2-0) and Wayne (2-1) meet in Springfield. The Wildcats are determined to be better this year and win the Division I state championship that they lost last year to Lakewood St. Edward. Wayne is led by second-year quarterback Tyrell Lewis and he is expected to challenge the Wildcats for the league title again.
Centerville (3-0) brings its solid defense to Miamisburg (2-1). And Beavercreek (2-1), which has won two in a row after ending a 12-game losing streak, is in Springboro (2-1), which is receiving a strong showing from first-year quarterback Evan Ruzzo.
“It’s going to be the most competitive in a long time,” Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said. “Everyone has good players, and it should be a pretty good year for the conference as a whole.”
Wayne’s coach, Roosevelt Mukes, said: “The league is very tough and challenging. So every week you have to make sure you’re playing your best because you can’t overlook anybody.”
The Northmont improvement is an example of Douglass and Mukes’ evaluation of the conference. The production of Cortner (595 yards, six touchdowns), wide receivers Dalin Wilkins, Javien Brownlee and DaJaun Lamb and new starting running back Noah McClure (230 yards, four touchdowns) put the Thunderbolts high in the skill positions.
The defense is led by Nigel Glover, a member of Northwestern who plays a bit of safety and a bit of linebacker in a hybrid role, linebacker Brian Jones and end Payton Lupton.
“We could be as good as ever, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to win the league just because the league is so loaded this year,” Broering said. “But when you have a good combination of players with a very, very good coaching staff, you have a chance to win.”
Broering brought some old friends this year. Tom Adams returns for the second time as offensive coordinator. Adams was a head coach at Springfield South and gave Broering his start as coach in 1991. Mike Walker is the new offensive line coach after a stint as offensive coordinator at Hilliard Bradley. Walker trained with Broering and Adams at South in the 1990s.
Broering was able to convince Dan Gress to help him on defense and train special teams. Gress stepped down as Troy’s head coach after last season and is a member of the Northmont Hall of Fame along with Mark Mays, Jake Myers and John Brands, in addition to other former Northmont players.
“They have a huge investment in Northmont being good at football,” Broering said. “His motivation is through the roof, especially after we took a dip last year.”
The defense also emerged as an early-season story in Centerville. The Elks have allowed 20 points and are coming off a 10-0 victory over Gahanna Lincoln. The Lions rushed for 244 yards, but three turnovers and 11 penalties helped keep the Elks out of the end zone.
“It was great to see our kids force some turnovers,” Elks coach Brent Ullery said. “Our defense did well with the bend-don’t-break mentality. We had a couple of breaks, but all the credit goes to our kids. They kept the ball in front of them the whole game.”
The Elks are leaning into their defense after having a dynamic offense last year that lost key players to graduate. Springfield lost state quarterback Te’Sean Smoot to graduation and Wayne lost key linemen.
“There’s talent coming out of the conference, but it’s kind of a rinse and repeat,” Ullery said. “The coaches are coaching, the players are developing, and I put this year as one of the best I’ve seen in this conference.”