Brock Netter, Staff Writer
Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.
Folks, a new high school football season is finally here.
Last fall, we witnessed countless jaw-dropping moments, instant classics and playoff runs that will forever be remembered.
Now as we turn the page to see what the 2022 season has in store within the SVC, SOC I, SOC II, FAC, MSL-Buckeye and OVC (welcome aboard), as well as Logan, Vinton County and Wellston, more moments are waiting to be covered and unknown names are ready to mold themselves into household names.
Having said that, we’ve taken the liberty of listing 20 players to keep your eyes on this season.
NOTE: This is NOT a list of the top 20 football players in the area. It is not a be all, end all. Other players will have outstanding seasons. This is simply just a list of 20 names. Nothing more, nothing less.
Zane Brownfield, Piketon
It’s no secret that Piketon’s offense will be vastly different this year with a pair of All-Ohioans gone. But the Redstreaks’ defense still has Brownsfield on its side. Last season, he racked up 74 tackles, which was a top three number in the SVC, alongside intercepting three passes. As he takes another step up this fall, he’ll be a leader of the team’s defense once again.
Trevor Carter, Ironton
Carter was highly touted as one of the top players in the state after his sophomore year, one that saw Ironton play in the state championship. But a shoulder injury took away his junior year, which was a massive blow to the Tigers’ defense. Now, the University of Cincinnati commit is back, 100 percent healthy and that should scare teams. He shouldn’t miss a beat, fitting back in with a team that packs a punch.
A.J. Dallmayer, Washington
Dallmayer has been a staple of Washington’s football and baseball programs since he entered those doors as a freshman. Now as a senior, he has a chance to leave his final mark. Last season, he finished with 63 catches for 788 yards and nine touchdowns. He needs just 36 catches and 412 yards to set new school records for catches and receiving yards in a career.
Evan Fisher, Oak Hill
How good is Fisher? With all of the talent across the SOC II up front, he was named the league’s Lineman of the Year in 2021. He’s a load to move, almost unblockable in 1-on-1 situations and impacts the game in ways that won’t show up on the stat sheet. Now, he’s the leader of an Oak Hill team that will need him more than ever.
T.J. Fulgham, Circleville
It’s impossible to miss Fulgham, but in case you’ve never seen him play, just look for the biggest kid on the field in a Circleville jersey. That’s him at a towering 6-foot-6, 310 pounds. He’s a mountain of a player. Essentially, he’s the ideal left tackle to protect a quarterback’s blindside and the ideal defensive tackle to run down the opposing quarterback. He’ll be doing both this fall.
Ethan Glover, Wheelersburg
Glover’s moment came last season in Week 13 when he scored the game-winning touchdown in the Pirates’ playoff victory over Ironton. Though the Pirates like to throw in different backs for various reasons, Glover brings the pain as a bruiser who runs north and south, unafraid of contact. He’ll bring more of that punishing running style to the gridiron this season.
Matt Griffin, Unioto
Unioto lost its two top running backs, and it’s now Griffin’s time to shine. In limited action last season, he still averaged seven yards per carry. Now his workload is going to significantly increase, and with the Shermans still relatively young, his senior leadership will be needed more than ever.
Mitchell Irwin, West
West is the sleeper team to win the SOC II, and Irwin has the chance to elevate himself to a new level. He threw for 1,530 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, but the issue was turnovers as he threw 14 interceptions. If that number gets cut in half, the Senators have a real chance to make something special happen.
Gavin Hart, Notre Dame
If you’ve never seen Hart in action, you are missing quite the show. The Titans completed one of their most successful seasons in school history with the 6-foot back leading the way, compiling 1,026 yards and finding pay dirt 18 times in 2021. Don’t be surprised if the Titans are reigning supreme atop the SOC I at season’s end due to Hart’s efforts.
Kaden Henderson, Paint Valley
The Bearcats are preseason SVC favorites with a number of returning starters and a big offensive line, led by Henderson. The 6-foot-6 brute cleared pathways left and right for his teammates to run through, while additionally racking up 31 tackles and nine sacks on the defensive side. A menace on both sides of the ball, look for that to continue this fall.
Jase Hurd, Waverly
Waverly is going to look very different this season, but Hurd is one important piece that’s returning to the fold. He ran for 916 yards, providing a solid running attack to complement a stout passing game that saw more records broken last season. Now with most of his teammates from that run graduated, Hurd’s role is more important than it’s ever been. The end zone will be calling his name.
Tre King, Chillicothe
The Cavaliers stuck to a solid ground game last year, but with new head coach Scott Bartholomew bringing in a new style, it could open things in the passing game. Enter Tre King. At 6-foot-3 with good athleticism, he has the ability to go up and get it. He’s a weapon just waiting to be utilized, and this could be the right time to unleash his talents.
Harrison Payne, Teays Valley
The Vikings are coming off, arguably, one of their most successful seasons in school history, and Payne was a key cog in the receiving game. He finished with 22 catches for a whopping 731 yards — 33.2 yards per catch, alongside nine touchdowns. While new players will make a names for themselves, Payne is a security blanket and a deep threat all in one.
Reade Pendleton, Portsmouth
In a resurgent season, the Trojans finished with nine wins and a playoff victory over Zane Trace. Pendleton’s name was called left and right on both sides of the ball to help them do so. Offense, however, was where he shined the most as he caught 66 passes for 689 yards and nine touchdowns. His role could expand even further this fall.
Blake Phillips, Zane Trace
In a crowded, yet very productive backfield, Phillips consistently found the end zone with nearly relative ease. He carried the ball 65 times for 432 yards and scored 11 times. The Pioneers return their top three running backs, so whoever is hot that night is going to be the ball carrier. Any night could be Phillips’ night.
Andrew Potts, McClain
The Tigers started hot at 4-1 last season before tailing off in the end. But Potts brought a sense of consistency every night. He ran the ball 143 times for 671 yards and scored on eight ocassions. Don’t look for much to change. He’ll shoulder a huge offensive load while the Tigers aim to make a playoff push.
Steeler Leep, Fairland
With SOSA pulling the OVC into the coverage umbrella, we couldn’t write this list without a talent like Leep included. He’s stout defensive back that’s been the heart and soul of a Dragon team in the midst of turning the program into a powerhouse. He intercepted six passes last season, putting receivers on his island. That won’t change.
Gabe Raschke, Vinton County
Watch out for the Vikings as a team this year. Raschke has a chance to really put them on the map. He came out of nowhere last fall, and piled on 864 yards alongside 11 touchdowns, including a career-night against Athens where he scored five times. He’s the featured back now, so expect those numbers to skyrocket.
Andrew Vickers, Adena
New coach, new system, new chance to put the Warriors back on the map and Vickers is the guy under center who could do just that. He threw for 765 yards and 10 touchdowns last season — third-most in the SVC — despite Adena winning just three games. With experience and understanding now under his belt, Vickers should be one of the area’s best signal callers.
Jacob Wood, Jackson
The talent pool at Jackson year in and year out is, nearly, unlike any other program in Southern Ohio. Wood’s name will be one to remember. As the ultimate possession receiver with breakaway ability, he finished last season with 14 catches for 213 yards and four scores. Now he’s the top receiver for a talent-loaded roster with a real chance to make a deep run. Expect to read his name quite a bit.