RAYEN vs. CANFIELD
Game time: 7:30 tonight at Canfield High Stadium.
Scouting report: Coach Brian Shaner begins his third season with Rayen expecting his best team. The Tigers have improved from three wins to five in his first two years. Twelve returning lettermen, 10 of whom were starters, fuel that optimism. Rayen has some talented offensive ball carriers, including returning starters Dwayne Smith, a senior, and sophomores Gary Thornton and Salvador Battles. Steve Slade and Jerome Carter will also see playing time in the backfield. Canfield will be a real test in the opener for Rayen. The Cardinals are coming off a 7-4 season in which they advanced to the playoffs, and return 23 seniors and 19 lettermen. Five offensive linemen return -- Pete Ross, Justin Bonnano, Matt Glove, Nick Rousher and Nate Brode -- around whom the Cardinals will build their success. However, Canfield must replace talented pass-catch duo of quarterback Jamie McNally and receiver Jordan Ferns.
CHANEY vs. FITCH
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Falcon Stadium, Austintown.
Scouting report: Falcons are coming off a 9-2 season that included the Federal League championship. They lost nine starters on defense and nine on defense, however. Fitch's strength lies in its offensive line, which features three returning starters -- Mark McGlynn, Pat Reedy and Joe Stryffeler. Junior Dane Stilgenbauer, a senior running back, is the only other returning starter on offense. Chaney also was hit hard by graduation, returning just three starters. However there are 16 players returning who earned letters on a 6-4 team in 2004. Seniors Anthony Kibble (RB), Kory Jackson (WR), Kevin Elkins (OL) and Bill Johnson (OL) will lead the offense, while Reggie Brogdan (DL) is among the veterans on the defense.
BOARDMAN vs. URSULINE
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Stambaugh Stadium.
Scouting report: Dan Reardon's second Ursuline team begins without key offensive players Alex Alen (nearly 2,500 yards rushing) and receiver Derrick Stewart (12 touchdowns). The Irish will feature a big, strong and experienced offensive line -- guards Mike Bartos and Matt Savon, tackles Chris Conlan and James Hodge, and center Don Hanni -- which averages more than 260 pounds. Senior Elliott Stewart and junior Maurice Jones will be counted on to carry the ball. Boardman starts Year 2 under coach and alumnus D.J. Ogilvie expecting to improve on 2004. But it won't be easy with a typically brutal schedule that includes seven teams that qualified for the playoffs. Running backs Armani Johnson and Matt Wiese will carry the ball and junior Joe Bako is expected to throw it. Senior Tony Tarantino will probably be the featured receiver. Junior Brian Crumb (295) and seniors Rob Fernback and Joe Lazzara will anchor the offensive line.
NILES vs. GIRARD
Game time: 7:30 p.m. at Arrowhead Stadium, Girard.
Scouting report: Four starters on both sides of the ball will lead a Niles team that played for the Metro Athletic Conference championship in Week 10 last year and hopes to take it one step further in '05. The Red Dragons' bulk of returnees are in the offensive backfield -- 11 ball-handlers gained experience last year. Senior Matt Cline and junior Anthony Ragozine will anchor a relatively inexperienced line. Girard lost quarterback Bobby Ovesny and receivers Ryan Collins and Ryan Tolone to graduation, but returns running back Brett Dutton, a 1,000-yard rusher. Scooter Hargate, who started at Ursuline last year, will compete for the quarterback job. Seniors Sean Mostov, Robert Randall and Rusty Stacchiotti return to the offensive line.
SPRINGFIELD vs. CAMPBELL
Game time: 7:30 p.m. at John Knapick Field.
Scouting report: Springfield coach John Smith's fifth team is young -- only eight seniors -- but the Tigers always are ready to compete. Senior QB Andrew Schuler and TB Anthony Warren should get the bulk of the ball-handling duties. Mike Kampfer and Jeremy Delvaux are experienced receivers. How quickly the offensive line gels will probably be the key to the Tigers' success. John Protopapa begins his first season as Campbell's coach, but he is hardly inexperienced as a head coach. He sports a 30-23 record in five seasons at Lowellville and East Palestine. The Red Devils have nine starters returning offensively, but QB Darrell Johnson isn't one of them -- he transferred to Mooney.
Vindicator staff report