September 19, 2014

Elyria
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Patriot Athletic Conference football: Players to watch

TOP QUARTERBACKS

Kull McClurg, sr., Wellington McClurg was the Patriot Athletic Conference’s top quarterback last season. There’s no reason to believe that the first-teamer won’t shine again in 2007. “He’s excellent running the option and with sprint-out passing,” Dukes coach Matt Stoll said. McClurg threw for 900 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Mike Herb, sr., Keystone – Herb is an athletic 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback that has started for the Wildcats since the fourth game of his freshman season. He also has a ton of quality offensive weapons around him. “We’re looking to throw the ball about 18 to 20 times a game this year because we want to take advantage of his experience,” Wildcats coach Rob Clarico said.

Paul Fackler, jr., Lutheran West – Fackler is the Longhorns returning starter, and led the team to four straight victories — scoring 142 points — to close last season after starting 0-6. He showed his versatility in the season-ending 20-0 win over Keystone, throwing for a 31-yard touchdown to DeMario Collier and running 68 yards for his own score.

Austin Pinkston, sr., Oberlin – Pinkston is a four-year starter for the Phoenix, and has the ability to go deep or scramble for first-down yards. He also will be aided by the one-two wide receiver punch of seniors Kris Robinson and Shwuan Stevenson this season.

TOP WIDE RECEIVERS

Kyle Shaw, sr., Keystone – Shaw is the only PAC first-team selection returning at wide receiver. He should have a career year as he and Mike Herb have been the focus of the Wildcats’ passing game for the last four years. “He combines athleticism with height,” Clarico said. “His ability to go up and get the ball separates him from other receivers in the league.”

Zach Upton, sr., Brookside — Upton was the PAC’s first-team tight end last season, making eight catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns. “He has great hands and is a great blocker,” Cardinals coach Mike Akers said. “He’s a nice-sized kid who could play receiver if we needed him to. He’s also our punter and kicker.”

James Washington, jr., Clearview – Washington was a PAC second-team selection last season, and will be one of the featured offensive weapons for the Clippers this year. “He’s just a nice, big target for a quarterback,” said Clippers coach Mike Collier of the 6-foot-3 Washington. “He’s also got great jumping ability. He made quite a few nice catches for us this summer during 7-on-7s.”

Matt Herb, jr., Keystone – Herb has a natural connection with Wildcats quarterback Mike Herb because Mike is Matt’s older brother. Herb’s 12 catches were slightly behind Shaw’s 15 last season, but Herb has been used mostly as an escape outlet in the past. “At tight end, Matt’s a good blocker and has great hands,” Clarico said. “He can catch everything thrown at him and he’s a great third-down threat for us.”

TOP RUNNING BACKS

Cory Reisner, jr., Buckeye – Reisner is the only returning PAC first-team selection from last season and was the first name given by most of the league coaches when it came to top running backs in the conference. He’s the favorite to rack up the most yards in the league this season.

Cory Kidd, sr., Wellington Kidd was a PAC first-team selection as a kicker last season. He will try and help fill the hole left by the departure of David Kimmich and Steve Sinkinson. “He’s a good athlete,” Stoll said. “He really fit the role that we needed there.”

Chase Smith, sr., Black River  Smith was an All-PAC second-teamer last season and will benefit greatly from opposing defenses keying on fullback Gabe Clark, not to mention the great blocking he’ll get from the Pirates superstar. Smith and Clark are both seniors, and are looking to go out with a bang this season.

Shane Robinson, sr., Keystone – Robinson picked up an All-PAC honorable mention last season, as he led the Wildcats with over 800 rushing yards. The fullback has, “excellent vision,” according to Clarico. “He can see the entire defensive lineup at once,” Clarico said. “He can see holes in the line that even we don’t see.”

TOP OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

William Payne, sr., Clearview — Payne is the league’s lone returning first-team offensive lineman. Collier said that he’s getting Division I looks from many colleges because of his size – 6-4 and 250 pounds – and athletic ability. “He’s a great run blocker, but he’s still quick-footed enough to be a good pass blocker, too,” Collier said.

Kelton Keller, so., Buckeye – This talented lineman landed on the all-PAC second team last season as a freshman. Keller could get some state recognition before his high school career is finished.

Dan Novotny, sr., Buckeye – Novotny is one of the many all-PAC linemen that return for the Bucks this season. The Buckeye fronts have been the talk of the league.

Kyle Dredk, sr., Brooklyn  Dredk earned an All-PAC honorable mention last year, which was well deserved according to the Hurricanes first-year coach Chris O’Brien, who didn’t even see the lineman play. “He’s one of those kids that’s an all-out runner, he never stops,” O’Brien said. “Once the ball is snapped, he goes until the echo of the whistle. Nobody plays harder than Kyle.”

TOP DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Colin McHugh, sr., Lutheran West — McHugh, a standout wrestler for the Longhorns, was an All-Ohio second-team selection as a defensive lineman last season. He was an All-PAC first-teamer and is easily the top defensive lineman in the league this season.

Josh Varney, sr., Buckeye – The 6-2, 280-pounder was a second-team, all-PAC selection on both sides of the ball last season. Varney should fortify the Bucks’ strong offensive group, but he’ll probably be the leader of the defensive front.

Dave Barker, sr., Black River The 6-1, 175-pounder was an All-PAC second-team selection last year and will serve as a defensive end and tight end for the Pirates this season.

Dalton Rimbert, sr., Oberlin — Rimbert was injured and didn’t play for the bulk of last season, but first-year coach Dave McFarland says the 6-1, 230-pound nose guard will probably play with a purpose during his senior year. “He’s hungry to win,” McFarland said. “He’s suffered through a lot of the losses here.”

TOP LINEBACKERS

Nick Heusel, sr., Clearview – Heusel is one of five first-team linebackers — the most in any position — returning to the PAC this season. Collier said he’ll see early action but will have his playing time limited as he’s still recovering from knee surgery in early July. “He’s got a great nose for the football — he’s football-smart,” Collier said.

Nick Rados, sr., BrooksideRados earned an All-PAC first-team selection last year after making 80 tackles in just six games. He was out the first four games of the year due to injury. “He plays all out and is a great blitzer,” Akers said. “We had him on an A-block blitz and (the offensive line) picked him up, so he dropped back into coverage and made the play on the ball. That’s just the type of smart player he is.”

Gabe Clark, sr., Black River — In the most stacked position in the league, Clark may be one of the best linebackers in northeast Ohio. He cruised to an All-PAC first-team selection last season and should have another dominating season.

Richie Bics, sr., ColumbiaBics was an All-PAC second-team pick after finishing with 43 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and three sacks last season. “He’s physical,” said Raiders coach Jason Ward. “He’s real athletic, quick to the ball and has great instincts. He plays downhill really well.”

TOP DEFENSIVE BACKS

Erick Saunders, sr., Wellington – Saunders, who also serves as the Dukes’ top receiver, was an All-PAC first-team pick after nabbing eight interceptions and finishing fifth on the team in tackles last year. “He has a great nose for the football,” Stoll said. “He also has very good hands.”

Darrin Read, sr., Buckeye – Noted most for his superb skills as the Bucks’ safety, Read also serves as the team’s wide receiver and punter. Burke calls him, “an athletic do-everything type of player.” Read was an All-PAC first-team selection last season.

Ben Cline, sr., Clearview — Cline, a first-team selection that Collier calls, “the leader of our defense,” finished second on the team last year with over 80 tackles. “He’s kind of like our quarterback on defense,” Collier said. “He’s not afraid to come up and make plays when they run.” Cline’s interception total was low last year, mostly because he played with a protective “club” over his broken hand.

Josh Malave, sr., Lutheran West – Malave is another top wrestler for the Longhorns who makes big plays in the defensive backfield. Malave was an All-PAC first-team defensive back last year as a junior.

TOP HITTERS

David Krieger, sr., Lutheran West – Krieger likes to hit people and finished his junior season with 114 tackles. The Longhorn is one of five All-PAC first-team linebackers that return this year.

Aaron Fortney, sr., ColumbiaWard describes Fortney — another All-PAC first-team linebacker — as a, “bowling ball,” that likes to roll over whomever he’s facing. “He stays low and fills the gaps hard,” Ward said. “He’s a big hitter and our heart and soul in the middle of the defense. He’s a powerful kid.”

Jon Bill, sr., Clearview — Bill earned PAC second-team honors and likes to hit people in his roles as a running back and linebacker. “He’s an aggressive kid,” Collier said. “He’s a wrestler so he’s not afraid of contact. He started at cornerback last year and we moved him up to linebacker to get him more involved in the running game.”

Dugan Radeff, sr., BrooksideRadeff earned an All-PAC honorable mention last season after finishing with 78 tackles for the Cardinals. “He’s solid, he knows what’s going on,” Akers said. “He’s very fundamentally sound and he’s a great tackler. He’s always going to be in the right position.”

TOP GAMES 

Wellington at Buckeye, Sept. 28 – These two teams have finished Nos. 1 and 2 in the Stars Division the past two years — with the Bucks winning the title in the inaugural 2005 season and the Dukes taking the crown last year. The Dukes beat the Bucks 7-6 in Week 10 last year to clinch the championship.

Keystone at Brookside, Oct. 5 – The Wildcats handed the Cardinals a 29-28 defeat that took three overtimes to complete. Both teams should be stronger than last season, and the Week 7 matchup could be a classic.

Brooklyn at Oberlin, Oct. 5 – The Hurricanes one victory last season came against the winless Phoenix in Week 6. Brooklyn lost many players from an already-bad team, and Oberlin looks like it will be stronger this season. It looks as though the Phoenix could pick up their first-ever PAC win.

Columbia at Clearview, Oct. 26 – The Raiders were the only team to hand the Clippers a conference loss — a 19-16 upset in Week 9 — and may have cost Clearview a trip to the playoffs. The matchup this year serves as the season finale and could have even more at stake.