NUMBER 10 – GIRARD
The Indians were just (3-7) last year, but groomed a very talented sophomore class in the process. This year, they’re hoping it pays dividends. Junior quarterback Mark Waid led the area with with over 26 hundred yards passing, 725 yards rushing, and 38 total touchdowns. Senior wideout Michael Belcik caught most of that, with 980 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. The offense averaged over 31 points per game last year, and shows no signs of slowing down this season. If the Indians can produce on defense, they could be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
NUMBER 9 – SHARPSVILLE
The Blue Devils may have the biggest lines in the area this year with three players upfront that weigh-in at 360, 340, and 305 pounds. That includes junior Ja’Quay Hubbard, whose getting plenty of Division One college interest. And when you’re that big upfront, you can expect a very productive ground game. Sharpsville will run by committee with 4 tailbacks that can carry the ball. The Region 2 schedule they face will not be easy, but the Devils managed it well last year beating 5 of the 8 opponents they faced, despite being one of the smallest schools.
NUMBER 8 – WESTERN RESERVE
The Blue Devils will enter 2017 with plenty of motivation. Despite winning the ITCL Blue Tier title last year, the Devils missed out on the playoffs for the first time in 8 years. They return with more than 60 players, the largest team in school history, and an Ohio State recruit in senior tailback Jack Cappabianca. Western Reserve will be one of the front runners to win the 1st ever Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference title.
NUMBER 7 – EAST PALESTINE
The Bulldogs averaged nearly 30 points per game last year with Parker Sherry behind center. The junior quarterback racked up over 19 hundred yards passing, 1,000 yards rushing, and 33 total touchdowns. And this year, his favorite targets return for more, with junior Dominic Posey and senior Branden Kemp at the wideout position. East Palestine is one of the early favorites in the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference, a league that no longer features perennial playoff teams like South Range, Springfield, and Crestview.
NUMBER 6 – STRUTHERS
The Wildcats won 9 games and qualified for the playoffs last year behind one of the biggest and most talent lines in the Valley. Most of that, is coming back. Seniors A.J. Iarussi and Jimmy Stefanski are not only big, they’re also smart. Both are 4.0 students with Ivy league offers, and when they’re blocking, you can expect a breakout season for junior running back Willie Mitchell.
NUMBER 5 – HICKORY
The 6-time defending District Ten Champs once again, have high expectations in 2017. The Hornets will have to replace Charles Carr, Mercer County’s all-time leading rusher, but they’ve certainly got the weapons to do it. Senior quarterback Luke Brennan returns from injury, with an experienced and talented target to throw to in senior wideout Will Gruber.
NUMBER 4 – FARRELL
The Steelers have won the District Ten title each of the past two years, and will be a preseason favorite to do it again despite losing a Division One tailback, and the school’s all-time leading rusher in Braxton Chapman to graduation. Farrell is loaded with returning playmakers like junior tight end Kyi Wright, junior wideout Jourdan Townsend, and senior tailback Brandon Chambers.
NUMBER 3 – WARREN JFK
The defending Division VII State Champs will have tough time replacing a senior class that won 14 games, and a defense that allowed less than 7 points per game last year with 6 shutouts. But the Eagles are quite capable of racking up wins again this season with returning quarterback Greg Valent, and wideout Hiland Burton leading the offense, and senior linebacker Alec Burzynski headlining the defense.
NUMBER 2 – SOUTH RANGE
The Raiders won 9 games and averaged over 40 points per contest last year, and have 7 returning starters on that side of the ball. That includes senior quarterback Aniello Buzzacco, running back Peyton Remish, and playmaker Mathias Combs, along with 4 of their 5 starting lineman from last season. The schedule will not be easy though. South Range is an independent for the first time in more than 50 years, and will have to play four teams from more than 50 miles away, and two teams from Pennsylvania. The good news, seven of those games will be at home.
NUMBER 1 – SHARON
The Tigers have the look of team ready to challenge for the District Ten title. They return 8 starters on both sides of the ball, including the most decorated receiver in Mercer County history, Ziyon Strickland. Sharon also returns a 13 hundred yard rusher in Jordan Wilson, and welcomes 6 foot 5 Ursuline transfer Tristan Ballard to the secondary. We’ll know very soon whether the Tigers deserve the Number One spot. They host Wilmington, a state semifinalist last year in Week One, and 6-time defending District Ten champion Hickory in Week 4.