The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

WBL football to be competitive again in 2021

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

The Western Buckeye League will feature one returning state champion, a team with a 26th year head coach, three teams with new coaches and other teams looking to bounce back.

Below are preview capsules of nine of the 10 WBL teams. Celina coach Brennan Bader did not return requests for preseason information.

Bath Wildcats

Wide receiver Connor Pratt will play an important role for the Van Wert Cougars this season. Bob Barnes/file photo

Bath will look to improve on last year’s 2-6 overall record and third year head coach Ryan Reindel has the tools to do it.

Including freshmen, 65 players are on the 2021 roster and 17 lettermen are back for the Wildcats, including six three-year letter winners and four starters along the offensive and defensive lines. Senior running back Carter Parlapiano is back as well.

As he continues to rebuild the program, Reindel is looking to add depth and he has some underclassmen who can help.

The Wildcats will debut their new turf field in the season opener against Bowling Green.

Defiance Bulldogs

New head coach Travis Cooper is no stranger to success. He has a career record of 73-44, including 19-12 at Bryan (2008-10) and 54-32 between 2011-18 at Wauseon.

He’s taking over a Defiance program that went 3-17 the previous two seasons and he has 20 returning lettermen and 14 returning starters (eight offense, six defense) to work with.

The list includes four returning offensive linemen, three wide receivers, three linebackers and a pair of defensive backs. Cooper regards the returning experience as a strength but said the Bulldogs must develop depth and find a quarterback to replace Drew Davis.

Defiance will open the season at home against Napoleon.

Elida Bulldogs

One of the more remarkable turnarounds occurred last year at Elida.

The program had gone 2-18 in the previous two seasons, including 0-10 in 2019, but head coach Kyle Harmon led the Bulldogs to a 6-3 finish last season.

Now in his second season, Harmon has 14 lettermen back, including nine who started on the defensive side of the ball, which includes a physical defensive line and two returning linebackers.

Among the five returning letter winners on offense – dual threat quarterback Larkin Henderson. Harmon believes the Bulldogs possess good team speed but need to develop a better passing game, and he’ll need to develop three new offensive linemen.

Some people believe Elida is a dark horse WBL contender.

The Bulldogs will open the season at home against a new opponent, Spencerville.

Kenton Wildcats

After serving as an assistant for 10 seasons, Zach Turner is the new head coach of the Wildcats, a team that went 5-4 in 2020.

Just five starters are back from that team and Turner said lack of reps at multiple positions is a concern, but he added there is strong leadership among the returning players.

Don’t expect changes from Kenton’s offense. The Wildcats were a pass, pass, pass spread team long before it became popular and they’ll continue to do so, while playing a multiple front defense.

Kenton will open the 2021 season on the road against defending Division VI state champion Goldwater.

Ottawa-Glandorf Titans

Ken Schriner (26 seasons, 184-95) is the dean of WBL coaches and while he has some holes to fill, his Titans (7-2 in 2020) should be in the hunt for the league title.

He has 24 lettermen on the roster along with 12 starters, five on offense and seven on defense. First Team All-Ohio tackle Tyler Leopold (6-5, 310) is among three starting offensive linemen, along with two linebackers, two defensive backs and a running back.

However, he’ll have to replace Second Team All-Northwest District quarterback Jacob Balbaugh, Third Team All-Ohio wide receiver Brennan Blevins and Third Team All-Ohio linebacker Will Kaufman.

Ottawa-Glandorf will open the season at Eastwood.

Shawnee Indians

Don’t count out the Shawnee Indians this fall.

Veteran head coach Jerry Cooper has 20 lettermen and nine starters back on both sides of the ball from a team that went 4-5 in 2020, which adds even more intrigue to an already loaded WBL.

Under Cooper, the Indians have tried to establish the run first while throwing the ball effectively and this year should be no different. At the very least, Shawnee could have a say as to which team wins the league championship.

The Indians will open their season next Thursday night against Lima Central Catholic.

St. Marys Memorial Roughriders

Bo Frye takes over for his father, Doug Frye, who had two successful stints with the Roughriders.
Frye has 15 seniors on the roster and twelve returning starters from last year’s 6-3 team, including fullback Aiden Hinkle, running back Tanner Howell and three offensive linemen – Stash Patterson, Ryan Dabis and Chase Jacobs. That’s good for a team that runs the Wing-T and churns out the majority of yards on the ground.

Look for some younger players to step up, which will help the Roughriders continue their winning ways.

St. Marys Memorial will open the season on the road against London.

Van Wert Cougars

Coming off an 11-1 season and a Division IV state championship, head coach Keith Recker has his entire starting offensive and defensive lines back along with a strong senior class.

Overall, 64 players are on the roster, including 20 lettermen. A replacement must be found for Owen Treece, who accounted for over 4,000 yards and 57 touchdowns and Dru Johnson, who caught 55 passes for 1,236 yards and 16 touchdowns. However, it appears Aidan Pratt and Connor Pratt are primed to take over those roles.

The Cougars have good team speed and depth and are considered one of the favorites to win the WBL championship.

Van Wert will open the season at Bryan.

Note: a more in-depth preview will appear on next Wednesday’s Sports page.

Wapakoneta Redskins

The Redskins are hoping to bounce back from a 2020 season that saw the team open with four straight losses, followed by three consecutive wins, then a playoff withdrawal due to COVID-19.

Head coach Travis Moyer (180-44 career record) has eight starters back on the defensive side of the ball and 10 players who saw significant playing time on offense.

Nothing has changed, as Wapakoneta will feature a punishing running game and a defense that gets to the ball quickly.

Look for the Redskins to return to the upper division of the WBL and quite possibly contend for the league championship.

Wapakoneta will host MAC power Marion Local in the season opener.

POSTED: 08/12/21 at 5:27 am. FILED UNDER: Sports