July is always the most laid back month on the Ohio high school sports calendar. This is true, despite the fact summer workouts are in full swing from the majority of local fall programs.
The weight room in summer in Ohio is usually a stuffy place. However, in these days of full-time, year-round high school athletics, they are the starting point for future success.
The school that doesn’t have a weight/workout program for its students in 2019 is going to get left behind athletically, no matter how much talent comes through its door.
What these athletes are working for this month is the rush of activity that is fall high school sports in the state of Ohio. Fall season coaching open on Aug. 1, so its coming sooner than most want to believe.
Before that beehive starts buzzing, I hope local student-athletes can hit the pools, visit the park without fear of being coached or just enjoy family vacations. As for me, here’s a few things I’m looking for in the upcoming fall season.
• Local football could be wide open this fall — 2018 was a bit of a weird year for MyTownNEO.com area football.
"The Streak" ended for Aurora, as the Greenmen didn’t advance to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Woodridge also had a streak of six straight playoff berths snapped. Perennial powers Hudson and Stow-Munroe Falls each had down years.
We ended up with only Nordonia and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy reaching the state playoffs in 2018. CVCA was fueled by a once-in-a-generation athlete in Tre Tucker, while the Knights got back to business after two forgettable years.
Both of these teams lost a boatload of talent to graduation, as did Woodridge and Stow.
All of this will make the 2019 season very interesting — in that no team comes in as a clear cut favorite to dominate or have a big run.
Who’s my darkhorse pick in this situation? Mike Bell and Co. at Twinsburg are due for a break or five — that doesn’t involve injuries. There’s so much athletic talent at Twinsburg that one has to assume the Tigers can turn it into gridiron success soon.
Speaking of Tiger football …
• Twinsburg girls soccer should not be a one-hit wonder — It’s true the Tigers went from first-time district champion to first-time state qualifier last year.
It’s also true Twinsburg lost a metric ton of talent to graduation, particularly with midfield magician Hannah Pickens and striker McKenna Donahue gone to the college ranks.
It’s another fact that Division I girls soccer in Northeast Ohio remains an absolute minefield. In particular, backyard rival Hudson will gunning to get back at the Tigers. What’s more, after not winning a district title for the first time in a generation, motivation in Walsh Jesuit’s camp will not be lacking.
All that said, something special has been building in the Twinsburg girls soccer camp over the last decade, going back to the days when Chris Genttile led the Tigers. Current coach John Garber’s unassuming demeanor belies a fire to help make Twinsburg a permanent fixture at Ohio girls soccer’s elite level.
The Tigers do have ace scorer Ally King and much of its defense back for 2019.
Can Twinsburg get back to the state final four this fall? It’s a huge question, but the realm of the possible has changed forever on Ravenna Road.
Speaking of fixtures at the elite level …
• Woodridge boys cross country will make a drive for No. 9 — After winning eight state champions since 2006, it’s almost become cliché to say the Bulldogs will be in the running for the title again this fall.
A quick look at the Bulldogs roster, however, shows how much trouble Division II could be again this year if Woodridge stays healthy.
Jeff Howard has set up an assembly line of great runners at Woodridge — and six of the seven members of the Bulldogs state meet squad will be back this fall.
Not only that, but I honestly feel we’ve yet to see the best from Woodridge’s top runners Micah Blair and Ryan Champa.
Anyone want to bet the Bulldogs won’t be big favorites to get back on top of the podium Nov. 2?
At this point, Woodridge is running with Ohio high school history. One more title would tie the Bulldogs with Caldwell for the most boys state titles with nine.
Howard and Co. have been too excellent for too long for me to believe they won’t be prohibitive favorites this fall.
The other big potential story in cross country could come from just over Woodridge’s border, as Hudson will look for a three-peat of state titles at the Division I level.
Like Howard, Mark McConnell has the Explorers in full program mode, but unlike Woodridge, the Explorers were hit hard by graduation losses.
It will be interesting to see what goes down once the temperatures start falling.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO