GALLIA ACADEMY BLUE DEVILS
Head Coach: Mike Eddy (4th season).
2011 Record: (6-4 Overall; 3-2 SEOAL).
Players Lost to Graduation (Notables): 15 (RB-K Brandon Taylor, OL-DL Aaron Guisinger, DL Zack Tackett, OL-DL Stephen Atkins).
Roster Breakdown: 34 (13 Srs, 10 Jrs, 11 Sophs, 0 Frosh).
Varsity returnees: 20.
Strengths: Roughly two-thirds of the 2012 Blue Devil roster has varsity experience, which will make a big difference in trying to replace the loss of 15 players to graduation. Junior quarterback Wade Jarrell returns under center to lead a run-oriented offense that will benefit from returning letterwinners Logan Allison, Ty Warnimont, Nick Clagg and Luke Pullins in the backfield. GAHS will rely on its depth defensively, much like it did in 2011, when the Devils surrendered just 116 points — including allowing more than 16 points just once to an opponent over the course of the season.
Weaknesses: Gallia Academy needs some people to step up on the offensive and defensive lines, arguably the two positions most affected by graduation. The Blue Devils also enter this year with questions at the playmaker position, now that Taylor — who scored over 70 percent of their points last fall — is gone. Injuries will also be a concern, with only 34 players deemed ready for the rigors of Friday night football.
Notes: Over the last two years, GAHS coach Mike Eddy has led the Blue Devils to consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the 2005 and 2006 campaigns. GAHS — which last went to the playoffs in 2006 — has also been in playoff contention going into Week 10 each of the last two years. The Blue Devils — who have finished second in the SEOAL the last two seasons — will play four of their final six games at Memorial Field, including key league games against Chillicothe (Sept. 28), Portsmouth (Oct. 5) and two-time defending champion Jackson (Oct. 26).
RIVER VALLEY RAIDERS
Head Coach: Jerrod Sparling (2nd season).
2011 Record: (2-8 Overall; 1-4 OVC).
Players Lost to Graduation (Notables): 8 (RB Patrick Williams, WR-DB Trey Noble, OL-DL Cody Holley).
Roster Breakdown: 51 (16 Srs, 6 Jrs, 9 Sophs, 20 Frosh).
Varsity returnees: 15.
Strengths: The Raiders have acquired some depth this fall as they prepare to open their new stadium. Numbers are up from 33 a year ago to 51 now, and roughly a third of this team has varsity experience in second-year head coach Jerrod Sparling’s system. Quarterback Austin Whobrey will return under center to guide a passing attack that returns most of its top wideouts to an offense that averaged 13.0 points per outing last fall. River Valley also returns a large number of its starters to the linebacker and defensive back positions.
Weaknesses: RVHS lost its top-two offensive playmakers (Williams and Noble) and most of its starting offensive and defensive linemen to graduation, leaving the Raiders looking for players to step up and make a difference at key spots. Despite allowing 22 or fewer points in four games, the defense surrendered an average of 31.3 points per game last fall — an area that must be improved for RVHS to be more competitive.
Notes: The Raiders will play five of their first seven games on the road before closing out the 2012 campaign with three straight home games against OVC foes Rock Hill (Oct. 12), South Point (Oct. 19) and Fairland (Oct. 26). RVHS hasn’t had a .500-or-better finish to a football season since the 2003 campaign, when the Raiders finished 6-4 overall.
SOUTH GALLIA REBELS
Head Coach: Jason Peck (3rd season).
2011 Record: (7-4 Overall; 6-2 TVC Hocking; 0-1 Playoffs).
Players Lost to Graduation (Notables): 15 (QB Corey Haner, TE-LB Danny Matney, OL-DL Dalton Matney).
Roster Breakdown: 28 (4 Srs, 9 Jrs, 4 Sophs, 11 Frosh).
Varsity returnees: 11.
Strengths: A majority of the varsity returnees come back to various positions on the field, which will be a big aid in mentoring the newcomers on both sides of the ball. The backfield of Jacob White and Ethan Spurlock give the Rebels a formidable rushing threat on a weekly basis, and a handful of starters are back on the offensive line to help lead that charge. The Rebels also play three of their first four games at their new home stadium.
Weaknesses: South Gallia was hit hard by graduation, most notably a defense that allowed just 14.4 points per game. The Rebels also have to replace three-year starting quarterback Cory Haner, who guided an offense that averaged 28.2 points last fall. More than half of the varsity roster comes from the lower two grade levels (15-13), leaving the Rebels a bit young to the rigors of Friday night football. Four of the Rebels last six games are on the road.
Notes: SGHS, fresh off the program’s third playoff appearance in school history, was one of three TVC Hocking teams to reach the postseason last fall. A reliable running game could greatly benefit a new quarterback, especially early on in the friendly confines of home. South Gallia, in its two seasons of TVC Hocking play, have never finished below .500 in the league standings and own a combined 10-6 mark during that span.