Preseason football: Trotwood-Madison Rams

Team: Trotwood-Madison Rams

Division/Region: D-III, Region 12; no change from last season.

Affiliation: Greater Western Ohio Conference, American South Division.

Location: Good Samaritan SportsPlex, Trotwood (Montgomery County).

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Head coach: Jeff Graham, fourth season as the Rams' head coach, 50-9 combined record.

Among the best combo football/basketball players the area has produced, and that’s saying a lot. Went from Alter High School, where he was All-Ohio in both sports, to a go-to WR at Ohio State (1988-90).

Second-round pick by Steelers, played 11 seasons in the NFL for the Steelers, Bears, Jets, Eagles and Chargers from 1991-2001. Trotwood is the only high school he has coached football at. Landed with the Rams at the urging of former coach Maurice Douglass. Promoted to head coach when Douglass left to take over at GWOC rival Springfield.

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Assistant coaches: Kerry Ivy, Dion Black, Greg Moore, Jerel Freeman, Jordon Paschal, Chris Townsend, Kevin Saterfield, John Wortham, David Dewberry, Ed Mucha and Duane Hutchinson.

2017 records: 4-0 GWOC American South, 10-0 regular season, 15-0 overall.

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2017 highlights: Loaded with proven returners, much was expected of the Rams and they delivered a banner state championship season. Just like the Rams' team of 2011 that also went 15-0 and won a D-II title, this time it was D-III, and what a ride.

Trotwood never had a letup and scored 42 or more points in eight of 10 regular-season games. Piqua came the closest, 42-35 in Week 2. Wayne did the same in Week 10 that featured game-long horizontal rain, 14-7. The Rams’ 719 points in 15 games was the fifth most in state history. That total should include an asterisk to indicate a running second-half clock in repeated blowouts.

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Elida, Dunbar and Chaminade Julienne were overwhelmed in the postseason. That set up a rematch with nemesis Toledo Central Catholic and like the previous state semifinal showdown, Trotwood landed a 16-7 KO. That was the eighth straight appearance in the state semis for the Rams, all-time area best topped only by MAC powers Marion Local and Coldwater.

Trotwood trumped that by dodging upstart Tri-Valley 27-19 at the new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton for the program’s second championship. The title wasn’t secured until junior Jay Nelloms returned a goal-line INT to midfield in the final seconds.

That also somewhat soothed the disappointment of losing the D-III state title game to Akron Hoban the previous season.

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Senior QB Markell Stephens-Peppers was outstanding (2,438 passing yards, 36 TDs, 4 INTs). Senior WRs Dallas Daniels (66 catches, 1218 yards, 20 TDs) and William McDaniel (41-781, 11 TDs) were unstoppable. The defense, led by LBs James Parker, Nelloms and DE Kennedy Coates, was stuck in shut-down mode.

And then there was 3K-Ray.

It’s not a stretch to say Ra’veion Hargrove carried the Rams to a state title. Stat-wise, he’s the most prolific RB in area history. The All-Ohioan rushed for 2,264 yards and tallied 34 TDs. His 3,039 rushing yards as a sophomore – and the saluting 3K-Ray Twitter handle – is an all-time area best and No. 10 in the state. Rushed for 7,365 career yards and accounted for 100 TDs.

Just 5-7 and maybe 160 pounds, shame on you if you missed this show over the last three seasons. Should be in the running as a freshman contributor at Bowling Green this fall.

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5 key returners:

Sammy Anderson, 6-1, 175, jr., DB.

Taron Britt, 5-10, 165, sr., DB.

Jay Nelloms, 6-0, 210, sr., LB.

Justin Stephens, 6-7, 220, sr., TE/DE; multiple offers from Big Ten and MAC teams.

Jaison Williams, 6-5, 300, sr., OL.

Transfer: Taz Wilcox (LB from Wayne).

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About the Rams: Three significant schedule changes. Troy, Tippecanoe and Greenville – all of the GWOC American North – have been replaced at Cincinnati Winton Woods in Week 1, visiting Chicago Simeon in Week 2 and at Sidney in Week 4.

Winton Woods, the D-II state runner-up last season, has evolved into a state power since the merger of Greenhills and Forest Park in 1991. An independent, the Warriors own nine playoff appearances since 2005 and won a D-II state title in 2009.

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Simeon Career Academy is the pride of Chicago’s South Side. It’s a Chicago Public League power in all sports, but mostly known for its exceptional boys basketball that has produced Derrick Rose, Nick Anderson, Jabari Parker and the phenom Ben Wilson, who was fatally shot as a senior in 1984. Simeon football was 8-5 last season after starting 0-3.

Sidney (10-2) returns in a GWOC crossover matchup. The teams last played in 2015.

“We have great coaches and great senior leadership this year.” – coach Jeff Graham.

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Fun facts: Hargrove's sophomore season of 3,039 rushing yards is an all-time area best, but he couldn't surpass Troy's Ryan Brewer as the area's career rushing leader. According to OHSAA records, Brewer went for 7,656 yards from 1995-98.

Other area RBs to be listed by the OHSAA are Brian Wagner of Springfield Catholic Central (6,785 yards from 2004-07), Brock Bolen of Valley View (6,099 yards from 2001-03), Jordan Scanlon of Clinton-Massie (6,051 yards from 2007-10) and Jeff Rogan of Urbana (5,985 yards from 1979-82).

Bolen’s total was likely more. He played varsity as a freshman at Fenwick but those stats apparently are not included. Deep playoff runs have had an impact, especially when the postseason expended to a maximum five games.

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Schedule: All at 7 p.m.

Week 1: Fri., Aug. 24 at Cin. Winton Woods

Week 2: Fri., Aug. 31 CHICAGO SIMEON

Week 3: Fri., Sept. 7 PICKERINGTON CENTRAL, HANK-FM (101.5),

Week 4: Fri., Sept. 14 at Sidney

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Week 5: Fri., Sept. 21 PIQUA, WPTW-AM (1570), WPTW-FM (98.1),

Week 6: Fri., Sept. 28 WEST CARROLLTON

Week 7: Fri., Oct. 5 at Fairborn

Week 8: Fri., Oct. 12 at Stebbins

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Week 9: Fri., Oct. 19 XENIA

Week 10: Fri., Oct. 26 at Wayne, HANK-FM (101.5),, WSWO-FM (97.3),

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