This was true even before Cade Rice transferred to Northmont from Greenon.
Chase Harrison, who has been on college radars since before his freshman year, is back at Centerville after finishing second in the league in passing yards as a sophomore last season.
Also back are Cam Fancher at Wayne and Te’Sean Smoot at Springfield, the league’s No. 3 and 4 passers, respectively, along with Male’k Hillon, who ran for 645 yards last season while directing Fairmont’s triple option attack.
Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said Smoot, who was listed at 5-foot-11 last year, has grown about an inch and a half and bulked up to 180 pounds.
“I like all the quarterbacks we will get to compete against this year, but I’m excited about what I’ve seen from Te’Sean,” Douglass said. “He’s done a great job in the offseason getting his body prepared for it.”
Rice is the No. 2 senior QB prospect in the state per 247Sports, and Northmont coach Tony Broering can see why.
“He can make every throw and then some,” Broering said. “He’s made some throws this summer I’ve never seen, and this my 30th year. I coached a kid back in the day (Brennan Glass at Springfield South) who led the state in passing, and he couldn’t do what I saw Cade do the other day, so he can make the every throw in the book. He’s on one hash and he’s throwing stop routes to the opposite field and fades to the opposite side. He can do that kind of stuff.”
2. Those aren’t the only big names back.
Northmont has the top two college prospects in the area according to 247Sports, but Thunderbolts receiver Markus Allen and safety Rod Moore are just two of 10 returning members of the 2019 all-league first team.
Teammate Phillip Quansah, a senior linebacker, is the No. 2 leading returning tackler in the league. He trailed by four Centerville Jon Bruder, who had 94 stops last season.
Springboro receiver/defensive back Titan Case and running back Moise Armbruster are back, too, along with Springfield defensive standouts Delian Bradley and Jokell Brown, Miamisburg defensive lineman Spencer Harger and Springboro kicker Matthew Dapore.
Allen and Moore have both verbally committed to Michigan while Case issued his pledge to the Naval Academy.
Many other players in the league figure to earn major scholarship offers this fall after the coronavirus pandemic short-circuited the recruiting process across the country.
3. The defending league champs should be formidable again.
Springfield won the GWOC American division last season en route to the state semifinals.
Smoot is back at the controls of the Springfield offense, and Ben Van Noord gives him a new target at receiver after transferring from Northwestern. Rod Greene and Christian Ochs headline the Wildcats offensive line, and senior Division I college prospects Bryce Walker, Vincent Fisher and Kendal Dolby highlight the defense.
“We always talk to the kids about you’re not promised tomorrow, especially in this game and now this year because now you could play one game and it could be over,” Douglass said. “So just take advantage of every day you have and try to maximize it in whatever capacity you’re doing it.”
Springboro coach Ryan Wilhite’s squad returns standouts Case and Armbruster at the skill positions with all-district Ryan Iams leading the offensive line and Scott Pierson joining the defensive line after moving in from Arkansas.
“Our goals are always to win the conference title and to qualify for the playoffs,” Wilhite said. “I think everyone would agree that the fact that we’re playing is an accomplishment in and of itself. We’re taking things one step at a time — and that’s not to say that competing and winning isn’t important because it is and always will be — but we’re just not setting our sights too far out in front of us.”
4. Sleeping giants?
Traditional powers Wayne and Centerville are both looking to bounce back after uncharacteristic losing seasons.
Big-name quarterbacks could help their cause.
Also looking to get back over .500 is Miamisburg, where coach Lance Schneider hopes relying on a lot of young players in 2019 pays dividends in 2020.
“Every team has strengths which will be difficult to deal with on a weekly basis,” Schneider said. “This league is very demanding and every team is capable of winning each week.”
5. Familiar face, new-look attack
Beavercreek will also look to bounce back after back-to-back losing seasons.
Head coach Nic Black has preferred a run-first attack in his six seasons leading the Beavers, but that figures to change with the addition of Jay Niswonger to his staff.
A legendary head coach at Valley View from 1984-2011, Niswonger will bring his run-and-shoot attack to the Orange and Black, who return six starters on offense and three on defense.
Niswonger led the Spartans to three state championships in the 1990s with an offense that was a precursor to the pass-happy spreads of the first part of the 21st century.
6. Games to watch
In a season compressed to six games and with so many potential title contenders, there should be lots of contests with marquee potential.
Here are a few: Northmont at Springboro (Week 1), Springfield at Centerville (Week 2), Fairmont at Northmont (Week 2), Wayne at Centerville (Week 3), Fairmont at Springfield (Week 3), Springfield at Northmont (Week 4), Springboro at Springfield (Week 5), Springboro at Fairmont (Week 6).