Coach: Mike Vicars, third year, 23-3
Last Year: 13-1 (7-0, SLL)
Forecast: The two-time defending SLL champion Comets are the coaches’ pick to win the league title again, but Vicars is guarding against his players letting success get to their heads.
“We have had two very nice years in a row,” Vicars said. “The next step is to maintain this. It is not easy, and complacency can set it. Sometimes we have to remind the kids about this. If we have to do it too many times, that will not be good for us. It’s important every day to come out and ‘chop the wood.’ “
The Comets, who finished fourth in the final Associated Press state poll last season, reached the Division IV state semifinals before losing to fifth-ranked (and eventual champion) Kettering Archbishop Alter.
Twenty lettermen, including six starters on defense and five on offense, return from the 2008 squad, including three-year starting quarterback Matt Bassit and three-year starting running back Connor Wendt.
Wendt, who is also a standout defensive back, rushed for 537 yards and five TDs and caught 13 passes for 173 yards. He also had 88 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
Fellow senior running back Greg Hillabrand, who rushed for 1,073 yards and 14 touchdowns on 154 carries, also recorded 115 tackles from his linebacker position.
Bassitt completed 90-of-142 passes for 1,582 yards last season, with 24 TD passes and only five interceptions.
“Having a three-year starter at quarterback back is very nice,” Vicars said. “Matt is an outstanding quarterback and is one of Northwest Ohio’s best-kept secrets. Having two experienced backs in Hillabrand and Wendt is very nice. Hillabrand is tough inside and Wendt is a nice outside change of pace, as well as a very good receiver.”
Genoa’s biggest skill position losses on offense are running back Blair Skilliter, who is now playing at Mount Union after rushing for more than 1,000 yards last season; wideout Zach Apel, who had nearly 1,000 receiving yards; and running back Marcus Vicars, an All-Ohio linebacker who is now at Kent State on a track scholarship. Kicker James Leach moved to North Carolina.
“We have to replace our entire offensive line,” coach Vicars said, “and that will be no easy task. “Defensive must be our strength early. Many special teams players are back as well, and we hope that again is a good weapon for us. Our overall team speed is very solid. There is no super burner, but top to bottom we run pretty well.”
Defensively, the Comets must replace Marcus Vicars and All-Ohio end Ryan Bless, but senior two-way ends Richard Wonnell and Jon Lester, and senior Devin Mazza, a two-year starter at nose guard, return.
The 6-8 Wonnell recorded 80 tackles last season, while Mazza and Lester had 72 and 38, respectively.
Senior Scott Traver, who had 72 tackles last season, has started the past two seasons in the defensive backfield. Seth Dufendock, whom Vicars said “saw a ton of time at defensive end last year,” had 88 tackles last season but has been moved to linebacker.
“We have a chance to compete well,” Vicars said. “We had a good offseason and the kids around Genoa really buy into our program and play very hard. So much will be based on if we can stay healthy and focused.
“We have some great players in some positions and if they go down it will be very difficult to replace them and we won’t be the same team.”
Genoa games will be internet broadcast live and archived at WRSCRadio.com. After traveling to Rossford, the Comets face Ottawa County-rival Oak Harbor in the annual Celestial Bowl contest.