Two big changes this season: we're independent and free from the Mahoning County ESC (no referendum required), and Youngstown Early College bows out, replaced by United Local in Columbiana County (Hanoverton, to be specific).
8. Chaney STEM (2-12 V, 2-12 JV in 2014)
The previous coach returns and it seems that they have more players this year, so the JV won't have to forfeit as many games, but they are still rebuilding.
7. Campbell Memorial (3-11 V, 0-13-1 JV)
George E. returns for Campbell, and he'll be the reason they don't finish last. They do have some younger players coming in, so I don't think the JV will do as bad this year...perhaps they'll surprise and get to .500.
6. Springfield Local (7-7 V, 4-9-1 JV)
There are 20 players on the roster, but only 2 of the ninth graders are from the team that Lis Evan took to MSNCT last season. Combined with their lack of fall tournament experience and generally carefree attitude toward the activity, the Tigers aren't going to impress much.
5. United Local (new)
These Eagles replace the YEC Eagles. They've played NAQT before, most notably last year at the East Palestine tournament, but failed to follow up this year with any fall tournaments other than trash. Still, they have enough in the tank to get here, and perhaps a place or two higher, but I really doubt they will be pushing for promotion.
4. Poland Seminary (1-13 V and relegated from First Division, 5-9 JV First Division)
Yeah, I'll put them here. New coach, but doesn't seem to be any different from the previous one in terms of motivation to improve. I'd say they probably will rotate everyone on their massive roster, but I don't have their roster yet, so I can't say for sure. Good enough to win games in this division, but not enough to win against motivated opposition.
3. Western Reserve (7-7 V, 10-4 JV)
Cry though they might at the prospect of having to play Poland, this team should beat them outright or at least split. If they can do that and steal a game against Jackson-Milton, third is definitely within reach and second might not be out of the realm of possibility either.
2. Jackson-Milton (4-10 V, 8-6 JV)
Early signs of progress at FKT weren't followed up at South Range or other fall tournaments, so this pick is a reach, but I think this team realizes this is their best possible shot to get out of this division in a while. They should be able to take it, but will face a very tough promotion playoff.
1. East Palestine (11-3 V, 7-7 JV; lost promotion playoff 0-2 to Lowellville)
Curtis is the early favorite for player of the year and, perhaps, the overall Class of 2015 scoring title. No team in this division should be able to come with 150 of the Bulldogs on an A-set packet. Their vulnerability comes on IS-set packets. If JM or Reserve are able to ambush them there, it might be a closer race at the top.
8. Columbiana (14-0 V Second Division champions, 12-2 JV Second Division, lost tiebreak to YEC)
I hate to put the Clippers here, but they did lose their best player to graduation and a few other players walked away. In this division, there are no easy wins, but they didn't play any fall tournaments and almost everyone else in this division returns their best scorer.
7. Canfield (5-9 V, 10-4 JV)
A new coach, again, but I highly doubt anything will change. They will sub so much that no true A team develops, and they will end up losing games they shouldn't. The relegation playoff against JM, potentially, would be very tight.
6. Austintown Fitch (8-6 V, 6-7-1 JV)
They lost a very large chunk of scoring, but they have been getting out and playing the fall tournaments, which should spare them relegation along with a good corps of younger players and the advantages of a big school.
5. South Range (13-1 V, 11-3 JV)
I post this more in hope rather than expectation. I would hate to see South Range go from first to worst in the span of a season, but that possibility exists. Any team that graduated its entire starting four and had its longest serving head coach retire would take a hit. I hope that the players are inspired by the excellent teams that have come before them to do what they need to do to stay in this division.
4. Lowellville (2-12 V, 7-6-1 JV)
It may seem weird to put the Rockets here with that record last year, but they return all of their best scorers and, even with another coaching change, the student leadership within the team is much more solid. If George H. can get truly hot in science, they might contend for the top 3.
3. Sebring McKinley (8-6 V, 1-13 JV)
This is George C.'s final shot. If he doesn't win player of the year again, he's odds-on for the Class of 2015 overall scoring award (though Curtis from EP is on his heels). Two new co-coaches here, and I hope they have the fortitude to take this team to SSNCT or HSNCT at the end of it, because if nothing else, he deserves to go.
2. West Branch (9-5 V, 4-10 JV)
They had enough in the tank to beat South Range on an A-set last season, and most of it returns. I think they're better balanced than the one-person-dominant teams behind them, but Boardman will have too much depth to claim the title.
1. Boardman (10-4 V, 11-3 JV)
Now that South Range has graduated everyone, the Spartans will claim what they probably believe is rightfully theirs. As a large school with amazing depth, it's hard to see them dropping enough games to lose the league. They did split with West Branch last season, though.
The biggest x-factor this season is where all the literature points go now that South Range can't immediately lay claim to them before the match even begins. If any of the first division teams develop a literature player, they immediately go to the top of the pile.
Greg Bossick, formerly Persona Non Grata
Mogadore '98, Youngstown State '02
Director of the Mahoning, Ashtabula, Portage, and Toledo Area Quizbowl Leagues