Well before the rebirth of the Licking County League and the expansion and realignment of the Mid-State League in 2013, small-school programs from the Central District were known for producing some of the state's best high school football talent.

Well before the rebirth of the Licking County League and the expansion and realignment of the Mid-State League in 2013, small-school programs from the Central District were known for producing some of the state's best high school football talent.

Newark Catholic was dominant in the 1980s and into the early '90s, Licking Valley reached at least a state semifinal six times from 1990-2008 and West Jefferson has been a playoff regular since the mid-1970s.

Teams such as Bexley and Grandview, both of which now compete in the MSL-Ohio Division, and Johnstown and Granville from the LCL have consistently made playoff runs over the past decade as well.

Grandview coach Jason Peters has enjoyed competing in the MSL-Ohio. The Bobcats shared the league title with Bexley last year.

"The league has always been very competitive, usually (with) two or three playoff teams," Peters said. "The top teams in the league have made very deep runs, meaning our league has some of the best teams in the state. Our league has developed players from all positions. We've had kids play at all levels and win national titles.

"The coaching style is all over the place. With the diversity our league has, you will see all types of offenses, defenses, coaching styles. In nine years as (Grandview's coach), I have seen a lot of turnover in coaches, so things are always changing."

Each of the 10 teams in the LCL has made at least one playoff appearance since the turn of the century, with Johnstown reaching a state semifinal in 2011, Licking Valley finishing as state runner-up in 2001 and '07 and Newark Catholic winning its eighth state title in 2007.

Below are Football Mount Rushmore honorees for Bexley, Columbus Academy, Grandview and Whitehall of the MSL-Ohio and Johnstown, Licking Heights, Northridge and Watkins Memorial from the LCL:

MSL-OHIO

*BEXLEY -- Colin O'Reilly (RB/DL, final prep season 1999), Andre Stewart (QB, 2014), Seth White (QB/DB, 2008); coach John Smith (2007-present)

O'Reilly rushed for 961 yards as a junior when Bexley went 7-3 in 1998 and was even better the next year, finishing with 1,500 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns.

White, who went on to play for Ball State, led Bexley to its first playoff berth in 2008 when he rushed for 1,430 yards and 24 touchdowns and passed for 1,249 yards. That season, he was named Division III district Defensive Player of the Year.

Stewart became a starter midway through his sophomore year and helped the Lions make the playoffs each of the next two years. He rushed for 1,284 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior and ran for 27 touchdowns and threw for five others as a senior.

Smith is 83-72 at Bexley and has led the program to its first four playoff berths.

Honorable mention: Jake Brandt (OL/DL, 2008), Jalen Robinette (QB, 2011), Matt Stanley (RB, 1996); coach Steve Podlasiak (1996-2003)

*COLUMBUS ACADEMY -- Chris Crockett (RB, 2007), Andrew Dunn (QB/DB/K/P, 2001), Ray Jones (RB/DB, 2003); coach Jim Collis (1996-2005, 2011-14)

Although he missed most of his senior season with an injury, Crockett was a key player as a sophomore and rushed for 1,937 yards and scored 37 touchdowns as a junior in 2006.

Dunn contributed in multiple ways. He rushed for 12 touchdowns as a senior, made seven interceptions as a junior and six as a sophomore, and served as kicker and punter as the Vikings made back-to-back playoff appearances.

Jones rushed for 15 touchdowns as a sophomore and 19 as a junior before running for 1,414 yards and 27 scores as a senior for the Vikings' Division V state championship team.

Collis went 63-47 from 1996-2005 and guided Academy to its state title. After the death of Mark Barren in the summer of 2011, Collis returned to lead the Vikings to a 20-18 mark over the next four seasons.

Honorable mention: Bryan Morosky (RB/K/P, 2003), Preston Pearson (RB/LB, 2010), Austin Peterman (RB/DB, 2010); coach Mark Barren (2006-10)

*GRANDVIEW -- Ben Graves (WR/DB, 2005), Rhodes Jump (LB/RB, 2015), Grant Varner (OL/DL, 2014); coach Jason Peters (2007-present)

The Bobcats ended an 18-year playoff drought in 2005 when Graves finished with 71 catches for 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns to earn Division V district co-Offensive Player of the Year honors. He also had four interceptions on defense and returned three punts and one kickoff for scores.

Varner was first-team all-league as a junior in 2013 and district Defensive Player of the Year as a senior before going on to play for Brown University.

With Jump rushing for 1,287 yards and 18 touchdowns and earning Division VI district Defensive Player of the Year honors last fall, Grandview advanced to a state semifinal for the first time. He also was first-team all-district on offense as a junior.

Peters is 57-40 in nine seasons for the Bobcats with three playoff appearances.

Honorable mention: Oliver Rouch (QB/DB, 2011), Andy Treasure (OL/DL, 2012), Luke Treasure (OL/DL, 2015); coach Scott Gordon (2003-06)

*WHITEHALL -- Matt Angle (WR/DB, 2003), Murad Holliday (RB/DB, 1994), Keiwan Ratliff (WR/DB, 1998); coach Kip Kane (2000-07)

One of Whitehall's greatest seasons came in 2003 when Angle had 55 catches for 991 yards and scored 19 touchdowns as the Rams finished 10-3. The year before, he had seven interceptions as a junior.

In 1994, Holliday rushed for 1,793 and scored an area-best 32 touchdowns while adding nine interceptions on defense. He went on to play for Kent State.

Before playing for the University of Florida and for parts of six seasons in the NFL, Ratliff was a two-way star for the Rams. He caught nine touchdown passes and had seven interceptions as a junior in 1997 and made first-team all-state in Division III as a senior when he had 46 catches for 859 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Kane led Whitehall to an 8-2 finish in 2002 and to its first playoff appearance in 18 years a year later.

Honorable mention: Charles Alston (WR/DB, 1993), Cameron Barker (TE/FB/LB, 2014), Domenik Hixon (WR/DB, 2001); coach Mike Lanza (1990-94)

LCL

*JOHNSTOWN -- Ross Franklin (RB, 2011), Marcus Hendren (RB, 2006), Mick Reilly (RB, 2003); coach Mike Carter (2002-present)

The only time the Johnnies reached a state semifinal came in Franklin's senior season, when he rushed for 3,416 yards and 51 touchdowns and was named Division IV district Offensive Player of the Year. He finished as the school's career leader in rushing (5,742) and touchdowns (76).

Hendren rushed for 1,002 yards as a junior and ran for 2,900 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior.

As a junior in 2002, Reilly rushed for 1,934 yards and 25 touchdowns and earned co-state Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Under Carter, the Johnnies are 113-44 in 14 seasons and have made all eight of their playoff appearances.

Honorable mention: Clayton Bullard (DL, 2014), Cody Farley (RB, 2014), Dustin Sheppard (2005); coach Scott Barrett (1993-2001)

*LICKING HEIGHTS -- Marcus Booker (RB, 1992), Dan Pennington (RB/LB, 2009), Aaron Tiller (DL, 2013); coach Darren Waters (2005-present)

As a senior, Booker led all area players in the regular season with 2,152 yards rushing on 250 carries and scored 35 touchdowns. He went on to be a standout at Wittenberg.

Pennington rushed for 1,901 yards and 28 touchdowns and added two receiving scores and 52 tackles on defense as a senior while earning Division III district Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Tiller helped the Hornets make back-to-back playoff appearances during his final two seasons. As a senior, he had 19.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.

Waters has guided Licking Heights to an 80-36 record with four playoff appearances, including last season when it reached a Division II, Region 5 semifinal and went 10-2.

Honorable mention: London Pearson (RB/DB, 2015), Ed Pennington (RB, 2001), Shawn Smith (QB/DB, 2008); Tom Beck (1989-99)

*NORTHRIDGE -- Chase Austin (RB, 2003), Alec Messerall (QB, 1999), Tommy Reese (RB, 2004); coach Roger "Buzz" Kirkhart (1997-2002)

The Vikings made the playoffs for the first time in 1999, with Messerall earning first-team all-district and second-team all-state honors in Division V. He was a four-year letterwinner who went on to play for Air Force.

Austin rushed for 1,461 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2003 as Northridge went 7-3 and won its second consecutive Mid-Buckeye Conference title.

Reese rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a senior when the Vikings finished 11-1.

Kirkhart led Northridge to three playoff appearances and a 35-29 record in five years and was named Division V district Coach of the Year in 2002. The Vikings went 10-1 in 1999 after going 2-8 the year before.

Honorable mention: Jonathan Endicott (DL/OL, 2001), Marshall Goodman (LB, 2002), Chris Weinberger (DB, 2000); coach Ed Daniher (2003-05)

*WATKINS MEMORIAL -- Charles Johnson (DB/RB, 1994), Mike Warner (RB, 1990), Corey Weber (RB, 2006); coach Jeff Severino (2008-present)

The Warriors enjoyed a 7-3 finish in 1990, when Warner rushed for 1,445 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. That season, he had two games in which he rushed for more than 300 yards.

Johnson was a key player as a junior in 1993 and then had nine interceptions and rushed for 1,052 yards and scored 17 touchdowns as a senior.

Weber had three seasons of at least 1,000 yards rushing, including 2006 when he had 1,036 yards and 13 scores as a senior. He went on to play for Wittenberg.

Severino has led Watkins Memorial to a 38-43 record with a playoff appearance in 2014. The Warriors finished 6-4 last year.

Honorable mention: Cameron Johnson (DB, 2014), Brenden Kemp (RB, 2012), Reno Reda (OL, 2012); coach Jeff Buchanan (2002-07)

At a glance

Below are the Football Mount Rushmore honorees for other LCL and MSL programs in the ThisWeek coverage area since 1989:

LCL

•GRANVILLE - Adam Alderman (WR, final prep season 2008), Nate Colon (RB, 1998), Scott McMullen (QB, 1998); coach Mike Hensley (1995-2008)

Honorable mention: Drew Anderson (WR, 2003), Cory Becher (QB, 2008), Austin Harrison (LB, 2009); coach J.R. Wait (2009-present)

•LAKEWOOD - Evan Barton (RB, 1993), Nick Brooks (OL/DL, 2001); Kyle Kneller (WR/DB, 2002); coach Gregg Forsythe (1996-2004)

Honorable mention: David Altman (DL/TE, 2001), Cody Devevoise (LB/RB, 2001), Josh Nichols (LB/DL, 1993)

•LICKING VALLEY - Troy Frenton (WR/DB, 1996), Michael Hinger (DB/QB, 2001), Storm Klein (RB, 2008); coach Randy Baughman (1989-present)

Honorable mention: Jake Butler (DB, 2002), Tim German (OL, 2007), Ty Griffith (WR/DB, 2013)

•NEWARK CATHOLIC - Kevin Bourne (DB/WR, 2012), Rob Kelly (RB/DB, 1991), Mark Nichols (RB, 2007); coach Bill Franks (2002-present)

Honorable mention: Josh Hendershot (OL, 2009), Ryan Jones (WR/DB, 1997), Jon Kempf (DB/WR, 1993); coach Jeff Buchanan (1992-2001)

•UTICA - Mike Heckman (RB, 1991), Jason Hoar (QB, 2010), Todd Londot (OL, 2000); coach Randy Felumlee (1989-2012)

Honorable mention: Scott Cline (WR/DB, 2010), Jason Shipley (LB, 2007), Dustin Walker (LB, 2002)

•HEATH - Charles Gresham (RB/WR, 2009), Erik Olsen (DB, 1989), Fred Stinson (LB/RB, 1990); coach Mark Collier (2001-present)

Honorable mention: Travis Drumm (LB, 2010), Nate Hunt (DL, 2010), Nathan Shaffer (WR, 1994); coach Pat Purcell (1990-93)

MSL

•GROVE CITY CHRISTIAN - Jessie Barns (RB, 2009), Brice Bowman (WR/QB, 2009), Tre Roberts (RB/DB, 2014); coach Clyde Lucas (2007-10)

Honorable mention: Christopher Bowman (QB, 2009), Zach Casparro (OL/DL, 2011), Evan Wiggall (DL, 2009)

•HAMILTON TOWNSHIP - Deric Phouthavong (WR, 2014), Thomas Smith (QB/DB, 2002), Todd Wiler (DL, 1989); coach Nate Hillerich (2010-present)

Honorable mention: Micky Crum (DL/TE, 2013), Jake Long (DB/RB, 2015), Tarry Summers (DL, 2003); coach Bruce Kotlinski (1989-90)

•HARVEST PREP - Curtis Jones (WR/DB, 2015), Hunter Pharis (RB/TE/LB, 2014) Gideon Woodson-Levey (LB/RB, 2013); coach Milan Smith (2014-present)

Honorable mention: Ethan Brown (TE, 2012), Terry Harper (LB/RB, 2011), Zach Yousey (WR, 2012); coach Jack Johnson (2006-13)

•WORTHINGTON CHRISTIAN - Brian Lambright (OL/DL, 2014), Emerson Patrick (RB/LB, junior in 2015), Reed Tucker (WR/DB, junior in 2015); coach Brian Stier (2014-15)
Honorable mention: Justin Eisel (WR/DB, 2015), Dominic Francis (LB, 2014), Dominick Holsten (LB, 2015)

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek