Among the players the Beechcroft High School football team will be losing to graduation are quarterback Kyle Barrett and the Division III district Defensive Player of the Year in lineman Aarin Smoot-Baker.

Among the players the Beechcroft High School football team will be losing to graduation are quarterback Kyle Barrett and the Division III district Defensive Player of the Year in lineman Aarin Smoot-Baker.

The way the Cougars see it, though, there's no reason to expect a step backward next season.

Beechcroft, which was the fifth seed in the Division III, Region 11 playoffs, lost to top-seeded DeSales 38-12 in a regional semifinal Nov. 12 to finish 10-2 overall.

"We lose a pretty good amount of seniors, but it's been that way the last couple years," coach Trevor White said. "We've got to develop a few leaders, but we'll have a few guys back, so that's a step in the right direction. We'll take a few days and then we'll start building for next year."

The Cougars opened the playoffs Nov. 5 with a 19-15 win at fourth-seeded Eastmoor Academy and became the first team this season to hold DeSales scoreless during the first quarter before allowing 17 second-quarter points.

DeSales running back Alonzo Booth rushed for 228 yards and four touchdowns as it improved to 12-0.

Barrett passed for 103 yards and one touchdown and rushed for a score.

"We knew we had to just come out and try to play fast and play hard," said Smoot-Baker, who started on both the offensive and defensive lines. "(It was great) just being with my brothers (on this team), who are like my second family."

With Barrett and Smoot-Baker leading the way, the Cougars went 6-0 to win the City League-North Division, ahead of Northland (5-1), Whetstone (4-2), Mifflin (3-3), Centennial (2-4), East (1-5) and Linden-McKinley (0-6). Beechcroft has won league titles in each of White's three seasons as coach and has won 20 consecutive league games.

The Cougars' only regular-season loss was a 41-19 decision Oct. 7 at Massillon Washington, which went on to make the Division II playoffs.

Other seniors who were named first-team all-league along with Barrett and Smoot-Baker were Jujuan Bell (WR/DB) and Tavion Bryant (DL/TE), while seniors Markell Mitchell (LB), Elonzo Reynolds (OL/DL) and Tre'Quez Parks (WR/LB) were second-team all-league and seniors Tim Hairston III (DB/WR) and Quamell Holder (LB/RB) were honorable mention all-league.

Smoot-Baker and Bryant both were named first-team all-district. Bell made second-team all-district at wide receiver after scoring eight touchdowns, and Barrett was special mention all-district.

Junior running back Shemar Samuel, a first-team all-league and second-team all-district selection who finished with more than 1,300 yards rushing and scored 15 touchdowns, should be among the top returnees next year.

Junior Datrey Long (WR/DB) was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, sophomore Elijah Hairston (OL/LB) was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, Deonteze Newsom (OL/DL) was second-team all-league and junior Sincere Henderson (DB/RB) and sophomore Deonandre Moore (OL/DL) were honorable mention all-league.

Against DeSales, Long caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from Barrett.

Barrett finished with more than 1,500 yards passing and 19 touchdowns and rushed for six scores.

The only other players on the postseason roster listed as quarterbacks were sophomore Jovaughn Hill and freshman D.J. Butler.

Another eligible returnee who was a key player was junior Jermayne Crowell (OL/DL).

"From where we started to where we are now, I couldn't be prouder of the guys," White said. "We'll have a lot of guys coming back who started for us. It's their time now."

Vikings football teamseeking new leaders

The Northland football team will be losing its best player and top leader, Elijah Burton (DB/RB), to graduation.

The Vikings also will be looking for a new coach this offseason.

Kevin Tooson, who led the program to a 74-67 record that included playoff appearances in 2010 and '13, announced that he is stepping down to pursue a professional opportunity in administration.

The Vikings finished 6-4 overall and went 5-1 in the City-North to finish as league runners-up for the fourth consecutive year.

"We had some lean years in the beginning, but Northland is a winning program," Tooson said. "Overall, it was a solid season. Again, it was not what we wanted, but we've had four consecutive winning seasons. Hopefully, a different voice can come in and take Northland to the next level. Now the challenge is to make it a championship program."

The Vikings lost to Whitehall (33-12 on Sept. 2) and Eastmoor (42-14 on Sept. 9), a pair of teams that made the Division III, Region 11 playoffs, but won their next five games to stay in playoff contention in Division II, Region 7.

Northland lost to Hunting Valley University School, which made the Division III, Region 10 playoffs, 39-34 on Oct. 21 before falling to Beechcroft 37-12 on Oct. 28 in a game that decided the City-North title.

Among the seniors are Burton, who made first-team all-league and second-team all-district, as well as second-team all-league honorees Tih'rael Carter-Brown (DB) and Albert Adusei (WR/DB) and honorable mention all-league selections Kabinet Diakite (DB) and Taevon Ransom (OL/DL).

Juniors Ricardo Robinson (WR/DB) and Michael Williams (DB) were first-team all-league and special mention all-district, sophomore Jordan McCall (OL/DL) and D.J. Combs (LB) were first-team all-league, sophomores J.J. Branham (RB) and Kwabena Adade (OL/DL) were second-team all-league and sophomores Alfie Banks (DL) and Jesse Prewitt (WR) were honorable mention all-league.

Also eligible to return is junior quarterback Mike White.

Branham, who transferred from Whetstone during the offseason and had to sit out the first five games because of the Ohio High School Athletic Association's transfer rule, already has received interest from Division I colleges, according to Tooson.

"We saw the emergence of a couple guys that were explosive on offense," Tooson said. "J.J. Branham's future is bright, Mike Williams improved greatly and Ricardo Robinson is a prolific receiver."

Africentric basketballplayers pick colleges

Five Africentric Early College athletes have announced their decisions to play women's basketball at the college level.

Kynnedy Azubike will play for Akron, Chyna Chambers will compete for Rio Grande, De'jae Denham will play for Ohio University, Amari Grace will play for West Virginia State and Leah Morrow will compete for St. Francis in Pennsylvania.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek