With the first undefeated regular season in the Heath High School football team's 53-year history on the line Oct. 28 against Johnstown, Aaron Latiolais was ready for the challenge.
With the first undefeated regular season in the Heath High School football team's 53-year history on the line Oct. 28 against Johnstown, Aaron Latiolais was ready for the challenge.
The 5-foot-9, 172-pound senior quarterback accounted for 336 yards of offense, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for another, as the Bulldogs beat Johnstown 35-31 to wrap up the LCL-Cardinal Division championship and earn the No. 1 seed for the Division IV, Region 15 playoffs.
It was an example -- but far from the only one -- of what Latiolais did time and again this fall to help Heath double its win total from a year ago and make the postseason for the first time since 2010.
Latiolais not only was named district Offensive Player of the Year, but he also starred for a defense that gave up an average of just 12.6 points during the regular season and even returned a punt for a touchdown.
The all-around abilities of Latiolais earned him ThisWeek Super 25 captain honors.
"As amazing as it was, we did think he had that kind of potential," coach Mark Collier said. "The most impressive thing might be that for as much as he threw, he still completed 68 percent of his passes. He never came off the field, and everybody knew the offense would revolve around him."
Latiolais, who emerged as a key player as a freshman when Heath went 2-8 and was a starter the next two seasons when the Bulldogs posted back-to-back 5-5 finishes, suffered a sprained knee on the third play of his team's playoff opener against Duncan Falls Philo on Nov. 4.
His effectiveness was hindered for the remainder of the first half and he didn't play in the second half as the Bulldogs lost to the Electrics 42-7 to finish 10-1.
The injury was the only thing that truly stopped Latiolais all season considering he rushed for 1,286 yards and 20 touchdowns and completed 115 of 170 passes for 1,973 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the regular season.>> The Top Team: Patriots persevered through adversity
As a defensive back, Latiolais had 67 tackles and six interceptions during the regular season.
"It was an amazing experience to be able to win the league and make the playoffs," said Latiolais, who also was first-team all-district as a quarterback last season.
"This offseason I put on 10 pounds and really wanted to work on my passing game. I went to football camps this summer and worked on my mechanics, and I think it really showed. I also had a pretty good year on the defensive side. I loved being able to play both ways."Also on first team
The 5-10, 170-pound junior slotback/wide receiver was a multi-dimensional playmaker for Groveport.
Aekins had 69 catches for 1,056 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed 22 times for 162 yards and a score as the Cruisers finished 6-4.
Including punt and kickoff returns, he totaled 1,871 all-purpose yards and scored 13 touchdowns. He also threw a touchdown pass and was first-team all-OCC-Capital as well as all-district and all-state in Division II.
"Izayah did everything he could do for us and was instrumental in our offensive production, not only through his ability to catch passes and turn them into huge gains, but also by giving us great field position many times when opponents dared to kick or punt it to him," coach Bryan Schoonover said.
Anderson emerged as one of the area's top wide receivers, helping Hilliard Bradley finish with a program-best 9-2 record and reach the playoffs for the first time, losing 49-21 to Pickerington North in a Division I, Region 3 first-round game Nov. 4.
The 6-1, 170-pound junior had 77 receptions for 1,070 yards and 15 touchdowns and was named first-team all-state, all-district and all-OCC-Cardinal, as the Jaguars won their first league title, sharing the championship with Dublin Jerome.
"Daevon is extremely athletic and gets the most from his abilities," coach Mike LoParo said. "He has a great ability to challenge downfield and is a good route-runner. He also has great hands and is a challenge for anyone to cover."
The driving force behind Harvest Prep's greatest season was this 5-10, 170-pound junior who was first-team all-state and district Offensive Player of the Year in Division VII.
Bangura rushed for state records of 4,145 yards and 57 touchdowns. The 336 points he scored through 13 games broke the record of 333 set in 1921 by Toledo Waite's Cully Berndt.
Harvest Prep finished 10-4 with a 48-7 loss to Warren JFK in a state semifinal Nov. 26.
Bangura rushed for 315 yards against Division II playoff qualifier Franklin Heights and 160 in one half against Division III playoff qualifier Bexley.
"He's a special kid with an unusual work ethic," coach Milan Smith said. "He's got a really high threshold for endurance and is hyper-explosive."
This 6-1, 245-pound senior running back put a big stamp on DeSales' record book this fall.
After rushing for 97 yards and a touchdown in a 23-14 loss to Akron Hoban in a Division III state semifinal Nov. 26, Booth finished with a program-record 40 touchdowns. He had 28 scores during the regular season despite sitting out 13 quarters because of blowout victories.
Booth was district Offensive Player of the Year and first-team all-state. He finished the season with a program-record 2,436 yards rushing as the Stallions, who reached a state semifinal for the 11th time, went 13-1.
"I think what he's doing is very impressive, as impressive as anything I've been able to be a part of," coach Ryan Wiggins said.
Led by this 6-1, 195-pound senior who rarely left the field, Columbus West made the playoffs for the first time.
At quarterback, Brown completed 39 of 62 passes for 857 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed 256 times for 2,052 yards and 29 scores during the regular season. He was named Division II district Offensive Player of the Year and first-team all-state.
West finished 9-2 with a 31-0 loss to New Albany in the first round of the Region 7 playoffs Nov. 4.
Also a punt returner and safety, Brown added five interceptions, two sacks and 37 tackles.
"He doesn't come off the field," coach Mike Flusche said. "He's incredibly talented athletically. He's definitely our fastest kid and best overall athlete."
The 6-1, 201-pound senior was Upper Arlington's top running back and leader in both receiving yards and all-purpose yards.
Caldwell rushed for 1,312 yards and 21 touchdowns on 149 carries and caught 17 passes for 327 yards and two scores. He accounted for more than half of the Golden Bears' 2,545 yards rushing, and his 17 receptions were second on the team.
Caldwell shared OCC-Central Player of the Year honors with Hilliard Davidson's Ryan Royer and was first-team all-state and all-district in Division I.
The Bears finished 8-2.
"I'm proud of his team-first mentality," coach Joel Cutler said. "For a two-year starter at safety to move over (to offense) and do those things because we as a team needed him to, it was unselfish and impressive."
Corcella led Bexley at linebacker and on the offensive line during a record-setting season.
The Lions were 10-0 for the first time, won a second consecutive MSL-Ohio championship and won their first playoff game, defeating Whitehall 31-21 on Nov. 5. They finished 11-1, losing to Hamilton Township 26-20 on Nov. 12 in a Division III, Region 11 semifinal.
The 5-10, 170-pound senior had 135 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He was first-team all-state, all-district and all-league.
"His work ethic makes him great," coach John Smith said. "He refuses to be outworked and plays with a relentless passion. I don't think he ever came out of a game for an injury or for just being tired."
Despite battling nagging injuries at times, Dukes earned a spot on the Super 25 for the second consecutive season.
The 5-10, 224-pound junior running back rushed for 2,147 yards and 25 touchdowns a year ago and finished with 2,194 yards and 32 scores this season as Ready went 8-4.
Also the Division VI district Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-state pick, Dukes averaged 11.4 yards per carry during the regular season.
"Considering during the regular season he was only able to play in eight-and-a-half games, it was a very solid year for him, without a doubt," coach Brian Cross said. "He's a good running back and ... we look for him to get stronger. He has a chance to be one of the best running backs I've ever coached."
This 6-0, 195-pound senior running back rushed for 2,614 yards and 35 touchdowns on 279 carries, helping Johnstown to a 10-2 season.
The Johnnies finished second (3-1) in the LCL-Cardinal behind Heath (4-0), but not because of Franklin. He ran for 316 yards and three scores on 30 carries in a 35-31 loss to Heath on Oct. 28.
Franklin was first-team all-state, all-district and all-league. He helped the Johnnies reach a Division IV, Region 15 semifinal, which they lost to Steubenville 26-8 on Nov. 11.
Last season, he rushed for 772 yards and 10 touchdowns on 107 carries.
"Justin has great vision and very good acceleration," coach Mike Carter said "You put that together with his great instincts, and that's why he is so successful."
This 6-3, 239-pound senior defensive lineman often burst through opposing offensive lines for Dublin Coffman, which lost to Huber Heights Wayne 52-10 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal Nov. 11 to finish 9-3.
Frye, a Duke commit, recorded 70 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, nine sacks and two forced fumbles for the Shamrocks, who finished second in the OCC-Central.
Frye was first-team all-state and all-district and shared league Defensive Player of the Year honors with Hilliard Davidson's Bosston Nolty.
"Ben is an outstanding athlete, but also gives maximum effort on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom," coach Mark Crabtree said. "He has incredible tenacity, and it shows in how hard he plays."
The 6-0, 160-pound senior wide receiver helped Dublin Jerome earn its first playoff berth since 2008 and finish a program-best 10-2.
The Celtics posted their first postseason win, beating Findlay 42-7 on Nov. 4, before losing to Lorain 30-14 in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal Nov. 11.
Henderson had 65 catches for 1,386 yards and 14 touchdowns and was second-team all-state and first-team all-district and all-OCC-Cardinal. He added two touchdowns on punt returns and averaged 46.8 yards per kickoff return and 22 per punt return.
Jerome shared the league title with Hilliard Bradley.
"Ty was one of the key contributors to a historic season at Jerome by greatly impacting our offensive and special teams units," coach Bob Gecewich said.
With this 6-2, 190-pound junior cornerback leading the way, Pickerington Central advanced to the state tournament for the fifth time.
Henderson, a Michigan State commit, had five interceptions during the regular season and two more in the postseason. He was named Division I district Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-state.
Henderson also led Central in kickoff return average (24.4 yards) and punt return average (16.7).
The Tigers lost to Cincinnati St. Xavier 29-27 in a state semifinal Nov. 25 to finish 12-2.
"He's one of the top all-around football players in our program," coach Jay Sharrett said. "He's still got another year. He plays on special teams, offense and defense and is sharp on every play."
The Division IV district Defensive Player of the Year led the way on both sides of the ball for state champion Hartley.
The 6-3, 230-pound senior started at guard for an offense that piled up 5,074 yards through 13 games.
Kirkbride had 61 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, nine pass deflections, one fumble recovery and one interception at linebacker through 13 games while leading Hartley to its fifth consecutive regional title. He was first-team all-state on defense.
The Hawks beat Steubenville 24-21 in the state final Dec. 2 to finish 13-2, as Kirkbride had a forced fumble and returned a missed field goal 59 yards.
"Cody is a three-year starter, a rock-solid stalwart on our offensive line and of our linebackers," coach Brad Burchfield said.
Knox was a standout on both sides of the ball, helping Franklin Heights to its first winning season since 2001.
The 6-0, 205-pound senior rushed for 1,293 yards and 15 scores on 212 carries. He was second-team all-state on offense, first-team all-district and OCC-Capital co-Player of the Year.
The Falcons finished 10-2, losing to Massillon Perry 66-28 on Nov. 11 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal. They were second (4-1) in the OCC-Capital behind New Albany (5-0).
Knox also had 61 tackles at linebacker.
"Brenden is by far the best player on the field wherever he goes," coach Tennyson Varney said. "It's crazy how he could make plays on defense and go over and excel on offense. He can play on either side of the ball at the next level."
Grandview's opponents had to plan for Lachey on offense and defense.
The 6-4, 235-pound junior had 63 tackles and 10 sacks as a defensive lineman, earning him Division VI district Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-state and all-league honors.
He also had 24 catches for 280 yards and two touchdowns at tight end and rushed for 197 yards and three scores on 12 carries.
"James isn't just a big kid, but he's a really good athlete," coach Jason Peters said. "He does things naturally that some kids work their whole life to do. That might be enough for some, but he keeps working hard to get better."
The Bobcats finished 6-4 and were fourth (3-3) in the MSL-Ohio behind champion Bexley (6-0).
The 5-8, 170-pound senior running back led Whitehall to its first playoff appearance since 2003.
Muhammad rushed for 1,422 yards and 21 touchdowns on 201 carries and was second-team all-state and first-team all-district, as the Rams lost to MSL-Ohio rival Bexley 31-21 in a Division III, Region 11 first-round game Nov. 5. He also shared league Back of the Year honors with Bexley's Micah Fliegel.
"Without Siraj's outstanding production on offense and his tremendous leadership, we would have been hard-pressed to (go 8-3 and make the playoffs)," coach Rod Lightfoot said. "Through his relentless work ethic and unwavering dedication, both on and off the field, Siraj established himself as a true role model for current and future Whitehall Rams."
At 6-5 and 315 pounds, Nogaj anchored an offensive line that paved the way for Johnstown to rush for 4,683 yards.
The senior Iowa State recruit was a starter since the first game of his freshman season. He started 46 games as the Johnnies earned three consecutive playoff berths, finishing 10-2 this fall with a 26-8 loss to Steubenville on Nov. 11 in a Division IV, Region 15 semifinal.
Nogaj had 124 pancake blocks and graded out at 80 percent blocking. He was first-team all-state and all-district and LCL-Cardinal Lineman of the Year.
"Jeff's agility is amazing considering how big he is," coach Mike Carter said. "He has very good feet, and his strength is off the charts. He has a big heart and really took on a big brother role."
The 6-4, 225-pound senior for Hilliard Bradley was one of the state's top quarterbacks.
Phillis completed 205 of 315 passes for 2,508 yards with 27 touchdowns and four interceptions, helping the Jaguars go 9-2, earn a share of their first league championship and reach the playoffs for the first time. He also is Bradley's career leader in passing yards (4,517) and touchdown passes (46).
Phillis was first-team all-state and district Offensive Player of the Year in Division I as well as OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year.
"Will is the kind of kid you get once in a career, if you're lucky," coach Mike LoParo said. "He can make any throw on the field and is a really intelligent kid who can run the offense for you."
Ramsey rarely left the field as Eastmoor Academy won the City-South, made the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and finished 8-3.
The 5-11, 195-pound senior was first-team all-state, all-district and all-league at quarterback, completing 82 of 161 passes for 1,490 yards with 13 touchdowns and rushing for 964 yards and 18 scores during the regular season. He added two scoring runs in the Warriors' 19-15 loss to Beechcroft in a Division III, Region 11 first-round game Nov. 5.
At linebacker, Ramsey had 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception in the regular season.
"He did a great job," coach Jim Miranda said. "He's a kid who's really a focused kid and probably one of the best players we've had."
The 5-11, 195-pound senior running back helped Hilliard Davidson defend its OCC-Central title and earn its ninth consecutive playoff berth.
Royer rushed for 1,207 yards and 20 touchdowns on 227 carries to lead the Wildcats, who lost to Dublin Coffman 24-3 in a Division I, Region 3 first-round game Nov. 4 to finish 8-3. He was named second-team all-state and first-team all-district and shared league Offensive Player of the Year honors with Upper Arlington's E.J. Caldwell.
"Ryan was a workhorse for the program for the past three years," coach Brian White said. "Aside from what Ryan has done for the program on the field, he has also provided the example of what our program looks for in work ethic and leadership."
This 6-2, 245-pound senior lineman was the lynchpin on both sides of the ball for a Beechcroft team that won its third consecutive City-North title.
The Division III state and district Defensive Player of the Year, Smoot-Baker had 77 tackles, 34 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in the regular season. He also played every snap on the offensive line as the Cougars went 10-2 and made it to the second round of the Region 11 playoffs.
Baker was first-team all-district on offense as a junior.
"The No. 1 thing is his work ethic in the offseason," coach Trevor White said. "He's physical, can control his part of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, excels as a defensive tackle and can set the edge outside as an end."
Before suffering a season-ending knee injury Oct. 14 in a 31-0 win over Olentangy, the 6-1, 220-pound linebacker was living up to what has helped him become one of the area's top junior recruits.
Warinner had 65 tackles, eight tackles for loss and five sacks to help set the tone for an Olentangy Liberty team that lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 24-14 in a Division I state semifinal Nov. 25 to finish 13-1. The Patriots beat four eventual playoff qualifiers with him in uniform.
Warinner, who was first-team all-district and second-team all-state, already has offers from six Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
"He's a disciplined player who does a lot of things the right way," coach Steve Hale said. "He's just a pure football player."
After missing nearly all of last season with an injury, the 6-0, 175-pound junior for Pickerington North proved to be one of the area's top quarterbacks.
Weirick was 170-for-315 passing for 2,827 yards with 28 touchdowns and rushed for 364 yards and seven scores while being named OCC-Ohio co-Player of the Year. He also was second-team all-state and all-district.
Weirick helped the Panthers make their fourth playoff appearance and finish 8-4. He threw for 342 yards and five scores in a 49-21 win over Hilliard Bradley in a first-round Division I, Region 3 game Nov. 4.
"He made district honors as a freshman and you don't see freshman making it, but he did," coach Tom Phillips said. "He's a leader, there's no doubt about that."
The 5-11, 245-pound senior two-way lineman was a key force for Dublin Scioto on both sides of the ball, helping the Irish earn a Division II playoff berth.
Zimmerman stood out more on defense, where he recorded 47 tackles -- including 11 for loss -- and one sack, and was named first-team all-state and all-OCC-Cardinal as well as district Defensive Player of the Year.
Scioto defeated Massillon Washington 31-21 in a Region 7 first-round game Nov. 4 before losing to New Albany 31-7 in a regional semifinal Nov. 11 to finish 8-4.
"Brian was a four-year starter for us," coach Karl Johnson said. "He brought a competitive fire and energy every day. He is a physical player that makes those around him better."Honorable mention
Dylan Akers (Franklin Heights, Sr., QB), Michael Ayers (Walnut Ridge, Sr., DB/WR), Cael Baker (Gahanna, Sr., LB), Daulton Brown (Heath, Sr., LB/OL), Jerome Buckner (Columbus Academy, Jr., WR/KR/PR), Thomas Casimir (Hartley, Sr., OL/DL), Ryan Corkrean (DeSales, Sr., LB/TE), Mikele Cumberland (Hamilton Township, Sr., WR/DB), Brandon DeHass (New Albany, Sr., RB), Marquette Dixon (Hartley, Sr., RB), Sam Durst (Olentangy, Sr., WR), Morgan Ellison (Pickerington Central, Sr., RB ), Keegan Farrell (Hilliard Darby, Sr., OL), Micah Fliegel (Bexley, Sr., RB), Connor Gessells (Pickerington North, Sr., WR), Kyle Gibson (Newark Catholic, Sr., RB), Josiah Harrell (Licking Heights, Sr., LB/RB), Zach Harrison (Olentangy Orange, So., DL), Thomas Henderson (Dublin Jerome, Sr., DB/WR), Bryce Houston (Olentangy Orange, Jr., LB), Garon Howard (Pickerington Central, Sr., LB), Dominique Long (Westerville South, Sr., DB/WR), Ke'Shawn Moore (Licking Heights, Sr., RB/DB), Derrius Mullins (DeSales, Sr., DL), Bosston Nolty (Hilliard Davidson, Sr., LB), Jack Peterson (Granville, Sr., WR/DB), Hayden Schmidt (Olentangy, Sr., OL), Luke Sheridan (Lancaster, Sr., DL/OL), Caleb Stoneburner (Dublin Coffman, Sr., WR/P), Jack Trombetti (Worthington Kilbourne, Sr., LB), Brendon White (Olentangy Liberty, Sr., QB/RB/WR/DB), Victor White (New Albany, Sr., RB), Johnny Wiseman (Olentangy Liberty, Jr., WR/DB), Steven Wolfe (Marysville, Sr., DL), D'ante Woods (Newark, Jr., RB).Past captains
2015: Deeb Haber, Olentangy; 2014: Gunnar Hoak, Dublin Coffman; 2013: Jared Drake, Westerville Central; 2012: Ja'Wuan Woodley, Hartley; 2011: Ross Franklin, Johnstown; 2010: Jayshon Jackson, Westerville South; 2009: Matt Ferguson, Pickerington North; 2008: Josh Kusan, DeSales; 2007: Jeremy Ebert, Hilliard Darby; 2006: Kasey Wendal, Westland; 2005: Jordan Gafford, Worthington Kilbourne; 2004: Christen Haywood, Hilliard Davidson; 2003: Jack Rafferty, Coffman; 2002: Brady Quinn, Coffman; 2001: Erick Phillips, Davidson; 2000: Maurice Hall, Brookhaven; 1999: Nathan Poole, Grove City; 1998: Kyle Slager, Upper Arlington; 1997: Jesse Kline, Upper Arlington; 1996: Derek Combs, Grove City; 1995: Nick Goings, Dublin Scioto, and Andy Katzenmoyer, Westerville South; 1994: Goings, Dublin; 1993: Steve Baird, Hilliard.