At the annual SBC boys basketball coaches and media night, area coaches voted the Tigers as the heavy favorite to win the league.
Returning two starters and eight lettermen to a team that went 20-6 and 13-1 in the league, sharing the conference title with Perkins, the Tigers could bring home their first outright title since 2007, while looking for a return trip to the regionals.
“We lost our three top scorers in Aaron Casey, Aaron Driftmeyer and Collin McCready, but we think we can replace them with quality kids,” head coach Bobby James said Sunday night at the Catawba Island Club.
Among the returners are seniors Cody Thompson, the 6-foot-1 Tiger quarterback, and Ryan VanCauwenbergh, both of which started last season for Huron.
The Tigers have some height this year that will be hard to guard.
Junior Jack Springer stands at 6-2 and comes with varsity experience, as does Andrew Dowell (6-0) and Zach Souter (6-4).
“I think we'll be big,” James said. “Our JV team was 21-1 (last year) so we think we'll be pretty good. Other than that it should be a good year for us and the league this year. I think the league is going to be way up this year.”
The coaches and media disagreed on the rest of the order, but Clyde and Perkins were in the top three of both polls.
In the coaches poll, Clyde was second followed by Perkins, St. Mary Central Catholic, Port Clinton, Edison, Oak Harbor and Margaretta.
The media, however, put Perkins second followed by Clyde, SMCC, Port Clinton, Oak Harbor, Margaretta and Edison.
Perkins, which finished 21-6, 13-1 last season, shared the SBC title with Huron last year and won it outright in 2011.
The Pirates return the two-time SBC Player of the Year in 6-3 guard Nic Williams, but the biggest question will be who will take over at the point.
“We really don't have anybody,” Pirates' coach Scott McVeigh said. “We have Nic, who hasn't practiced yet because he's got a bum ankle right now. So we have basically two varsity kids in the gym with Nic Williams and Alex Speer. We have a bunch of kids that we don't know where they fit in to the mix as far as varsity or JV, until we see what we get from football.
“David Doster, we just don't know. He may not see a minute all year because of his ACL. Who knows, I don't know, and I don't think he knows. As of now, we've lost out starting point guard for the last three years.”
The Pirates return key post players Kyle Lewis and Chase Green who both earned starts last year.
As for Clyde, coach Ryan Carter won't get much time to rest after coaching the Fliers to the second round of the football playoffs this weekend.
“We have some kids coming back but depending on how we come out of football season is how we'll go from there,” Carter said. “My staff has done a phenomenal job with me doing both (sports) right now. They are doing all the little things in the preseason and getting things ready for us that coaches hate to do.”
SMCC (13-10, 6-8) could also shake things up in the conference this year.
The Panthers return six lettermen including 6-4 senior Denarius Harris, who was first-team all-SBC last season.
SMCC could also get some big minutes from 6-4 sophomore Trenton Zimmerman, who moved up from the JV team this year.
The Panthers also return Melvin Jackson (5-11), Brett St. Clair (6-1), Trevor Fitzthum (5-11) and Nick Bostater (6-6).
“We have a little bit of height and we have some pretty good guards,” Panthers’ coach Lyle Falknor said. “We just have to see how it mixes all together. I think we could be pretty good this year in the league. It just depends on our consistency. We have to be able to be consistent to compete in the upper level of this league. I'm looking forward to it.”
Other thoughts from around the league:
Edison (4-19, 2-12): It's Kyle Hammond's first year as head coach, but he's been around the league a long time, coaching previously at Margaretta and Huron. Hammond will be Edison’s fourth coach in as many seasons when the Chargers tip off in a couple weeks.
“I've been in this league a long time,” he said. “It's been about 10 years since I've played. I was fortunate enough to come back. I am very excited to take on this new role.”
Margaretta (9-15, 3-11): Steve Keller is back for a second year with the Polar Bears, who struggled in the league but came on strong at the end of the season. Margaretta returns three key lettermen in Dylan Bailey, Austin Spicer and Logan Brauer.
“If we can start this year like we finished last year, both mentally and from a competitive standpoint, I like our guys. We've got to make sure we do that,” Keller said. “Probably the biggest key for us this year will be our ability to be physical.
“We are not real big and we've got to make sure we play a certain way. But we really, really like our guys. I'll go in a foxhole with these guys any day.”
Oak Harbor (11-12, 7-7): The Rockets return Cole Weirich and Josh Sarahman, but will need help filling the other positions.
“I realized I am probably one of the only guys losing my top two scorers,” coach Eric Sweet said. “We are going to have to find a way to score the basketball this year.”
Port Clinton (5-16, 4-10): The Redskins had a rough year last year with a very young squad, but will look to climb the SBC standings after a year of experience.
“We return seven lettermen, but we are still playing with a lot of young guys,” coach Troy Diels said. “We've got a few kids that are still a little banged up and dealing with some injuries, one of which is (5-10 senior) Brock Moore. He suffered a compound fracture in June. Pretty severe, pretty gruesome. We'll get him back at some point.”