Royals aim for championship in final NBC season


In his sixth year at the helm, Elmwood football coach Greg Bishop saw his Royals come one loss away from winning a Northern Buckeye Conference title.

This year, in Elmwood’s final season in the NBC before moving on to the Blanchard Valley Conference, they are going to get one more shot.

“We will contend for a league championship. We have a lot of experience returning and great leaders on our team that want to elevate Elmwood football to the next level,” Bishop said.

“The NBC is tough year in and year. Most teams in the NBC return a great core of players. We have to be focused every week. We will get everyone’s best shot each week,” he said.

“We return a lot of experience across the board. The extra weeks of practice during the 2021 playoffs allowed us to develop more players for the upcoming season. We return many key positions on the offense and defense.”

Last year the Royals finished 10-2 overall, including 5-1 in the NBC, helping Bishop to a 21-29 accumulative record in his six years, plus 12-18 in three years at North Baltimore prior to that.

However, there are multiple NBC schools that will have something to say about that.

After a two-year hiatus from winning a league title, Eastwood is hoping this is the year they can bring a Northern Buckeye Conference trophy back to their corner of Wood County.

It is not as if the Eagles have not been successful — Eastwood is 46-11 during coach Craig Rutherford’s first five years at the helm, winning NBC titles in 2017 and 2019.

That includes a Division V state runner-up finish in 2017, regional tournament appearance in 2020, and undefeated regular seasons in 2017 and 2019.

Last year, the Eagles were 8-3 overall, 4-2 in the NBC, and they return 17 lettermen.

“We have a lot of experience back on the offensive line and in the offensive backfield. And that’s from a team that averaged over 43 points a game,” Rutherford said.

“If we can get our athletes the ball with a little bit of space, I think our offense can be pretty good again. I also have really liked the aggressiveness of our defensive front.

“We gave up too many rushing yards last year after some of our seniors got injured and can’t have that again if we want to win the league. I think the defensive front is excited for the challenge.”

The NBC is full of returning raw talent.

“Our league keeps getting better. There’s a lot of depth at the top, but we think we can compete with anyone,” Rutherford said.

“With as much as Elmwood has coming back, I think they have to be picked as the favorites. Rossford, Lake and Genoa all return good quarterbacks, so I think they will be more dangerous offensively.

“I also don’t think Otsego loses as much as some people might guess. Their returning players on defense are really good.”

Last year Lake finished 2-7 but led eventual Northern Buckeye Conference champion Otsego at halftime and only lost to runner-up Elmwood by a field goal, 31-28.

Plus, the Flyers had one other game they felt was winnable that was not played. Fourth-year coach Josh Andrews (11-18) wants to learn from the heartache and put those tough losses behind him.

“The 2021 season was a tough season. We were unable to play week 10 due to our opponent, Fostoria, having COVID in their program,” Andrews said.

“We competed each week, but inconsistencies kept us from being able to come out with a win. We played a very rigorous schedule with six of our seven losses to teams that made deep runs in the playoffs.

“Credit our kids for continuing to buy into a philosophy that never quits and competes with pride, no matter the score or team record.”

Andrews says his team will have to learn how to win against the gauntlet called the NBC.

“The NBC is a solid conference top to bottom. Each week we will have to come ready to compete in order to come out with a win,” Andrews said.

“The league has numerous talented coaching staffs and solid programs to compete with. Each week will be a great measuring tool to see where we rank amongst talented programs in the NBC.”

Football preview

The Sentinel-Tribune’s high school football preview will be in the Aug. 27 newspaper.

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