Otsego eyes 3rd consecutive title


TONTOGANY — Chasing down a third straight Northern Buckeye Conference championship may not be out of the question.

Despite losing All-Ohioans Joseph Dzierwa, Trent Leiter and Devin Coon to graduation, the Knights return 14 lettermen, including eight on defense.

Otsego’s senior key players include offensive lineman and linebacker Clay Battin, running back and linebacker Blake Steele, defensive back and wide receiver Brady Nicely, running back and linebacker Lee Borders and two-way lineman Tyler Shaffer.

Juniors are quarterback Devin Farley and defensive back Devin Farley, wide receiver and defensive lineman Jack Simpson, wide receiver and defensive back Tyler Michael and two-way linemen Jaxon Jeremy and Jaydin Pinkey.

Battin, Nicely, Steele and Borders were all-league honorees a year ago.

First-year coach Josh Lindke says Steele and Farley have been his two most improved players as August practice begins.

“We are looking forward to watching Devin Farley develop at quarterback,” said Lindke, who coached quarterbacks as an assistant coach under head coach Greg Dempsey at Toledo Central Catholic. Lindke has confidence in Farley.

“He was a defensive player (safety) last year who got some time, but he is obviously going to have to play a huge role for us on offense this year.

“He’s a solid kid, level-headed, steady, doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low, and a kind of really lead by example kind of guy.

“He’s a runner, he can throw a little bit, he does well in the pass game. and he does well when he’s running the football, so we’re excited about him.”

In Lindke’s multiple spread offense, Farley takes over for quarterback Joseph Dzierwa, who graduated and is now playing baseball at Michigan State University.

Farley has a strong contingent of wide receivers, including Simpson, Owen Atkinson, Kenton Wallace, Coen Feehan, Michael, and Nicely.

“They are all around great kids,” Lindke said. “They all have an ability to make big plays and cause defenses fits for different reasons.

“Jack Simpson is going to be a good threat. We had him at outside receiver last year, but we are going to try and move him into like a hybrid receiver, tight end kind of role.

“He should be a big threat for us downfield and he’ll be doing the run game stuff as well.”

Lindke says Feehan, a junior, is “just a steady kid who is not going to do anything crazy. He’s a steady football player who doesn’t make many mistakes.”

Lindke says Simpson and Feehan are going to be slot receivers, like Devin Coon, who graduated, was last year. Atkinson will be more of an outside receiver this year.

“He’s another bigger body-type kid who can go up and get the football,” Lindke said. “We’re excited about our receivers.”

Steele, only a linebacker last year, will see time on the offensive side of the ball.

“We expect him to play more of a role on offense this year too at running back,” Lindke said.

“Running backs are still kind of a question mark. Losing Trent Leiter (to graduation), that is a big blow, but Blake Steele has taken the lead at running back right now.

“He’s a good tough-nosed, hard-nosed kid. The pulse of our team is going to kind of go where he goes. He’s a really good defensive player, too. He’ll give us enough of what we need to do.

Joining Steele and Farley in the backfield will be running back Jordyn Lee-Barnett.

“Jordyn is a sophomore running back and linebacker that could see time at both spots. He has put in a ton of time in the weight room to prepare his body,” Lindke said.

“Jordyn is kind of a little bit more dynamic kid. We are excited to see what he can do.”

“Those two (Steele, Lee-Barnett) will be the one-two punch in the backfield for us with some help from a guy like Lee Borders, who is a linebacker that is returning.”

Leading the offensive line is Battin, a four-year starter at center who was first team All-NBC last year, Jeremy and Shaffer at guard, and Pinkney and Eli Ellie at tackle.

“Tyler Shaffer is a good football player who will be our left guard, a senior and tough-nosed kid who will battle in the trenches at the D-line spot for us and play guard as well,” Lindke said.

“Jackson Jeremy is another guard who is a good returning offensive lineman for us who will be a junior and Pinckney is a force to be reckoned with.”

The Knights return eight starters from last year’s defense. The 3-4 defense is headed up by Shaffer at nose guard and Jeremy and Simpson at defensive end.

Linebackers include Battin, Steele, and Borders and Nicely takes over at cornerback. Battin is the “quarterback” of the defense.

“Clay makes all the defensive calls. A very solid, experienced football player. Blake flies around and plays with no fear,” Lindke said.

Nicely is a veteran in the defensive backfield who Lindke says could play collegiately if he chooses to.

“Brady is a returning second team all-state player at defensive back. We feel great about him covering opposing teams’ best wide receivers,” Lindke said.

“Lee Borders is a physical player at linebacker that has a great nose for the football,” added Lindke.

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