Last week we previewed some of the members of the Class of 2023 that could become household names by the conclusion of this season.
This week, OTH goes one step deeper and takes a look at six sophomores that could take the area by storm.
LB KEEGAN BLUHM, ADAMS CENTRAL
Yes, Adams Central is a Class 1A school with a smallish roster, but it is still amazing that the freshman Bluhm led the Flying Jets in tackles last year with an astounding 110 of them. He also added eight tackles for loss and four sacks.
Now a sophomore, Bluhm is expected to do more of the same for a team that is loaded with veteran seniors and is the favorite to begin the season in the ACAC.
One conference coach referred to Bluhm as “an absolute stud” despite having just a single year of high school under his belt. The sophomore is quick and light on his feet, allowing him to be involved in nearly every play from scrimmage. Adams Central’s strong defensive front also allows Bluhm to roam and make plays instead of having to engage and shed blockers.
OL/DL JOHNNY CRUZ, BLUFFTON
Let’s give the beef some love, shall we?
Set to be a two-way difference maker for Bluffton at both offensive tackle and nose tackle, Cruz will be a name that many will remember for the next few years.
At 5-foot-11, 255 pounds, Cruz has the physical tools to pancake ACAC foes off the line of scrimmage. With so much athleticism on the edge and at linebacker on defense for the Flying Jets, Cruz’s ability to bottle up the middle will take away the option of running it up the gut with effectiveness on AC.
Cruz isn’t going to make the highlight-reel plays, but he is going to be a big part of making those plays happen.
WR MYLAN GRAHAM, NEW HAVEN
Rookie New Haven head coach Kyle Booher has quite the weapon to play with in Graham, who has been lauded with praise by several coaches around the area heading into his sophomore campaign.
A do-everything offensive weapon, Graham saw time at wideout both inside and out last year, as well as at running back and quarterback. His rangy 6-1, 170 pound frame makes him lithe and blistering in and out of his breaks. He averaged 11 yards per catch and 13 yards per rush a season ago in limited action as a freshmen.
Entering 2021, he may already be New Haven’s greatest offensive weapon, and someone who is going to burst onto the scene in the mainstream fairly quickly.
DE JULANTE HINTON, NORTHROP
While North Side’s Brauntae Johnson took the area by storm last year as a ninth grader, Hinton was the lone freshman on either the SAC’s first or second team as voted on by the coaches.
That’s not to take anything away from Johnson, but rather show just how ignored Hinton was in 2020.
The edge rusher accounted for 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks last year, adding 28 tackles to boot.
Hinton is so good with his hands in shaking off blocks and fighting through efforts to keep him from penetrating. As a standout wrestler, the skills he exhibits on the mat translate exceptionally to the football field and his position on the edge of the defense.
Brauntae Johnson will surely have a huge season at North Side, but Hinton deserves equal praise.
OL DANE SEBERT, EASTSIDE
Quarterback Laban Davis and running back Dax Holman will thoroughly enjoy having the massive 6-3, 275-pound Sebert up front in 2021.
The interior lineman already has a highlight tape from summer scrimmages that showcase him mauling defenders up front. Once Sebert gets leverage, it is game over for his opponent.
Scary thing is, Sebert is still growing. He can be a bit clumsy on his feet due to how big he is while still maturing and growing into his body. But he is a finisher, and many an NECC defender are going to hear the whistle after a play with Sebert laying on top of them.
RB/DB KAM ZEISLOFT, LEO
Remember last year when Kaeden Miller seemingly never left the field for Leo in the offensive backfield? Chances are the senior gets a few more breaks with Zeisloft in the mix.
The 5-9, 160-pound sophomore is a pure athlete, able to slot in at a variety of positions and make an impact. While the Lions like Zeisloft at running back and in the defensive backfield, he also has the skill set to be an asset at quarterback in some packages.
Leo is aiming to diversify its offensive attack after East Noble shut it down in their sectional showdown a year ago. Zeisloft is a new weapon for the Lions who should prove his worth on both sides of the ball this season despite not having much in the way of experience.