Talk about a toss up of a conference. The ACAC could get wild this year with a multitude of teams that could take the regular season or tournament titles.
So here is the best guess, because anyone predicting the ACAC is rolling the dice. So many contenders and other teams who could really shake things up because they have upset ability throughout the season. Here goes nothing.
Adams Central returns four key players from a 16-8 team that was runner-up in both the ACAC and 2A sectional last year. They have a really nice balance of inside and outside scoring but their bread and butter could be that nobody else in the ACAC should be able to compete on the interior. This is a very long team who is also quick so the Flying Jets could be a matchup nightmare across the entire ACAC.
“We will play a lot of good teams this year but hope to build on the success of last season. We have two good post players and also good play at the guard positions. We feel that we will be very competitive in the ACAC conference this year as well as the sectional,” said Adams Central coach Aaron McClure.
Ethan Poling (16 ppg, 6 rpg) has established himself as one of the best players in the ACAC and leads that matchup problem lineup for Adams Central. He will be joined inside by 6-foot-6 junior Isaac Schultz, who has a big body that is able to move people around in the post very well after averaging five points, six rebounds and two blocks per game last season. Two other juniors return to lead the backcourt in point guard Micah McClure (4 apg) and Ryan Tester (5 ppg, 2 spg).
Seniors Keaton Springer and Hudson Conkling, junior Max Hamilton, sophomore Trace Maller and freshman Braylend Reber will add to the lineup. Maller is a really good athlete that is expected to be the Flying Jets 6th man, while Reber could is. arguably the best freshman in the conference and could start immediately.
With a – not planned – redone gym, the Patriots could come out on fire this season with a hot shooting lineup led by area top 15 player Luke Saylor. Saylor came out strong last season off an injury so entering this season healthy is a big plus. Saylor led Heritage with 18.8 points per game last season and will be back as a senior to lead the team. Kobe Meyer (8 ppg) returns after a stellar breakout football season, as does sharpshooter Nyles Knapke (7 ppg). Howard Kaiser and Tanner Whitman are also both back for their senior seasons.
The Patriots will add players across all classes including senior Trevor Prince. Junior D’Vontaye Washington will help bolster the frontcourt while sophomore Landon Lybarger will join in the backcourt.
“We are excited to see how we will bounce back after a disappointing year last year. We had a productive summer and saw a lot of new guys get valuable minutes. We are hoping to be more difficult to guard this year by having multiple threats on the floor that stretch the defense out,” Heritage coach Adam Gray said.
Jay County Patriots
The Patriots will rely on a large senior class to keep them at the top of the ACAC, somewhere they are quite known for sitting at or around. Dusty Pearson (7.6 ppg) and Josh Dowlen (7.2 ppg) are big returners for this team and will bring the biggest part of their scoring punch. Bennett Weitzel (6.6 ppg) is going to be an inside force that can body his way around the basket. Blake Bogenschutz and Brady Davis are two other senior returners. It helps give Jay County three returning starters and five returners who played a lot on a 21-5 team.
The depth for Jay County will also partially rely on a senior with Carter Link joining the lineup. The junior class will fill out the lineup with Wes Bihn, Abraham Dirksen, Parker Nichols and Liam Garringer.
Woodlan, like many others in the ACAC, returns a lot of last season’s lineup. But for Woodlan, they will have to replace a lot in the graduation of Joe Reidy, the top scorer in the history of their program.
“The biggest question for us is how we go about replacing the impact that Joe Reidy made on both ends of the court. There is not one player that will be able to make up for that production on their own. Instead, it will need to be done through a collective effort by the seven returning letterwinners,” Woodlan coach John Baker said.
Five of those seven have multiple years of varsity experience, led by Braden Smith (10 ppg). Smith’s leadership and shooting prowess will be important for Woodlan. The Warriors also bring back seniors Alex Miller (7.6 ppg, 2.1 apg), Dawson Lichty and DeJay Gerig. Lincoln Sparks will join Smith returning with the junior class while sophomores Drew Fleek and Trey Yoder also return. Senior Ethan Klepper and junior Luke Meyer will join the lineup.
Bluffton could be the tricky one to predict with a lot of offense lost to graduation but a really solid amount of defense back in their lineup. They will work to replace the scoring lost with the return of four players: seniors Andrew Ball (6.6 ppg) and Sam Baumgartner (2.3 ppg) as well as juniors Tucker Jenkins (3.7 ppg) and Hunter Wenger (2.3 ppg). Jenkins could be one of the ACAC’s hidden gems this season thanks to his interior physicality.
Behind them, there will be a bevy of newcomers with little or no varsity experience but solid expectations from head coach Karl Grau. Most of them come from the junior class of Andrew Hunt, Hunter Wenger, Hutch Craighead, Eli Garrett and Lukas Gehrett. Bluffton will also add in a couple of really solid underclassmen in sophomore Kaleb Green and freshman Kaden Grau.
Southern Wells Raiders
The Raiders graduated their top two scorers but will return most of their team. Kedrik Sonnigsen led the team with 3.1 assists per game and is the top returning scorer at 8.1 ppg. Brandon Kirtley and Quinton Mullins also are expected to return.
South Adams Starfires
South Adams will lean on returning seniors Brady Beall and Gavin Myers at the top of their lineup. Beall averaged 5.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while Myers averaged 2.4 points per game.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Adams Central
3. Jay County
6. Southern Wells
7. South Adams