This region has long been known for its wealth of footballing talent, and this fact is confirmed once again in 2022.
CLEVELAND – Get ready to turn on those Friday night lights!
Yes, high school football returns to northeast Ohio this week, with area schools targeting the playoffs and (hopefully) state championships in Canton.
This part of the country has long been known for its wealth of footballers, and this fact is confirmed once again in 2022. Indeed, some of the best players in the region are not only making noise in their hometowns, but in the national recruitment boards, as well.
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Without further ado, here is a rundown of the best high school football players in Northeast Ohio. We will use the 247sports Composite Recruiting Rankings (for juniors and seniors) as a guide.
Bryce West – ATH, Glenville
247 rankings (2024): #36 nationally, #7 ATH, #1 Ohio
He’s only a junior, but the young West has become a highly turned prospect thanks to his skills as a hard-hitting cornerback who also sees time as a skill position player and kick returner. He’ll anchor an elite Tarblooder defense (more on that later) and already has offers from nearly 20 colleges, including Alabama and Michigan, though it’s rumored he’s leaning toward State of Ohio.
Brenan Vernon – DL, mentor
247 rankings (2023): #114 nationally, #15 DL, #2 Ohio
At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Vernon’s talents as a pass thrower and run stopper are undisputed, and that’s why the soon-to-be graduate signed up to Notre Dame more than a year ago. But injuries have curtailed his playing time over the past two seasons and limited him to just two sacks in what has been a disappointing 5-6 campaign for his side in 2021. Still, with him anchoring the defence, the Cardinals will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with in Division I.
Luke Hamilton – OT, Avon
247 rankings (2024): #171 nationally, #10 OT, #5 Ohio
The Eagles love to win games in the trenches, and Hamilton was an unstoppable force last year on a team that came back in the D-II State Semifinals. The junior can play just as well at right tackle or right guard, and sports offers from more than 20 schools, including Michigan and Penn State.
Damarion Witten – ATH, Glenville
247 rankings (2024): No. 30 ATH, No. 10 Ohio
A 6-foot-4 tight end who can double as a receiver and quarterback, Witten will lead the Tarblooders offensive offense with unmatched hands and even some breakaway speed. The junior has standing offers from Michigan and Michigan State, among other notable programs.
Arvell Reese – LB, Glenville
247 rankings (2023): No. 20 LB, No. 7 Ohio
We end the Tarblooder line with arguably the best linebacker in Greater Cleveland. Reese was actually traded from Euclid for his senior year, and he still showed his passing skills despite the Panthers dipping to 0-10 last season. Unlike his two teammates on this list, Reese has already committed to Ohio State.
Ben Roebuck – OT, St. Edward
247 rankings (2024): No. 17 OT, No. 11 Ohio
St. Ed has long been known for its hulking offensive linemen, and a 6-foot-7, 320-pound Roebuck certainly fits the bill. Only a sophomore in 2021, he helped pave the way to the Eagles’ fifth state title as an overwhelming right tackle, and will look to lead a repeat effort as a junior. Michigan and Penn State are among 20 schools currently vying for his services, and the latter appears to be the clubhouse leader at the moment.
JacQai Long – QB, Archbishop Hoban
247 rankings (2024): No. 26 QB, No. 12 Ohio
A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Long transferred to Akron and immediately became the region’s most promising quarterback. With his strong arm, quick release and tight spiral, he’ll be looking to continue Hoban’s ongoing five-state title streak since 2015. His father Jerrald also played with Randy Moss and Chad Pennington at Marshall, one of four schools currently offering scholarship in JacQai. .
Ardell Banks – WR, Massillon Washington
247 rankings (2023): No. 94 WR, No. 26 Ohio
Standing at an impressive 6-foot-4, few in northeast Ohio have better hands than Banks, and he’s used them to catch eight touchdowns in 2021. Now a senior, Toledo’s commitment will be essential if the Tigers finally want to snap their 52 year state title drought.
Sam Williams-Dixon – RB, West Holmes
247 rankings (2024): No. 31 RB, No. 17 Ohio
Deep in the Amish country of northeastern Ohio, Williams-Dixon burst onto the scene as a sophomore a year ago, knocking out defenders for more than 1,500 yards and 25 touchdowns as the Knights made it to the semi-finals of State D-III. He won’t surprise anyone as a junior, especially with Penn State and Pittsburgh among the schools hoping he’ll come play for them.
Other notable players (committed colleges listed):
- Michael Kilbane – EDGE, St. Edward (North West)
- Tommy Ricard – OL, Hudson
- Dominic Rivera – OT, Olmsted Falls (Rutgers)
- Ryne Shackelford – WR, keystone (Purdue)
- Collin Dixon – ATH, Tallmadge, WI
- Willtrell Harston – RB, Massillon Washington
- AJ Spellacy – ATH, St. Ignace
- Sean Patrick – RB, Kenston
- Tanelle Rose – RB, Lyndhurst Brush
- Mason Williams – TE, Mogadore, Ohio
- Colin Van Rooy – OT, Strongsville (Pittsburgh)
- Keontez Bradley – CB, Mansfield Senior (Kent State)