At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Marvin Ridge rising senior Jacob Terwilliger (9) is imposing as a linebacker and running back. He’ll lead the Mavericks in the middle of their defense this fall.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the fifth part of The Enquirer-Journal’s ongoing series previewing Union County players at each position group for the upcoming football season. To catch up on the rest of the series, please visit enquirerjournal.com/sports.

Often considered the leaders on defense, linebackers have several responsibilities, including calling defensive plays, making sure teammates are in their right positions and defending the run and pass. Here are five linebackers in Union County that are primed for strong seasons this fall.

Stephan Zayachkowsky, Jr., Porter Ridge

One of three sophomores to earn all-county first-team honors this spring, Porter Ridge rising junior Stephan Zayachowsky is one of the emerging stars in the area.

Despite standing at just 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Zayachkowsky plays like he’s shot out of a cannon, regularly disrupting screens and outside runs with his pursuit skills. He played multiple positions last season, including outside linebacker and strong safety on defense and running back on offense, while also contributing on special teams.

In seven games for the Pirates this spring, Zayachkowsky had 35 total tackles, four tackles for loss, two interceptions, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, one safety and two blocked punts. He also ran for 257 yards and five touchdowns on 37 carries (6.9 yards per carry) on offense.

Jacob Terwilliger, Sr., Marvin Ridge

Marvin Ridge had one of the best linebacking duos in the county this spring in senior Tanner Blackwell and junior Jacob Terwilliger, and the latter returns for his senior season this fall as one of the leaders of the Mavericks’ defense.

Playing in just five games this spring, Terwilliger totaled a team high 55 tackles while also contributing two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound inside linebacker should also contribute as a running back for Marvin Ridge.

While he didn’t get many carries this spring, Terwilliger ran for over 200 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore in 2019. With the departure of running back Jack Yeagley, who had 57 carries this past season, Terwilliger is likely to get more carries.

Anthony Goodloe, Sr., Cuthbertson

A second-team all-county selection this spring, Cuthbertson rising senior Anthony Goodloe will be one of the Cavs’ best defenders.

In six games this past season, Goodloe totaled a team-high 46 tackles and six tackles for loss as well as a sack and three blocked field goals. And as a sophomore in 2019, he had 31 total tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery. Earlier this summer, Cavaliers head coach Trey Kavanaugh told The Enquirer-Journal that Goodloe is “one of the better linebackers I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching high school.”

The 6-foot, 215-pound senior will take on even more responsibilities this fall, as Cuthbertson graduated several defensive starters over the summer, including linebacker Kurt Petroff and safety/outside linebacker Andreu Rastia.

Jaylin Meaders, Jr., Parkwood

As a sophomore, Jaylin Meaders was one of Parkwood’s top defenders during the spring. The linebacker finished the year third on the team with 50 total tackles while also contributing 1.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

Standing at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Meaders will play varsity football for a third season this fall. That said, he’s still only played in eight total games over the past two years, so there shouldn’t be much wear on the tires yet.

Over the offseason, Parkwood graduated starting middle linebacker Jay Little, who led the team with 52 total tackles to go with 1.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. With his credentials, Meaders is poised to take on a leadership role for the Wolf Pack’s defense this fall.

Caiden Smith, So., Forest Hills

The youngest member of this list is Forest Hills’ linebacker Caiden Smith, who played varsity football for the first time this spring. In seven games as a freshman, Smith led the Yellow Jackets with 62 total tackles, 25 more than the next closest player. He also tallied two tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble.

The Yellow Jackets will return a host of defenders this fall, including four players with the last name Smith: Caiden, Jaquavion (36 tackles, six tackles for loss), Ross (22 tackles, forced fumble) and Aidan (14 tackles, two tackles for loss, fumble recovery).

As Forest Hills’ inside linebacker, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Caiden Smith will lead a young defensive unit into the 2021 fall season, which starts Sept. 10 against Charlotte Latin.