Prep football, Week 1: On the eve of destruction

Seneca East vs.

Margaretta (at Bellevue)

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: The season begins a day early for Ed Phillips’ squad. Originally scheduled for Friday at Margaretta, the game was moved up to today, and moved to Bellevue, because the stands at the Polar Bears’ stadium are not ready yet.

That means a short week, but Phillips said he’s not bothered by that.

“That’s the week to do it, I think,” he said. “We actually started preparing for these guys last Tuesday. Got our prep in, tons of time, no crunch. If you’re gonna do it, Week 1 is the week to do it.”

Phillips said Margaretta creates some challenges.

“They’ve got some good experience up front and with their quarterback,” Phillips said. “Their quarterback (Nick Leibacher) is really sharp, he can make plays in the run game and the pass game.

“They’re pretty physical, we’ve got to come out and match that.”

Phillips said the Tigers — who have made the postseason three consecutive years — is ready to go.

“Right now if it were two days (until the game), I might explode,” he said

USHS

at River Valley

Last year: River Valley 34, Upper Sandusky 8.

Outlook: The Russell Hall era begins Friday for Upper Sandusky, but each team made significant changes in the offseason.

River Valley has made changes to its scheme on offense and defense.

“Their offensive line is big and physical, their running backs are all different,” Hall said of the Vikings. “They got a bulldozer, a speed guy and an all-purpose (back).”

Hall said the backs may be why River Valley switched from a shotgun wing-T to a spread.

The Vikings also have changed their defense to a 4-3.

Facing that defense will be Rams’ quarterback Levi Malone, who will be playing in his first high school football game.

“He’s a competitor,” Hall said.

Hopewell-Loudon

at Southeastern

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: One-hundred-and-31 miles separate Bascom and Ravenna, and Chieftains coach Brian Colatruglio admitted he’s not entirely familiar with the Pirates.

“They’re in same league as Mogadore,” Colatruglio said. “More of a smash mouth, hard-nose area; that’s what Southeast is. It has a solid tailback and offensive line. (It will) line up and run it right at us.”

Colatruglio said this will be the first really long trip many of his players have taken.

“(The coaches), we’ve gotten to do these type of things, our kids have not had that type of experience,” he said. “It’s gonna be an experience, we’ve really embraced it.”

Colatruglio said Luke Jameson and Brock Williams will each play at quarterback Friday night. Williams missed all of last season due to a preseason injury.

“He’s gonna lineup everywhere. He’s a big part of what we’re going to do offensively,” Colatruglio said.

The coach said he’s looking forward to Week 1.

“Being able to take everything we’ve done and take it under the lights, some guys, been a while since they have (done that),” he said. “Control that excitement, execute.”

Fostoria

at Oak Harbor

Last year: Fostoria won 35-18.

Outlook: Fostoria hits the road for the season-opener, taking on a quarterback-centric offense that could pose problems.

“The quarterback is their main trigger. They are 70 percent pass, 30 percent run, and when they do run, he’s about 25 percent of what they do run. He is the key for us defensively,” Fostoria coach Derek Kidwell said.

“I told our kids if we can hold their quarterback under 100 yards rushing, I think we have a great chance,” he said.

Junior Jac Alexander returns at quarterback for the Rockets after accounting for a combined 1,000 yards passing and rushing last year. He would have had more, but broke his hand in Week 5 last year and played other positions until returning to quarterback in Week 8, but then broke his collarbone in that game and didn’t return for the rest of the year.

Despite Oak Harbor’s returning experience at quarterback, Kidwell feels the Redmen are ready to finally face an opponent and have a few advantages.

“I think physically, we match up well. Hopefully we can pound them, wear them down. Hopefully, with us going to more of a run-based team, our kids can be in condition a little bit more and be physical,” he said.

“I like our speed, I think we’re faster than they are,” he said.

Mohawk at Lakota

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: Both teams enter 2018 after successful seasons — Lakota had its first winning season in a decade and Mohawk returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

However, Lakota also graduated several players while the Warriors come in with lots of returning veterans. But Lakota coach Mike Lento said the rebuilding Raiders are embracing the challenge.

“There’s no doubt that they’re coming with game experience and big game experience. Having them Week 1 is a concern,” he said.

“We’re still trying to prove ourselves, so why not have a game against a team with letterwinners back and seniors back,” Lento said. “Why not prove yourself Week 1 against a team that has it and has proven to have it.”

Key offensive returners for the Warriors include quarterback Keith Jenkins (1,494 yards, 20 TD passes passing; 531 yards, 6 TDs rushing), running back Bryce Kirian (629 yards, 4 TDs rushing) and receivers Zach Hayman (501 yards, 11 TDs) and Jesse Leeth (305 yards, 3 TDs).

Alec Bollinger also anchors the defensive line after recording 32 tackles for loss last year.

Mohawk coach Brent Konkle feels confident with how his veterans will play once the game starts.

“We’re very adaptable (offensively). I think we have a good mix, probably the most since I’ve been here,” he said. “I feel confident in us adjusting to what they throw at us. It will come down to us executing up front.

“They’re big up front,” he said of Lakota. “I think you might see a little inexperience in the secondary. I think there are some advantages on the perimeter.”

But there are also concerns.

“By looking at them, they have some very good skill players,” Konkle said. “They’ve got some good … speed, their running backs run the ball hard.”

Buckeye Central at Crestline

Last year: Crestline, 33-18.

Outlook: Winless last season, Buckeye Central wants to get a win early this season.

This is one of its chances.

The Bucks played Crestline well last season, but couldn’t get it done. With both teams coming into the Week 1 matchup, one team will get off to a good start.

“With just 20 kids, we’ve been fortunate to be healthy heading into the season, “Bucks coach Rob Detterman said.

“With Crestline, they have a lot of their team back. Their quarterback is back, they have a couple good backs and they use their athletes to to beat you in space.”

Defensively, Detterman said the Bulldogs run a variety of looks, but mostly stay in the 3-3 stack, which the Bucks won’t see again this season.

“They try to use their athletes to bottle you up,” Detterman said. “We want to try to run the ball against them and take advantage of our big experienced offensive line.”

Detterman has worked with his team all offseason to forget last season and have different expectations this year.

“We have to have the right mindset and that starts Friday,” he said. “We have to expect success and expect to win. We have put all of the hard work in and put in the time, we have to expect results. If they go out there and expect to be victorious, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

Van Buren at Carey

Last year: Carey, 12-7.

Outlook: Carey coach Jonathon Mershman said this year’s game with Van Buren could be exactly like it was last year.

If that’s the case, fans will be in for a hard-fought physical game to start the season.

“We had three scrimmages up to this point, but I still don’t really know how our team is going to react Friday night,” Mershman said. “We saw some good things, and saw some bad things. I can say we had better scrimmages than we did last year, so hopefully that translates into another good season.”

He mentioned Van Buren’s size, especially up front being a challenge for the Blue Devils.

“They are very big up front and they have a new QB, who’s in the shotgun,” Mershman said. “We don’t know what exactly they were showing in their scrimmages, so we’ll see Friday. I could see their size on tape and a quick running back on tape. They have a lot of returners back and so do we, so it will most likely come down to the fourth quarter.

Mershman said he expects the Black Knights to try to stop their run game and let their big guys and linebackers get downhill to make plays.

“I’m really looking for our team to show effort, have the right attitude and play together. That’s really all I can ask at this point,” Mershman said. “If we play with those three things in mind, good things will happen. We need to come out ready to play.”

Bellevue at Canton Central Catholic

Last year: Bellevue, 21-17.

Outlook: It will be a game of opposites Friday as young and building Bellevue takes on experienced Canton Central Catholic.

The Redmen edged CCC last year, but this year has the makings of another close one.

“I think we’ve improved over these past three weeks of camp and I feel confident heading into this Week 1 game,” Redmen coach Ed Nasonti said. “The kids have improved and have worked hard every day. We are young and we have to realize we have to continue to grow throughout the season, so regardless of what the scoreboard says Friday, we want these kids to play football the right way and represent Bellevue.”

Canton Central Catholic is one of the toughest programs in the state, especially recently making the state championship program three out of the last four years, including winning the state title in Division V in 2016.

“They run a spread offense and with 19 starters back on offense and defense they have a lot of experience,” Nasonti said. “It’s an opportunity to play a great opponent.

“On defense, they are simple with a 4-3, but do some stunting up front. They are well-coached and disciplined, so they aren’t going to give us much. We have to be physical, we have to try to win that battle in the trenches and be assignment sharp. We also have to hold onto the ball because we aren’t good enough to be putting the ball on the ground.”

Toledo Start ay Clyde

Last year: Clyde, 17-14.

Outlook: Clyde coach Ryan Carter is anxious to see how his team responds to playing its first game Friday.

Luckily, it’s a familiar opponent in Toledo Start, but it won’t be a cake walk for the Fliers.

They were fortunate to walk away with a win last year and with so many new players in key spots, the young Fliers will have to learn quickly.

“We are pleased with how our guys have worked and improved throughout camp, but we still don’t know yet how things will go until you play someone when it matters,” Carter said. “We have our work cut out for us and I hope with how much we have improved, it translates onto the field Friday.”

Start has a lot of familiar guys as Carter said they have nine senior starters on defense, which doesn’t mix well with the inexperienced offense the Fliers possess.

“If we have any advantage, it has to be up front with our big guys on both sides of the line,” Carter said. “We have to try to utilize our run game and control the game. We cannot turn the ball over and we basically have to play perfectly to give ourselves a chance.

“They run some spread offensively and they return their running back, who ran for about 1,500 yards last year. They have a bunch of skilled athletes, which did hurt us last year in the passing game as they hit some plays over top. They will try to mix in the run with the pass.”

Even with how young and inexperienced the Fliers are, Carter said the expectations are still the same.

“I’m looking for our team to grow up in a hurry,” he said. “With our tradition, our program says that we should be solid year in year out. Even without much experience back, expectations don’t change and we are expecting kids to step up Friday night.”

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