Notre Dame at Southern
Fresh off a playoff appearance last season, the Notre Dame Titans will travel east to Racine on Friday to open their 2014 season against the Southern Tornadoes.
If the Titans want to begin their season with a win, they’ll need to find a way to replace two thousand-yard backs from last season: Jack Kayser and Dakota Smith. Hayden Phillips and Brandon Lansing are the favorites to replace last year’s tandem, but the Titans have a number of players ready to fill the void. Quarterback Jonathon Major also returns for his senior season in an offense that looks to be much more diverse.
Southern is also coming off a playoff appearance in 2013. They find themselves in a similar position as the Titans after losing second-team All-State running back Tyler Barton and third-team All-State defensive back Zac Beegle.
East at South Gallia
The East Tartans take their potent rushing attack on the road to southeastern Ohio in week one. Standout lineman Tyler Gerald will play in his first game since committing to Ohio State in the offseason. He and fellow lineman Nick Basham will look to clear the way for sophomore sensation Akia Brown, who gained over 1,000 yards rushing in just six starts last season.
Friday’s game will also reveal the winner of the Tartan’s summer-long quarterback battle. East will either go with strong-armed pocket passer Drew Lowe or freshman scrambler Ethan Gifford.
Last season, South Gallia traveled to Sociotoville and defeated East 18-13 en route to a 6-4 record, which nearly propelled them to a playoff berth. However, the Rebels finished 10th in the computer rankings, two spots out of the final spot.
Southeastern at Northwest
Northwest will begin a new era of Mohawk football in 2013, as they make the move from the SOC II to the SOC I. But before they make the switch, the must tackle a tough non-conference schedule.
Northwest won’t have much of a home-field advantage in Friday’s game. After the athletic department discovered a problem with a water pump under the field last month, the school struck a deal with Portsmouth High School to play the game at Trojan Colosseum. Northwest hopes the field will be ready for week two against Rock Hill.
As for the action on the field, quarterback Drew Scarberry hopes to run the Mohawks’ unique double-wing formation to victory and avenge last year’s 19-17 loss to Southeastern.
Manchester at Green
Both the Green Bobcats and the Manchester Panthers find themselves under new coaching staffs in 2014, but their 2013 seasons could not have been more different.
Green struggled to a 2-8 mark last season, prompting the athletic department to hire new head coach Ted Newsome. The former Portsmouth and West assistant has installed a triple-option offense in Franklin Furnance. Look for quarterback Ryan Gaffney and running backs Wyatt Blevins and Kanyon Bruton to pick up plenty of yards in the Bobcats’ run-heavy scheme.
Manchester experienced it’s best season since 1939 last year, going 6-4, including a 21-13 win over Green in the home opener. But early July, former Greyhound coach Jason Mantell announced he was leaving the team for an administrative position at Athens High School. As a result, Manchester was forced to scramble to hire former Wheelersburg assistant Dustin Cook.
With new faces on both sidelines, Friday’s matchup will set the tone for a new era of football for both squads.
Chesapeake at Oak Hill
Looking to capture it’s fifth SOC II title in five season, the Oak Hill Oaks open their 2014 schedule at home against Chesapeake. After surviving a slew of injuries in 2013, the Oaks will welcome back quarterback Clayton Christensen from an ACL injury and running back Matt Gilliland from a broken femur. With a full healthy roster, the Oaks will look for a repeat of the 2013 opener, when they traveled to Chesapeake for a 14-0 victory.
That season opener started a disappointed downward spiral for the Panthers, a team that limped to a 2-8 record a season ago. After a disappointing campaign, Chesapeake hopes to turn things around in 2014 and compete for an Ohio Valley Conference title.
Chillicothe Huntington at Symmes Valley
The Class of 2014 was a strong one in the area for high school football, and their absence has hit teams hard. But perhaps no team was hit harder than the Symmes Valley Vikings.
The Vikings must find a way to replace 14 seniors including three members of the offensive line. Though this Symmes Valley squad will be one of the smaller teams they have had in the past few years, there is no shortage of speed. Brandon Craft, Tanner Mays and Levi Cade lead the way for the Vikings at the skill positions, while week one will reveal the winner of a quarterback competition between Derrick Smith and Payton Hayes.
Huntington will come into Friday’s game looking for it’s first win since October 2012. The Huntsmen struggled throughout the 2013 campaign, as their average point differential fell to a staggering -28. Huntington will certainly be looking for a statement win to begin 2014.