Waterford High football coach Tom Tucker feels good about where his team is at heading into its season opener at Miller today.
"We're as ready as we're gonna get," Tucker said. "We've put in some stuff that the kids feel confident to run. They've worked hard. I think we're good with what we've got."
The Wildcats went 6-4 in 2011, and to improve on that this year, a win in week one would do wonders.
"Everybody wants to win that first one," Tucker said. "I think the kids are pretty confident right now. It would be real nice to go out and start 1-0."
Last season, the Wildcats defeated Miller 13-6. This year both teams have different head coaches, and Tucker believes if his team can play fundamentally sound football, they can come out on top.
"We play each other every year," Tucker said. "I think we know as much about them as they know about us.
"They've got some good athletes. It'll come down to execution and cutting out mistakes. We're gonna have to play hard."
The Wildcats have experience at the skill positions, although it will be senior Brian Moore's first year as the starting quarterback.
"He's doing okay," Tucker said. "It's kind of a work in progress. He's doing what we want from him. He's a good athlete."
Moore was the team's leading receiver a year ago, and will now to look to lead the team from under center. Sophomore Derek Brown will start at tailback, with a trio of seniors out wide in Devon Patterson, Austin Shriver, and Austin Cunningham. Junior Wyatt Porter will likely be the tight end.
Waterford is very experienced up front with five seniors on the offensive line. Ryan Carsey and Andrew Bauerbach at tackle, Jacob Stewart and Robbie Angle at guard, and Kyle Miller at center. Those same guys, minus Miller, will likely get the most snaps at defensive line, with senior Hunter Munjas also in the rotation.
Moore and Miller will be the linebackers in the 5-2 defensive scheme.
The starting receivers, along with junior Austin Lang, will start in the defensive backfield.
The Seminoles begin their quest back to the playoffs today in a non-league contest against Waterloo. Head coach Jay Circosta knows quite a bit about their opponents and will not be taking them lightly.
"They're a Division V team, in our region," Circosta said. "They went 7-3 last year and finished 12th in the region. The lost a number of seniors, but return their quarterback and a number of skill people. They're a run first, throw second team."
Monroe Central also lost some talented seniors, including quarterback Tyler Kinchen and top running back Kole Hogue. The team received a huge blow this week when they found out that their top returning running back, junior Curtis Nixon, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
"That's a critical blow to us," Circosta said. "We don't have a lot of running backs. We have a couple sophomores (Levi Brown and Chase Carothers) who will step in. They're not very big, but they're gutty and they'll play hard."
In spite of this, Circosta is confident his team will still be productive all season long.
"The kids have done a nice job in practices and scrimmages," Circosta said. "They're picking things up and getting a grasp of everything."
While getting a win in week one is always nice, Circosta downplayed it and noted that a season is more than just the first game.
"The first game is big for anybody," Circosta said. "However, it's not the end of the season. Last year we lost our opener 13-6 and came back to win nine straight and make the playoffs.
"But obviously, you want to get off on the right foot with a win because it builds confidence."
Senior Korey Lafferre will start at quarterback.
The Eric Huck-led Fort Frye High football team has a big challenge in front of them today, as the Cadets will visit River in a Pioneer Valley Conference tilt.
"They're one of the better teams in the PVC," Huck said of River. "I know they expect big things this year. Last year when we faced them, they came out lined up with three backs and tried to run. If we can stop that, they have a spread formation as well."
While it won't be easy for the Cadets, Huck says he likes what he has seen from his team the past week.
"We've moved along," Huck said. "We've progressed well. We had a real good week of practice this week. Everyone's worked hard."
Against a team like River, there is little room for error. Huck said playing mistake-free football will be crucial.
"We can't make mistakes," Huck said. "We have to be disciplined. Everyone has to do their job, and each person has their responsibility."
Huck also noted the importance of starting off the season with a victory.
"It gets the season going," Huck said. "It would definitely be huge for us to go to River, get a win and start out 1-0."
Junior Chandler Lang enters his second year as the Cadets starting quarterback. The backfield features a pair of seniors, as Max Alsbach will start at fullback and Spencer Lang at tailback. Tyser Schilling will start at tight end and Justin Massey at wide receiver. Schilling and Massey are both seniors. Fellow senior Tyson Riggs and junior Colten Shuster will see time at wide out.
Senior Dylan Bowman and sophomore Tyler Wittekind will be the tackles, sophomore Branden Close and junior Garrett Hall are the starting guards, and junior Drew Layton will likely play center.
At least eight players will see time at defensive line. Chandler Lang, Alsbach, and Schilling will all play linebacker, with the remaining linebacker spot being shared by Close, Shuster, and sophomore Terren Huck. Spencer Lang and Massey will start at cornerback, while as many as four guys will see time at safety.
After a winless 2011 campaign, the Frontier High football team is itching to get on the field tonight at Shenandoah and try to pick up its first win since the final week of 2010.
Head coach Todd Bradford is interested to see how things go against the Zeps.
"As a coach, you know, you're never satisfied," Bradford said, "but we're getting there. We're getting better."
The Cougars have forgotten about last season, but still, an opening game win would be a huge boost of confidence for a Cougar squad that returns all but one player from last year.
"It would be big for our young men," Bradford said. "We're gonna give it everything we have."
While last season may not have included any victories, it certainly provided a wealth of experience for Frontier's players.
Senior captains Jordan Jefferson, Taylor Merckle, Kris Comstock, and Eddie Salazar are ready to take what they learned from last year and use it to help them lead the team this year.
"I'm very proud of what they've done," Bradford said.
Jefferson enters his second season as the Cougars signal caller, and was the lone Cougar representative on the All-PVC team in 2011.
Merckle starts at half back, with juniors Jared Howell and Dakota Welker at fullback. Salazar, along with fellow seniors Josh Kirkbride and Jared Irvin, and junior Dylan Absher, will get time at receiver. Senior Dusty Wright will be the tight end. The offensive line will have senior Cole Farley and junior Austin Kimble at tackle, Comstock and senior Dakota Boley at guard, and senior Tyler Hunt at center.
Defensively, the guys up front will feature the same players on the offensive line, while Merckle, Wright, and Welker will be the inside linebackers and Salazar and Kirkbride the outside linebackers. Jefferson, Absher, and Irvin figure to make up the defensive backfield.
The Belpre Golden Eagles hope to put the past three years behind them this season after going 1-29, the last two under now third-year head coach Greg Adams.
Whereas Belpre had to travel all the way to Bainbridge, Ohio, to open last season's 0-10 campaign only to suffer a 39-0 loss, the shoe is on the other foot tonight as Paint Valley has to come east all the way to Belpre for the Golden Eagles' 7:30 p.m. season-opener at Ralph Holder Stadium.
Freshman Tavian Miller will start at quarterback for Belpre tonight as the Golden Eagles' starting lineup is peppered throughout with a number of freshmen and sophomores in an effort to turn things around.
Steve Hemmelgarn contributed to this story.