Boys of fall: Lang expected to play against River

The 2013 football slate kicks off tonight when Caldwell squares off against Newcomerstown at the Noble County Fairgrounds in a non-conference tilt.

The two teams faced each other in week one last season, with the Trojans prevailing 34-7. Caldwell was out-gained 449 to 164 yardage-wise in the game, with Justin Hardesty accounting for the lone Redskin touchdown on a kick return.

The ‘Skins are hoping to get this season off to a better start, as they did not really hit their peak until about four weeks into the schedule last fall.

Caldwell, led by head coach Josh Perkins, went just 2-8 in 2012, but lost by more than seven points just once in the final seven weeks.

A season-opening win could do wonders for the young Redskins’ confidence as they enter the wide open Pioneer Valley Conference race.

Caldwell was led by a powerful running game last season and will likely continue to try and pound the ball right at opposing defenses.

Senior Andrew Minosky and sophomore Bricker Lori will pace the rushing attack, while quarterback Tanner Clark, running backs Kameron Rayner, Hardesty and lineman/kicker Alexi Cubas are some other players to watch.

RIVER at FORT FRYE at 7 p.m.

In a battle between a pair of 2012 state playoff teams, Fort Frye will look to avenge a 38-13 loss against River in week one last season.

It was the only PVC loss of the season for the Cadets last fall.

“We haven’t forgotten about that,” said Fort Frye head coach Eric Huck.

The Cadets went on to win eight of their next nine games to clinch a share of the PVC title and berth in the DV state playoffs, so they know a season-opening loss isn’t the end of the world, but they’re still hoping to avoid it.

“It sets the tone for the rest of the season,” Huck said. “It’d be nice to start the season off on the right foot.”

River has had Fort Frye’s number the past few years, so Huck knows what to expect when the Pilots come to town.

“River’s an athletic team,” said Huck, entering his sixth season as the Cadet boss. “They can throw the ball around, and they have a couple nice running backs. Defensively, we’re expecting to have to get all over the field.

“Offensively, the key will be up front. They really like to send their defensive linemen and linebackers, so we’ll have to talk up front.”

For Fort Frye, 2012 third team All-Ohio quarterback Chandler Lang is expected to play. Lang had his appendix removed during the off-season, but should be able to lead the Cadet offense.

“He should be good to go,” Huck said.

Luke Yates, Terren Huck and Colten Shuster will likely be Lang’s top offensive weapons this season.

Fort Frye will cherish the opportunity to play at home, as the team’s five games following week one will all be on the road.

MILLER at WATERFORD at 7:30 p.m.

A young Waterford High football team got even younger recently when junior quarterback Joe Pugh suffered an ACL injury.

Pugh is expected to miss at least the first week of the season, which means freshman Isaac Huffman will take center snaps Friday when the Wildcats host Miller in the opening game.

“He’s really mature for his age,” Waterford head coach Tom Tucker said of Huffman. “We don’t have a lot of style in our offense, but he can do everything we tell him to. We expect a lot out of him.

“He’s a good runner and a good thrower.”

The ‘Cats took down the Falcons by a score of 34-14 in last season’s opening tilt, and Tucker is hoping for more of the same in 2013.

“Miller’s big. They always are,” Tucker said. “We’ll get a little bit of everything from them. They use a lot of different sets. We have to be ready to play.”

Huffman will likely try and get the ball to senior fullback Austin Lang as much as possible. Lang is the most experienced player on the team.

Some other Wildcats to watch are running back Jaret McCutcheon, tight end Brendan Dailey and linemen Jordan Hendershot and Blake Heiss.

Tucker is hoping his team will execute the fundamentals and limit mental mistakes.

“We have to cut the turnovers down to zero or less,” Tucker said, “keep our penalties to a minimum and make high school teams drive the ball. Don’t give up the big play.”

SHENANDOAH at FRONTIER at 7 p.m.

Frontier ended any possibility of back-to-back winless campaigns in week one last season with a 20-14 victory over Shenandoah at Sarahsville.

The Zeps are hoping they can do the same, as they went 0-10 in 2012, while the Cougars are hoping to build on a 4-6 season.

Frontier, led by head coach Josh Bradford, has some talented returners in the backfield that Shenandoah will have to key in on.

Jared Howell will get the bulk of the carries for the Cougars, while Dakota Welker and Rodney Barnes should get carries when Howell needs a breather.

Mitch Reynolds, a sophomore, will be under center for the Cougars.

The Zeps have some talent as the skill positions themselves. Michael Vanfossen will be the team’s featured back after an All-OVAC season last year, while Tanner Moore and Dakota Hornack give head coach Kaleb Lawrence two solid options at receiver.

The starting quarterback for week one is up in the air for the Zeps.

BELPRE at ROSECRANS at 7 p.m. (Saturday, Aug. 31)

Belpre travels to Zanesville Saturday to take on Rosecrans in an intriguing week one battle of small schools.

The Golden Eagles, like Frontier, answered a winless 2011 campaign with a 4-6 2012 season, behind the guidance of head coach Greg Adams, the running of Manney Tullius and the arm of Tavian Miller.

Tullius, a junior, rushed for 1,091 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. At 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, Tullius isn’t very big but is nearly unstoppable when he reaches open space.

As a freshman, Miller threw for 835 yards and eight touchdowns and, along with Tullius, gives Belpre one of the most talented backfields in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Rosecrans is no slouch, though. The Bishops posted a 7-3 record last season to make the DVI state playoffs and even won their first round playoff game.

Jay Campbell-coached Rosecrans lost 12 seniors and saw multiple players transfer, resulting in just 16 players listed on this season’s roster. Belpre has just over 20 players on its roster, so it very well could be a battle of who is better-conditioned.