• New Albany-Reynoldsburg to open central Ohio football season

    The 2014 central Ohio high school football season is finally here, and ThisWeekSPORTS.com has you covered.

    Here's a link to the Friday Night Live page, which has previews of nearly all games involving central Ohio teams: http://www.thisweeknews.com/content/topic/sports/football-friday-night-live-2014.html

    In the meantime, the area's slate of games begins Thursday night when New Albany travels to Reynoldsburg.

    Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    1. New Albany has won four consecutive league titles and went 11-2 last year, including beating the Raiders 38-20.

    2. The highest recruited athletes in this game are probably New Albany's Jack Schroer, who already has committed to Miami University, and Reynoldsburg's Ashton Dulin, a speedster who is going to end up at something like a small DI or an FCS school if he wants to play football. He's also a standout track athlete.

    3. Reynoldsburg committed five turnovers in last year's game vs. New Albany, so you know that's been one of its focuses heading into this matchup.

    4. Just because New Albany has the credentials on paper doesn't mean this is a gimme win. Remember, in 2012, Reynoldsburg won 10-9 over the Eagles but New Albany eventually made it to a DII state semifinal. The Raiders went 7-3 but came up short of the playoffs because one of their non-league wins was against Westerville North, which would go 0-10, and the combined record of the teams they beat that year was just 18-42 outside of New Albany.

    5. While Jalen Ward is taking over at QB for New Albany, Reynoldsburg's Conner McCloud got experience at QB over the last four games last year.

    6. Reynoldsburg's depth of talent is in its junior class, and it will be starting several juniors. How much mental toughness this group shows tonight could determine whether the Raiders can hang with a New Albany team that has been cranking out consistent talent the last several years

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    By: Jarrod Ulrey

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    8 / 28 / 14

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  • Gahanna, Coffman to put QB battles on display in scrimmage

    There's an old adage that says teams that have two quarterbacks don't really have one.

    While there might be some grain of truth to that, the axiom doesn't apply when there are two quarterbacks available that each have talent -- albeit different skill sets.

    That appears to be the case at both Dublin Coffman and Gahanna, which will play in a scrimmage at 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at Gahanna.

    Here are a few things to consider.

    For Gahanna:

    1. Senior Ronald Robinson and junior Mason Blancett have been battling it out throughout the preseason.

    2. Last year, Robinson started the first four games before going down with an injury. Blancett replaced Robinson when he was out and Robinson didn't get his old job back.

    3. This doesn't mean Blancett will be the starter when Gahanna opens Aug. 29 against Huber Heights Wayne.

    4. From what I'm told, Robinson's leadership skills make him a natural fit for the quarterback role. He was respected enough as a junior to be named a captain, which says something.

    5. If it was a battle of last year's stats, Blancett would have the job: Robinson passed for 719 yards, Blancett for 1,077.

    6. To first-year coach Bruce Ward's credit, however, he's letting last year be in the past while giving everyone a clean slate.

    7. He also wants to name a starter between the two, so tonight's game will be a big factor.

    For Coffman:

    1. Whether you go back to Brady Quinn or Jack Rafferty, or consider the Stoudt brothers, it's hard to remember a time when Coffman DIDN'T have great options at QB.

    2. The Shamrocks have a returning senior in Ben Beckett who missed three games last year after a concussion, as well as last year's backup, junior Gunnar Hoak.

    3. Similarly to Gahanna, the senior has proven to have clear leadership skills.

    4. Also similarly to Gahanna, the junior has a skill set that's good enough to make him a contender for the job.

    5. Hoak is the player with a scholarship offer to Toledo, so perhaps his upside is higher than Beckett's.

    6. The Shamrocks spent the preseason waiting for one of the two to emerge, and to their credit, both played well.

    7. Regardless of who Coffman picks at QB, it has a talented running back to take the pressure off in Dre Kendrick.

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    By: Jarrod Ulrey

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    8 / 21 / 14

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  • Gahanna infused with new look after 3-7 season

    There were numerous things that didn't go the Gahanna football team's way last year, starting with the fact that it couldn't survive a tough non-league schedule.

    Although they won their first three games of the OCC-Ohio schedule, a four-game skid to end the season that included a 22-19 loss at Lancaster that the Lions could have won all but sealed their fate last season.

    Former Beechcroft coach Bruce Ward has come in with some new ideas, and it will be intriguing to see what he can do in his first season.

    1. When Ward was at Beechcroft, he at times ran a form of the spread offense, particularly when he had a talented athlete at quarterback in 2013 graduate Maurice Hale.

    2. He's got two experienced options at quarterback in Ronald Robinson and Mason Blancett. Robinson started the season at QB last year but Blancett ended the season behind center, and Blancett was the more effective of the two statistically.

    3. Blancett is only a junior, so even if he doesn't start the season at QB, his time will come.

    4. It's a really good junior class for the Lions. In addition to Blancett, there's TE/DL Jonathon Cooper, who has 5 scholarship offers including a big one -- from Ohio State.

    5. It will be fun to watch Cooper grow this year and next.

    6. As far as this year's team is concerned, much of what the Lions are able to accomplish will be determined by seniors like Vasean Davis and Blake Baker, who are solid players, and whether enough players will emerge around them.

    7. The Lions again have a difficult non-league schedule, and one of the Pickerington teams is likely -- again -- to win the OCC-Ohio.

    8. In summation, a season around .500 is what many people are going to expect from this team.

    9. The fun thing about every season is watching to see if teams can surpass expectations, and there certainly is potential here considering the talent at the younger levels, the numbers and athletes in the program, the infusion of a new coaching staff and experienced returnees at the skill positions.

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    By: Jarrod Ulrey

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    8 / 19 / 14

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