As Columbus Africentric Early College football coach Glenn Blue enters his fourth season, he's confronted with the same problem: How do the Nubians compete against the elite of the City League-South Division?

As Columbus Africentric Early College football coach Glenn Blue enters his fourth season, he's confronted with the same problem: How do the Nubians compete against the elite of the City League-South Division?

"We've always had athletic kids with some speed," he said. "That's always been our strength. But we're a small school going up against a lot of Division II programs in the South Division. Some of these teams have a lot of guys going both ways, but not like we do."

Blue isn't making excuses, but merely pointing out a reality with a roster of about three dozen players. Africentric opened last year with four victories before losing five of its last six games to finish at 5-5 overall and 2-5 in the league (sixth) behind co-champions Marion-Franklin and Eastmoor (6-1). In those five losses, Africentric was outscored by an average of 32 points.

The Nubians -- who have moved from Division VI to Division V -- open Friday at Elgin, a Division IV program in Marion County.

The rest of the non-league schedule includes trips to Wheeling (W.Va.) Linsly School and Portsmouth Notre Dame, both small-school programs.

"It's rough for us in the City League, but we use it as motivation," senior receiver and running back Tajh Jones said.

"It would be easy to get down on ourselves, but it's adversity we've got to try and overcome."

Under Blue, Africentric won its first game in three seasons when he took over the program in 2006. That year the Nubians finished at 4-6. They were 3-7 overall and 0-7 in the league in 2007.

Africentric returns with its spread-option offense, but with a new quarterback.

Junior Sheldon Akin, a second-team all-state selection who threw for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns, transferred to Beechcroft.

The Nubians have welcomed Pickerington North transfer junior Alex Lemon (5-foot-11, 160) to take over the role.

"Our offense is geared for the quarterback, and he's doing pretty well," Blue said. "He might throw the ball better than Sheldon did.

I'm pretty happy with what he's done so far. We're just going to try to get our athletes in space and make a play."

Three of the returning starters on offense will play up front in juniors Juan Thompson (6-1, 215) and Isa Tate (5-10, 175) and senior William Johnson (6-0, 180).

Blue also is counting on junior running back Jerrime Saunders (5-10, 160) and junior receiver Justin McKee (6-0, 170).

"We're a young team, and we're replacing the whole receiving corp so it'll be a learning process," Jones said. "But Alex is learning the offense pretty quick. It's all about him because he has the option to run or pass. He has to execute."

On defense, Jones (5-10, 180) will play free safety with Saunders at cornerback. Tate plays middle linebacker and Thompson will be at end.

Returning senior starter Eric Clifton (6-4, 300) is back at one of the tackle positions.