Coach Brian White realizes he has the talent of a typical Hilliard Davidson High School football team.
White stressed, however, that the team is still in search of the intangibles, which usually lead to success.
Davidson will open Saturday against Westerville South in the Kirk Herbstreit Varsity Football Series in Ohio Stadium.
"Talent-wise, I've said it all winter, spring and summer. I feel really good about where we are right now," White said. "Unfortunately, talent is one of the least important things in high school sports to determine success. Obviously, talent is important, but in high school, the other intangibles are what are most significant and those are the things I'm most concerned about with this team. Leadership, chemistry, character, commitment, discipline, honesty, coachability - all those things I'm most concerned about with this team."
The Wildcats are coming off another successful season, as they finished 11-2 overall after losing to Pickerington Central 7-3 in a Division I, Region 3 final. The Tigers scored on a faked punt in the second quarter for the decisive touchdown.
That setback has helped motivate Davidson, which also lost 23-14 to Upper Arlington in OCC-Central Division play to finish second at 6-1 in the league behind the Golden Bears (7-0).
White must replace 18 seniors lost to graduation, a group that included Tyler Backstrom (DE/TE), Adam Frazier (DB/WR), Kenny Klatt (LB), Ryan Meadows (RB), Josh Suchecki (C) and Nick VanDyne (DB).
Senior quarterback Jake Trubiano (5-foot-11, 177 pounds) returns to again guide the team's option offense, which averaged 25.7 points a game last season.
Trubiano was first-team all-OCC after rushing for 648 yards on 128 attempts.
"I think we have potential," Trubiano said. "We just have to come together as far as putting everything together and be the best we can all the time, not just most of the time."
The team's top rusher returns, as senior Spencer Delande (5-10, 190) ran for 848 yards on 204 carries. He was second-team all-OCC.
Also back is junior slotback Rico Butler (5-7, 169), who gained 546 yards on 92 carries. He was honorable mention all-OCC. Senior Andy Conkle (5-11, 203) will play fullback.
Senior David Carraher (6-3, 159) and juniors Jimmy Curtis (5-10, 159) and Derek Hohn (5-10, 159) are battling for time at wide receiver.
Juniors Keith Heitzman (6-3, 222) and Kyle Payton (6-3, 223) will see time at tight end.
On the offensive line, senior Phil Huff (6-4, 250) will look to replace first-team all-district and all-OCC Suchecki at center.
"I love the challenge," Huff said. "It's kind of on our shoulders. That state champion team (in 2006) had a really good offensive line and that's why they won.
"I like having the game on our shoulders and not depending on anyone -- just depending on us."
Other leading contenders up front are seniors Anthony Minturn (5-11, 210) at left guard and Ben Coles (6-0, 248) at right tackle and juniors Kyle Annis (5-10, 231) at left tackle and David Montenaro (6-1, 243) at right guard.
"Theoretically, we should be good (on the offensive line)," White said. "We have four of the five starters back."
Davidson appears to again boast a talented defense, which allowed just 7.4 points a game last season.
Leading the charge should be Heitzman, who will play the Leo position -- an assignment that requires a speedy outside rusher.
Other players up front will include seniors Sky Strahler (6-3, 212) at end, Alex Schmidt (5-8, 230) at nose guard and Zach Walker (5-7, 187) at tackle.
Linebackers include seniors Pat Dougherty (6-3, 200) and Justin Schick (5-11, 189).
The secondary will feature seniors Carraher and Delande at strong safety and Max Friedman (5-7, 155) at cornerback, juniors Matt Arthur (5-9, 155) and Casey Topp (6-0, 152) at cornerback, Cody Topp (6-0, 153) at free safety and sophomores Chase Delande (5-11, 143) at cornerback and Jack Kincade (5-11, 166) at free safety.
Junior J.D. Detmer, a standout on the soccer team, returns to handle the kicking and punting duties.
"We hope our kids reach or exceed our potential, and because of the confidence I have in the talent of our players this year, I think our potential is really high," White said.
Former OCC-Central foes Central Crossing and Westland are no longer in the division after voters in the South-Western City Schools district rejected a levy on Aug. 4, forcing the elimination of extra-curricular activities.
Non-conference opponents Delaware and Lancaster have been added to the schedule, with the Wildcats still seeking an opponent to replace Grove City, another South-Western team that was to be a non-league game Sept. 11. Delaware was a Division I playoff qualifier a year ago.