Gahanna Lincoln High School football coach John Snoad has gone against the triple-option offense enough times to know that there wont be a simple way to defend against it when his team plays host to DeSales in its opener Friday.

Gahanna Lincoln High School football coach John Snoad has gone against the triple-option offense enough times to know that there wont be a simple way to defend against it when his team plays host to DeSales in its opener Friday.

When Snoad was in the midst of a 14-year tenure at Napoleon that saw his teams make seven playoff appearances, he ran into one of the Stallions better option teams in 1998 and lost 49-0 in a Division III regional final.

While theres no certainty that this DeSales team will end up being as good as the one which won a state title in 1998 with Aaron Powell at quarterback and David Cook as the featured running back, the Stallions backfield featuring senior quarterback Nick Gentile and junior running back Warren Ball certainly will present difficult problems.

Last year, DeSales blew past the Lions 38-0 in the opening weekend as the Stallions piled up 266 yards rushing.

"Everybody tries something different to defend that package," Snoad said. "Weve got to do responsibility football. They do a very nice job mixing things up. You cant afford to be caught guessing. Its a fast-hitting offense.

"What weve done in the preseason is play pretty soundly. We have 11 kids who are playing together and weve really built a good corps of guys (defensively)."

The Lions defense, according to Snoad, "made a lot of progress" throughout the preseason by being more physical and building depth at linebacker. Senior Jeffery Baasch is the top returnee for a linebacking corps that is sure to be tested. Seniors Kyle Beverly and Kameryn Carter also are expected to be key players at the position.

If the Stallions get any of their runners into open spaces, the Lions have an inexperienced secondary that should be led by senior Tallon Jenkins at cornerback.

Although Gentile threw for an average of fewer than 50 yards per game last season, he does have a pair potentially large receivers in senior Sam Borghese (6-foot-3, 190) at tight end and senior Chris Rock (6-5, 250) at wide receiver.

Rock, however, has been seeing increasing action on an inexperienced offensive line. Senior Santino Cua (6-0, 215) is a returning starter and is at center, but senior A.J. Begeny (6-1, 230) has been battling an injury and is questionable.

"I think were getting better, but when you replace a lot of guys, it takes time to build that continuity, especially up front," Stallions coach Ryan Wiggins said. "We have some juniors who will be getting some minutes (on the offensive line), and when youve got a guy like Chris, we have to put him where we have a need."

Rock, who has verbally committed to Michigan, starts at end for a defense which should make it difficult for the Lions to run against. Senior Tony Moore (5-9, 215) and junior Alex Washington (6-2, 265) also are returning regulars on the line as the defense looks to compensate for an inexperienced group of linebackers.

Cua, senior Myles Grimmard (6-1, 175) and junior Joe Lyberger (5-9, 175) are at linebacker for DeSales, which expects to face a Lions offense that features power running formations.

Senior Tanner Zwelling is back at quarterback for Gahanna after throwing for more than 800 yards last year. While the Lions will feature some shotgun formations, they likely will attempt to take better advantage of the abilities of senior running back Rashawn Ponder (7.5 yards per carry). Senior Sante Cook also should run the ball.

"Last year they were more of a spread team, and this year theyre more of a power, downhill running team, and usually that goes with a good play-action package," Wiggins said. "Theyre athletic, and theyve got real good size up front with a tremendous kicking game."

"A lot of the decisions weve made the past couple years had to do with us being a little thin on the (offensive) line," Snoad said. "Were a little stronger up front, but were also deeper at running back. We have a couple horses to hand the ball to this year. Ive always been a multiple-I guy, but well do that some out of the shotgun. Tanner Zwelling is a 10-game starter from last year whos a good leader."