The Garfield Heights High School football team averaged more than 40 passing attempts per game en route to finishing 4-5 last year.

The Garfield Heights High School football team averaged more than 40 passing attempts per game en route to finishing 4-5 last year.

Regardless, Hilliard Darby coach John Santagata said the Panthers need to be prepared to defend against a more balanced attack when they play host to the Bulldogs on Friday in the opener.

"They threw it all over the place last year, and they still throw it about 50 percent of the time, but they appear to be more balanced this year," said Santagata, whose squad finished 3-6 a year ago.
"They've got an excellent receiver they like to go to a lot, but we've got to respect their running game, because their quarterbacks are good at running with it or distributing it to a back, too."

The Bulldogs' no-huddle spread offense is led by senior quarterback C.J. Dorsey (5-foot-8, 169 pounds), senior receiver Lloyd Henry (6-1, 170). junior receiver Jeremy Graves (6-1, 185) and lineman Mike McQueen (6-7, 275).

Henry is being recruited by Division I colleges after finishing with 55 receptions, 985 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Dorsey is replacing graduate Nick Bowling at quarterback. If Dorsey struggles, junior Terrell Byrd (5-11, 170) or sophomore James Bennett (6-1, 172) could replace him.

Santagata said his 50 Shade defense will need to swarm to Henry every time he touches the ball and move laterally with Dorsey when the quarterback rolls to his right or left.

Tackles Blake Clowes and Sufyan El-Geroushi, free safety Zack Hoyt, linebacker Matt Cyrus and end Tae Bradley are Darby's most experienced defenders.

"Their quarterbacks are good athletes who run and throw well, so they're dual threats," Santagata said. "Their receivers have good speed, so we've got to hustle to the ball when they get their hands on it. They go no-huddle and change plays at the line. They have multiple formations, so it's going to be important that we recognize what they're lining up in and stay sound."

Darby quarterback Matt Allen said the spread option offense will attempt to establish its running game early to loosen up the Bulldogs' secondary.

Darby is counting on an experienced group of linemen seniors El-Geroushi (6-2, 250), Chris Johnson (6-0, 200) and Clowes (6-2, 285), and juniors Bradley (6-2, 260) and David Jordan (6-0, 210) to keep senior linebackers Treyvon Robinson (6-0, 211) and Tommy Peters (5-11, 189) out of the Panthers' backfield.

The Bulldogs' 4-3 defense also is led by senior tackle DeAndre Bell (6-4, 265), and senior ends Jordan Quinn (6-2, 185) and Dave Schillero (6-0, 190).

Last year, Allen went 52-for-109 passing for 624 yards, with five touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 208 yards and two scores on 76 carries.

Cyrus rushed for 608 yards and 11 touchdowns on 132 carries, and senior receiver Tyler Ison had 12 catches for 138 yards.

"We're looking to control the ball and wear our opponent down," Allen said. "We're looking to control the line of scrimmage because that's where it starts for our offense.

"If we can run the ball well early, that should open up some other things for us."