Two programs that made the playoffs last year meet in this season's opener when the New Albany High School football team plays host to Licking Valley on Friday, Aug. 26.
The Eagles won last year's meeting at Licking Valley 26-10 on their way to an undefeated regular season. The Eagles finished 10-1, losing to Dresden Tri-Valley 30-27 in overtime in a Division II, Region 7 first-round game.
This will be a chance for the Eagles to wipe away memories of their previous home game.
"One of our seniors said that the last time that we played on that field (at home in the playoffs), we lost," coach Mark Mueller said. "I think that we had a great team last year and a great season, but the guys remembered how it ended. That was motivation in the offseason."
Licking Valley qualified for the Division III, Region 11 playoffs. After beating East Liverpool 29-3 in the first round, the Panthers lost to Alliance Marlington 48-21 in a regional semifinal to finish 9-3.
Both teams are seeking to replace productive players.
The Eagles remain a wing-T team offensively, but they have new quarterbacks in junior Darron Lee and senior Zach Tomi and running backs in seniors Connor Wilson and Dan Brittan. New Albany has been a run-dominant team over the years, but this season it has a talented wide receiver corps led by senior Kevin Collins, who has received an offer from Bowling Green.
New Albany's offense faces a defense looking to make up for the loss of linebacker Chase Redman, who also was a key part of the offense as a fullback. Licking Valley's offense should benefit from the return of junior running back Drew McArtor, who became a starter after the fourth game last season. McArtor rushed for a season-high 256 yards in a 62-14 win over Bexley in the regular-season finale.
New Albany's 3-5 defense is looking to make up for the loss of four linebackers but should benefit from a seasoned group of defensive backs who are being used on both sides of the ball.