The Canal Winchester High School football program celebrates its 100th anniversary Friday when it plays host to Bexley, and the Indians are hoping to defeat the Lions for a third-consecutive season.

The Canal Winchester High School football program celebrates its 100th anniversary Friday when it plays host to Bexley, and the Indians are hoping to defeat the Lions for a third-consecutive season.

Last year Canal Winchester pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 28-7.

"Canal is going to be an extremely good football team," Bexley coach John Smith said. "With the numbers they have and the type of kids they have, they're putting a very good product on the field. It's going to be a very tough."

Canal Winchester returns a lot of key players on the offensive side of the ball but will be breaking in nine new starters on defense.

Conversely, Bexley lost many key offensive players, but looks solid on defense.

The key matchup will be when the Indians have the football. Canal Winchester features a spread offense that runs slightly more than it passes.

Led by quarterback Justin Whitlatch, running back Mike Mainella and receiver Tyler Thompson, the Indians are talented at the skill positions and anticipate being able to move the ball.

The way for Bexley to attack the Indians' offense is through the middle as Canal Winchester is breaking in some new starters on the line.

Leading the way for Bexley will be a defensive line consisting of Danny Webb, Martin Raabe, St. John Leck and Alex Delap, as well as Devlin Carter, who will rotate in.

"We're still developing up front and trying to solidify things there," Canal Winchester coach Phil Mauro said. "The guys who have a lot of game experience -- like Mike, Justin and Tyler -- are really stepping up."

On offense, Bexley must overcome the loss of quarterback Seth White, who is now competing for Ball State.

The Lions have turned the offense over to Adam Leeds, who started two games last season, including a 21-14 playoff loss to Logan Elm. He'll try to get the ball to veteran receivers Ronnell Armstrong, Martin Binau and Drew King. In addition to the passing game, Mauro cited the need to keep Lions' running back Mike Edwards in check.

"They've got a nice running back and he's looking good," Mauro said. "I know they like to run the inside zone, but they've also got good speed on the perimeter."

The Indians have just two returning starters on defense in outside linebackesr Zack Hitchens and Ryan Rose. Hitchens played end last season.

"We got tested (in the preseason)," Mauro said. "We saw good teams with New Albany, Olentangy Liberty and Dover and we're getting better. We had a really good test against the pass with Dover and their five-wide offense."

Canal Winchester has beaten the Lions to open the season the last two years. In both games the fourth quarter decided the outcome.

"Two years in a row, we've had fourth-quarter meltdowns," Smith said. "We put ourselves into great positions going into the fourth quarter and then we pretty much had some meltdowns that cost us opportunities to win."

Mauro said the Indians are eager to get underway.

"Every year, game one is a huge just from a standpoint that you want to start the season off well," Mauro said. "There is always a lot of great anticipation, so it's important for us to do well in our non-league games to help us get better for when we get to the league."