The second matchup between the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Watterson high school football teams comesin the opener Friday at John Cistone Field in Akron, but it won't have quite the atmosphere of the first meeting.

The second matchup between the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Watterson high school football teams comesin the opener Friday at John Cistone Field in Akron, but it won't have quite the atmosphere of the first meeting.

In November of 1972, St. Vincent-St. Mary downed the Eagles 28-7 to capture the Class AA state championship in the first year of the state playoff system.

Since then, the Irish have earned three additional titles -- in 1981, '82 and '88. Watterson won its only championship in 2002.

There will, without question, be much more uncertainty on both sidelines this time.

The Eagles lost 32 seniors from a year ago and have little experience at running back, receiver, on the defensive line and in the secondary. Plus, senior Greg Hock is the new quarterback.

St. Vincent-St. Mary would seem to be slightly ahead in terms of experience at the skilled positions and has a huge offensive lineman to run its offense behind in senior tackle Bryant Ausperk (6-foot-8, 300 pounds).

However, the Irish also have a new quarterback. He is expected to be junior Oliver Hildebrant (6-5, 190).

"We have to try to be sound on both sides of the ball," said Watterson coach Dan Bjelac, whose team has gone 4-2 in openers since he took over in 2003. "I think we've improved (during the preseason), but now we've got to keep getting better. Part of it for us is getting more and more repetition."

Dan Boarman, a 1970 St. Vincent graduate, joined the Irish coaching staff as an assistant in 1975 and served under Cistone when they won their three most recent state titles. He left in 1991 to coach at Akron Copley and spent 17 seasons there before returning to his alma mater in 2007. Boarman replaced Ryan Wiggins, who coached the Irish one season before leaving to take over for Bob Jacoby at his alma mater, DeSales.

The Irish went 9-3 in Boarman's first season, advancing to a Division IV regional semifinal, and last year were 7-3 but ended up ninth in Region 13.

Both St. Vincent-St. Mary and Watterson -- which was a Division II playoff qualifier last year when it went 5-6 overall -- have moved to Division III.

Other key players on offense for the Irish are junior running backs Doran Grant and Mark Murphy and senior wide receiver Dom Mitchell.

"Last year we were somewhat limited at quarterback," Boarman said. "We've been running multiple offenses this year. We've got good size on the offensive line."

The most experienced part of Watterson's team is at linebacker, where junior Matt Redfield (6-0, 210) and seniors Matt Schweitzer (6-3, 225) and Mark Theado (6-1, 225) are back.

An inexperienced group of defensive linemen -- led by junior nose guard Hunter Maynard (6-1, 285), a transfer from Teays Valley, and senior Craig Freeman (6-1, 275) -- should be tested.

Senior linebacker Brian Foster (6-1, 240) and Grant at cornerback should lead St. Vincent-St. Mary's 5-2 defense.

They will try to track senior receiver Nick Liimatta and Theado at running back, a duo that Bjelac was impressed with in the preseason.

"(The Irish) are very solid," Bjelac said. "We knew that before we even saw them on film. They mix in some run and throw. They've got a couple nice athletes."