Columbus Academy football coach Jim Collis believes his team and Grove City Christian enter their opener in similar situations.
Both programs appear to have talented players at the skill positions, but lack depth. Academy has 34 players on its roster, and Grove City Christian has 24.
The teams will meet for the first time Friday, Aug. 30, at Academy.
"They're like us in terms of numbers and players," said Collis, whose team finished 5-5 last season. "It's going to be the team who's mentally prepared, ready to play and can execute on both sides of the ball and special teams."
The Vikings will be led by senior Charlie Watters, who replaces 2013 graduate Hart Wise at quarterback and will direct the wing-T and spread offense.
Watters also is expected to be a key member of Academy's 4-3 defense as an end, along with seniors Lee Solomon and Isaac Sheumaker at linebacker.
Also back is senior halfback Bryce Bailey, who rushed for 468 yards and 10 touchdowns on 85 carries last season.
The Eagles feature a 3-5 defense, with junior Kylar Hunt expected to anchor the line.
Senior Casey Stauffer, junior Will Whinham and sophomore Caleb Newkirk are key linebackers.
Senior quarterback Nate High will direct Grove City Christian's spread offense, which also includes pistol schemes. Last season, High completed 36 of 78 passes for 592 yards with six touchdowns and rushed for 498 yards and 10 touchdowns on 97 carries.
Junior running back Jordan Haywood led the team in rushing last season with 1,164 yards and 14 touchdowns on 170 carries.
Key wide receivers are juniors Tre Roberts and Tristan Taylor.
"Grove City Christian seems pretty solid," Collis said. "It's hard to tell and judge teams on film. We don't have any comparative scores to go off of. We're preparing like it's going to be a first game. You never know what's going to happen."
Grove City Christian went 5-5 last season and has joined a league for the first time, the MSL-Cardinal Division.
"If we could get a first win that would be just huge," first-year coach Andrew McCampbell said. "That would set our season up just really well. Going in the Mid-State League is going to get us better competition at the end, too. If we can get a win out of the gate that would really set us up real nice for the rest of the year."
Field hockey team looks to defend title
The field hockey team began pursuit of a second consecutive state title when it played Upper Arlington on Aug. 27.
The Vikings won their ninth state title and first since 2006 when they defeated Watterson 2-1 in double overtime in last year's final.
Academy returns key players but was hit hard by graduation, including four-year starter Courtney Deena, who is playing at the University of Maryland.
Another key loss was sophomore Hana Sinno, who transferred to Thomas Worthington.
Seniors Paige Berliner (attacker), Kat Restrepo (defender) and Brie Stahl (midfielder) return and are captains.
Other returnees are seniors Sarah Guendert (goalkeeper) and Rachel Theis (defender) and sophomores Alyssa Edwards (attacker), Grace Geiger (midfielder) and Maddie Vaziri (attacker).
"We return a lot of great players that are going to be key for us this year and the girls are excited about their opportunity," coach Anne Horton said.
Other players are senior Maddie Burns (attacker), juniors Alivia Brown (defender/midfielder), Sydney Lawrence (attacker), Alex Keith (defender), Lauren Martin (defender) and Kendell Silwonuk (defender), sophomores Caroline Aronowitz (midfielder/attacker), Katie Boeckman (defender), Lottie Smith (attacker) and Madeline Walter (attacker) and freshmen Emily Cammeyer (midfielder), Alaina Gwin (attacker), Natalie L'Hommedieu (defender), Maggie McCann (defender), Baylee Mueller (defender/midfielder), Madeline Owen (attacker), Tia Proicou (goalie) and Karina Walter (defender).
"The face of our team will change," Horton said. "We're going to be like a chameleon a little bit, which is we're going to be hard to predict, which is nice. I have some new faces and some new energy, which if some kids stayed in the program or hadn't transferred out wouldn't have had that opportunity this year."
Last season, Academy won the Central Ohio Field Hockey League at 10-0-1, ahead of Watterson (10-1).
The league has realigned into two divisions, with the Vikings playing in the East Division with Bexley, Columbus School for Girls, Granville, Hartley, Lancaster, New Albany, Watterson and Worthington Kilbourne.
Boys golf team seeks return trip to state
The boys golf team is seeking a return trip to the Division III state tournament after finishing third last season.
The Vikings tied Wellington for second (651) behind Ashland Crestview (646), with Wellington earning second place with a lower fifth-player score.
Junior Carter Kistler led the Vikings last season at state with a two-day total of 160. Other returning state competitors are junior Nabeel Khan (161), senior Shabaz Khan (167), junior Ted Loper (169) and sophomore Vincent Dong (179).
Other golfers are seniors Max Berk, Tom King and Rahul Ramaswamy and freshmen Drake Budzik, Parker Graham, Aditya Jadcherla, Andrew Leader, Braden Shimp, Nick Smith and Michael Zhang.
The Vikings won three early season tournaments, including the 21-team Sugarcreek Garaway Pirate Invitational on Aug. 10 at Willandale by shooting a 303.
Academy also won the preseason MSL-Ohio tournament Aug. 13 at Darby Creek with a 315 and the 18-team Warrior-Jaguar Invitational on Aug. 15 at NorthStar with a 308.
"I'm very happy that we won three of our first four events in the season," coach Steve Evans said. "Plus, the only teams that have beaten us are very good Division I teams, so we are performing well against teams in our division."
Academy is competing in a realigned MSL-Ohio with Bexley, Grandview, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson and Worthington Christian.
Juniors Chloe Bradburn and Allison Wallace will play on the boys team during the regular season but compete in girls postseason tournaments.
Evans said Bradburn will miss the first few weeks of the season with a back injury. Last season, she competed in her second Division II state tournament and tied for 16th (168).