Playing in the first home game of the season is almost enough to satisfy Johnstown-Monroe High School linebacker Jacob Kennedy as he begins his senior season. However, he does consider the pregame ritual is a bit of a bonus.

Playing in the first home game of the season is almost enough to satisfy Johnstown-Monroe High School linebacker Jacob Kennedy as he begins his senior season. However, he does consider the pregame ritual is a bit of a bonus.

"Being the first home game will be great because of all of the tradition," said Kennedy, whose Johnnies will face Heath on Friday at Frank Chambers Stadium. "We always come down to the field through the middle of the stands, down through the crowd, and to think that it will be the opening home game of my senior year will be something great. It's something I'll always remember."

Kennedy hopes the Johnnies will have better memories than when they lost a 28-14 lightning-delayed contest at Heath last year.

Heath speedster Charles Gresham, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior, moves to tailback after being a first-team all-district player at wide receiver. The Bulldogs also return junior quarterback Cole Benner, who passed and ran his way to honorable mention all-district honors.

"They have a pretty quick team," Kennedy said. "They have a pretty good quarterback and a really fast kid at running back. To stop that, you just have to take good angles on defense, stay in pursuit and make sure to wrap up when you get there."

Carter knows what to expect from Gresham.

"They have one of the fastest kids in the county (in Gresham)," he said. "We have to play gap-sound fundamental football and be very good at wrapping up and tackling."

On defense, senior Dylan Wethey (6-1, 250) leads a veteran line that includes returnees senior Devin Boucher (5-10, 205) and juniors Nate Hunt (5-11, 165) and Aaron Wolfe (6-1, 190). Senior safety Daniel Combs (5-11, 170) was first-team all-district last fall.

"They always play an aggressive style on defense," Carter said. "You have to snap up your chinstrap and fire up and stay low."

Heath coach Mark Collier has watched as the teams have played for the last three seasons and knows what to expect from the Johnnies.

"They are a tough, physical football team that likes to get up to the line of scrimmage," said Collier, whose team lost to Johnstown 41-14 in 2007, but won 34-28 in 2006. "They run a lot with their 40 defense with the outside linebackers crowding the line of scrimmage. They play old-school football and they consistently have been like that for the last three years when we have played them."

Johnstown has five starters back on defense include senior Brad Couts, also the tailback, at outside linebacker, senior Reed Franklin at safety and Kennedy at inside linebacker. Senior Riley Cannon, who also will be the Johnnies' quarterback, started at defensive end last season, but moves to outside linebacker. Senior Scott Robinson moves from safety to outside linebacker.

"Our kids have a great work ethic and have been working hard in practice to get ready," Carter said. "Reed Franklin has been really impressive with the way he has been playing, the way he hustles and he has been a good example for our younger kids."