Marysville High School football coach Morgan Cotter called last season's opener against Hilliard Bradley the most physical game that he had been involved in during his coaching career.
Cotter and Bradley coach Mike LoParo expect a similar game when the teams open the season Friday, Aug. 30, at Marysville.
Last season, Bradley defeated Marysville 17-10, securing the win in the final minute when the Monarchs lost the ball on downs at the Jaguars' 2-yard line.
Marysville went on to finish 3-7 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Central Division.
"It was the most physical game in my coaching career last year," Cotter said. "We really banged into each other pretty good. Talking to coach LoParo, he said it was definitely a physical football game."
For Marysville, senior Matt Mulholland replaces 2013 graduate Kyle Hites at quarterback and will direct the team's spread offense. Last season, Hites was first-team all-league.
Senior Austin Pfarr, who rushed for 305 yards last season, senior Billy Kidd and junior Aron Mowery will be featured running backs, and senior Jimmy Applegate should be a key receiver.
Marysville will face a Bradley defense that returns seven starters, including senior Ryan Reffitt at free safety, senior Daniel Tepe at cornerback and senior Walker Hamilton at strong safety.
Seniors Cameron Hart, Zack Popovec and Jacob Pugh are back at linebacker, and senior Skylar Hartley (6-foot-2, 305 pounds) started on the defensive line last season. Hartley, also the starting center, has verbally committed to the University at Buffalo.
Senior quarterback Tommy Horn again will direct Bradley's multiple-set offense, which returns 10 starters. Last season, Horn completed 65 of 115 passes for 894 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions and led the team in rushing with 677 yards and five touchdowns.
Senior Darius Walker (DT) and Pfarr (LB) should anchor Marysville's 4-3 defense.
"Marysville was a really physical game last year, and we expect the same," LoParo said. "(Cotter) and I are good friends and they play a physical game on both sides of the ball. (The Monarchs) have their running back Pfarr back and their quarterback (Mulholland) also returns as well as a couple of their linemen, so they should be pretty potent. They look to have everything falling into place."
Last season, Bradley went 4-6 overall and 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal.
"We have to come out to a fast start and winning game one is real important to us," Cotter said. "It sets the tone for the whole season, and if we can win game one, that gives us confidence going to (game) two and then you get on a roll. ... We want momentum on our side. Hopefully, we can get that in that first game."
New boys soccer coach sends message
Following a pair of 1-0 losses to begin the season, first-year boys soccer coach Terry Smith gave his team a stern lecture.
"A lot of it is motivational stuff," he said following a 1-0 loss to Grove City on Aug. 20. "It's trying to get them out of a mentality and a cultural thinking, 'We're just Marysville and it is what it is.' We're trying to get guys to buy into the whole philosophy of a system of play. That's the challenge when you have kids coming from different club teams, which has been healthy, but it's also a challenge because every club team does something different."
Smith replaced Marc Kirsch, who resigned in December after 14 seasons.
The Monarchs also lost to Worthington Christian 1-0 on Aug. 17.
Senior goalkeeper Corey Mankins had 15 saves in the first two games.
Marysville bounced back to defeat Bellefontaine 6-0 on Aug. 22.
Smith coached in the Hilliard Davidson boys program from 1999-2012 and was head coach from 2003-12. The Wildcats won the Division I state title in 2007 and district titles in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
Smith has taken over a team that last season finished 8-5-4 overall and tied Davidson for fourth (3-2-2) in the OCC-Central behind champion Olentangy Liberty (6-1), which won the Division I state title.
Mankins split time in goal last season with 2013 graduate Brandon Sabido.
Also back is junior midfielder Luke Kisor, who last season led the team in assists with six. His brother Zach, who graduated, was first-team all-league last season.
Senior defender Ethan Jenkins was special mention all-league last season.
Other key returnees are seniors Clayton DuVal (defender), Ryan Husband (forward) and Aaron Miller (midfielder) and junior Andy Latimer (midfielder).
Other players are seniors Kyle Fisher (midfielder), Nick Miller (defender), Michael Spencer (defender) and Jordan Thessin (forward), juniors Jordan Payne (forward), Connor Richardson (midfielder), Brian Spaulding (goalie) and Jared Wolfe (midfielder), sophomores Joey Dougherty (midfielder), Justin Greilich (midfielder) and Jared Hartmann (midfielder) and freshmen Kyle Bosch (midfielder) and Tanner Bower (defender).
"It's a work in progress," Smith said. "I'm positive we're going to go in the right direction. We're not losing games because of other teams just beating us. We're just making silly mistakes."
Girls soccer squad features experience
The girls soccer team returns 13 players from a year ago when it finished 9-4-4 overall and 2-2-3 in the OCC-Central.
The Monarchs opened by defeating St. Marys Memorial 7-0 on Aug. 17. They then lost to Grove City 3-2 on Aug. 20 and defeated Hilliard Bradley 2-1 on April 22.
"We had chances, we just didn't finish," coach Jim Daugherty said of the loss to Grove City. "We just need to do a better job of being more opportunistic in front of the net."
Against St. Marys Memorial, senior returnees Mackenzie Hinderer (midfielder) and Tiffany Spears (forward) each scored two goals.
Both also scored against Grove City.
Senior forward Abby Jaggers had 18 goals and six assists and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district last season, and senior forward Kaela Kovanda had eight goals and six assists and was second-team all-league.
Junior defender Lauren Hampton was special mention all-league and senior goalkeeper Kendra Steepe (95 saves) was honorable mention all-league.
Other returnees are juniors Tess Cox (midfielder), Cassie Fisher (forward), Erin Geraghty (midfielder) and Erin Sweeney (defender) and sophomores Kayla Penrod (goalie), Mackenzie Spencer (forward) and Lindsey Sullivan (forward).
"We have a good core coming back, so we should be competitive," Daugherty said. "I'm looking forward to a good year. We just need to fine-tune a few things."
Other players are junior Morgan Berry (defender), sophomores Megan McIntosh (midfielder), Cassidy Nicol (defender) and Kaitlyn Walters (defender) and freshmen Aubree Lewis (midfielder) and Fallyn Stephen (defender).
Marysville finished fifth (2-2-3) in the OCC-Central last season and tied champion Dublin Coffman (6-0-1) at 1.