The Reynoldsburg High School football team lost nine starters on defense and returns seven on offense from last year's 7-3 squad.
The Raidrs' opening opponent, New Albany, returns five on offense and six on defense from an 11-3 team that lost to Trotwood-Madison 33-32 in a Division II state semifinal.
Both teams feature up-tempo, run-based offenses that, when correctly executed, open opportunities for the pass.
But first-year Eagles coach Pat Samanich wouldn't be surprised if their Friday, Aug. 30, game in New Albany's refurbished and renamed Veterans Field turns out much like Reynoldsburg's 10-9 opening win from 2012.
"It really depends on how well both teams run the ball," Samanich said. "We have to win on special teams, and turnovers had a huge impact on us last year (New Albany committed two). It'll be a great test to open the season."
Reynoldsburg coach Buddy White agreed turnovers were a primary factor in the outcome, and hopes his experienced offense avoids that trap. The Raiders have four three-year starters in quarterback Jordan Aekins (47-for-103 passing, 768 yards, 8 touchdowns, 4 interceptions in 2012), full-back/safety Tyrek Pugh, middle linebacker Solomon Grace and offensive tackle O.J. Grant.
"We just have to be careful, especially with nine new starters on defense," White said. "They're going to be good, but we don't know exactly what to expect yet. The offense is more experienced, and I hope they won't have to carry the defense early."
The Eagles are expected to run the ball as much under Samanich as under previous coach Mark Mueller, for whom Samanich was offensive coordinator. Senior Tanner Cline takes over at quarterback for Ohio State signee Darron Lee, and senior fullback Leslie Anokye (1,147 yards and 12 touchdowns on 149 carries) should anchor the running game.
Leading defensive returnees include senior linebacker Victor Chamberlain (64 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 interception), senior linebacker Nick Clemons, senior end Trey Quillin and senior free safety Joe Siegenthaler.
"We remember 10-9," Samanich said. "Hopefully the urgency clicks in their minds a little earlier this year than last year. We're ready to go."