The New Albany High School football team has faced three physical opponents in Pat Samanich's first season as coach, and he expects the same when OCC-Capital Division play begins Friday, Sept. 20.
The Eagles are 3-0 entering the league opener at home against Olentangy Orange, which is 0-3.
"That's been three physical ballgames, but now we get Orange and coach (Brian) Cross," Samanich said. "They'll be physical, well-coached and fundamentally sound. We have to turn the page and prepare for Orange."
The Eagles finished non-league play unbeaten, but not unblemished. They have had some injuries in the backfield, but depth helped make up for those dings.
Junior Christo Semertsidis tore a knee ligament in a 38-20 win over Reynoldsburg on Aug. 30, after rushing for 255 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries.
In a 17-0 win over DeSales on Sept. 13, New Albany rushed for 315 yards and two touchdowns on 58 attempts. The Eagles used a stable of running backs, as several have nagging injuries, forcing the rotation.
Senior Leslie Anokye ran 14 times for 79 yards and senior O.B. Oppong rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown on four attempts. Junior Jack Burgdoerfer ran for 61 yards on nine carries, senior Hayden George had 51 yards on nine carries and senior Wyatt Johnston added 39 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts.
"We don't have time to put the band-aids on," Samanich said. "(Johnston) is getting there. I can't wait until he's full bore.
"And we needed (Burgdoerfer). He got us two late first downs so we could run the clock down. He took care of the ball and he's a physical runner. Hayden had some great, tough yards."
Senior quarterback Tanner Cline was 8-for-16 passing for 141 yards with no interceptions and all of his completions going to senior wide receiver Joe Siegenthaler.
"(The Eagles) have been scoring a ton of points (37.3 per game) and playing great defense," Cross said. "They also have a load of players, 92, and we only have 46."
The Pioneers remained winless after losing to Hilliard Bradley 44-0 on Sept. 13.
Senior running back Jacob Bobrowski had 51 yards rushing on five carries. Junior quarterback C.J. Stablein was 7-for-19 passing for 60 yards and freshman quarterback Will Phillis was 6-for-15 for 50 yards.
Senior wide receiver Christian King had four receptions for 32 yards. Senior defensive back Alec McCurry had an interception.
"Right now, it's not about wins and losses as much as how much we get better each week," Cross said. "We need to get better blocking, we need to get better tackling, we need to get better at executing our offense. ... We need to be making strides from week to week."