The Columbus Academy and host Grove City Christian School football teams enter their opener Friday, Aug. 29, in similar situations.
Despite having limited numbers during the preseason, Academy coach Jim Collis and Grove City Christian coach Andrew McCampbell both believe they have solid cores with which to work and their teams can have some success if they stay healthy.
The teams met last season in the opener at Academy, with the Vikings winning 55-20.
Academy, which competes in Division VI, has 27 players in the program and practiced some days in the preseason with fewer than 20, according to Collis.
Grove City Christian, which is in Division VII, also has 27 players.
"They're a team that is similar to us in terms of numbers," Collis said. "I think we may have an advantage when it comes to skill positions, but you never know in first games. You open up the first game and you never know what's going to happen. You can't turn the ball over and if we take care of business, we have a good chance."
The Vikings will have a new look in the backfield as junior Matt Watters (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) is expected to replace his brother, 2014 graduate Charlie Watters, at quarterback in the team's wing-T offense.
Senior Ben Dahl (5-11, 160), who rushed for 328 yards and five touchdowns on 66 carries last season, is expected to be the starting tailback. He replaces 2014 graduate Bryce Bailey, who last season had 73 carries for 622 yards and eight touchdowns and 22 receptions for 291 yards and two scores.
"We're young and we have some talent," Collis said. "We're making a lot of mistakes, but they have some grit. The kids are battling and they're showing a competitive spirit that I questioned whether that we had or not. I'm finding out that it is becoming more important to them because they're playing hard."
With limited rosters, many players on both teams will have to play both ways, with a key contributor for Academy expected to be senior Reed Clark (6-3, 210) at offensive tackle and defensive end.
A key two-way player for Grove City Christian should be senior Tre Roberts (5-11, 180) at running back and cornerback. Last season, he rushed for 282 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries and caught 10 passes for 228 yards and two scores.
The Eagles are looking to replace senior running back Jordan Haywood, who transferred to Hilliard Bradley after rushing for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns on 173 carries last season. He was second-team all-MSL-Cardinal Division and honorable mention all-district.
Sophomore Matt Bailey (5-8, 155) has replaced 2014 graduate Nate High at quarterback in the team's pistol-wing offense.
"Our kids know they competed with (Academy) for a half last season. They just have to put a full game together," McCampbell said. "The seniors have been talking about that. One of our goals is to, no matter what, win the fourth quarter. Finishing games is going to be a big thing this year for us."
Last season, Grove City Christian trailed Academy 14-7 at halftime.