The host Northland High School football team and Independence will represent a contrast in experience when they open Friday, Aug. 29.
In a rematch of a game in which the Vikings took advantage of a pair of fumbles by the 76ers and won 20-18 on a Thursday night a year ago at Independence, Northland comes in with veterans at the skill positions and on the offensive line.
The 76ers, meanwhile, have just four returning starters.
"We don't have a lot of people back, but we'll find a way to make it work," said Independence coach Maurice Douglas, whose team went 6-4 overall last season and tied Eastmoor Academy for second (5-2) in the City League-South Division. "We think we're pretty athletic, but when you're as sloppy as we were (against Northland last year), we don't deserve to win.
"It's coming together. We're still just learning how to play."
Both teams were effective at running the ball a year ago, and that will be the focus for each team again this fall.
Junior running back Ronnie Kuipers was the 76ers' second-leading rusher a year ago with 751 yards. Independence has a new quarterback in senior Antonyo Lavender.
Senior Sydney Perry is among the returning starters at tight end.
Against the 76ers last year, Northland got two touchdown runs from Nateshawn Hargrove, who is a senior and the team's top running back.
Senior Nick Fischer, who rushed for 96 yards against Independence and helped the Vikings finish 7-3, is back at quarterback.
Northland made the playoffs for the second time a year ago.
"Nateshawn has established himself," Northland coach Kevin Tooson said. "We had a successful season last year, and with these guys coming back, they've had a taste of success and a taste of the playoffs. They're not unfamiliar with the process, so they've been able to lead us."
The Northland-Independence matchup is one of three crossover games among City League teams Friday, Aug. 29. In addition, Whetstone plays at Columbus South and Africentric plays at Linden-McKinley.
INDEPENDENCE at NORTHLAND
•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29
•Last meeting: 2013, Northland 20-18
•Top 76ers: Ronnie Kuipers (RB/DB), Antonyo Lavender (QB), Kaavon Parker (WR/DB), Santino Peake (RB/DL), Sydney Perry (TE/LB) and Jalin Rodriguez (WR/LB)
•Top Vikings: Nick Fischer (QB/LB/P), Nateshawn Hargrove (RB/DB), Mike Harris (OL/DL), Michael Kyle (OL/DL), Abu Turay (RB/DB) and Sherman Watson (WR/DB)
Briggs to begin Willoughby era
Larry Willoughby, who coached Heath to a 41-29 mark from 1994-2000, will face another Licking County opponent in his return to the sidelines as Briggs' coach on Friday, Aug. 29, at home against Watkins Memorial.
A year ago, the Bruins went 1-9 overall and 1-6 in the City-South. Their only win was over Africentric, 24-18, and they lost to Watkins Memorial 62-0 in last year's opener.
"I've seen a little film from last year, and (Watkins Memorial) is athletic at the skill positions," said Willoughby, who replaced Butler By'not'e. "Last year they were kind of a senior-dominated team, but they have a large enough roster that they can replace those players. I thought they looked pretty good."
Briggs returns its quarterback in junior Tyson Miles and has senior Maleik Gore back at running back. Senior James Bradley, a Columbus West transfer, also should be a part of the ground game as the Bruins look to improve after averaging 16.2 points last season.
The Bruins, who gave up 52.1 points per game last season, will face a Watkins Memorial team that went 5-5 and returns just two starters on both sides of the ball.
Senior quarterback Mike Ford, who rushed for 545 yards and six touchdowns out of a spread-option set, is the top returnee on offense for the Warriors.
After Briggs won just one game for the second consecutive season, Willoughby believes the biggest key to his team showing improvement will be how it handles adversity.
"One of the most important lessons to learn is that you're never going to play perfectly," he said. "I'm dealing with kids that have played a lot of football, but they've taken a severe beating."
WATKINS MEMORIAL at BRIGGS
•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29
•Last meeting: 2013, Watkins Memorial 62-0
•Top Warriors: Evan Caniff (RB), Mike Ford (QB), Terrial Hitchings (LB), Alex Miles (WR/DL), Nathan Miller (DL) and Cameron Smith (DB)
•Top Bruins: James Bradley (RB/LB), Isaiah Caldwell (WR/DB), Mason Cullen (OL/LB), Maleik Gore (RB/DB), Tavin Jordan (OL/DL) and Tyson Miles (QB/DB)
Cougars look to again beat Dunbar
New Beechcroft coach Trevor White will attempt to help his program improve after going 6-4 overall last season and tying Northland for second (5-2) in the City-North.
The Cougars had won at least a share of the league title every year from 2010-12 under former coach Bruce Ward, who left after last season to take over at Gahanna.
White's first game as Beechcroft's coach is Saturday, Aug. 30, at Dayton Dunbar, which lost to the Cougars 14-0 a year ago on the way to a 5-5 finish.
"(They run) multiple pro-style sets with some spread (shotgun)," White said. "(They're) a lot like us. ... (I) know they're athletic."
White coached Brookhaven to two playoff berths in three seasons, including last year when it went 9-3 overall and won the City-North at 7-0 in its final season.
Beechcroft's new-look offense will feature former Bearcats Macyah Fleming (QB), David Peoples (RB) and Steffen Banks (OL). Senior linemen Tyree Dukes and Chaquez Fair are returnees for the Cougars.
Dunbar brings back a pair of defensive players who made first-team all-Dayton City League last year in senior Isaiah Davis (LB) and sophomore Keyshawn Jones (DB).
Defensively, Beechcroft will be led by former Brookhaven linebacker Takeyvion Simmons as well as Banks and Fair.
Although Dunbar was shut out one other time last season, it averaged 24.1 points while posting its eighth consecutive non-losing record.
BEECHCROFT at DAYTON DUNBAR
•When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30
•Last meeting: 2013, Beechcroft 14-0
•Top Cougars: Steffen Banks (OL/DL), Tyree Dukes (OL), Chaquez Fair (OL/DL), Macyah Fleming (QB), David Peoples (RB/DB) and Takeyvion Simmons (LB)
•Top Wolverines: Davaughn Alexander (OL), Isaiah Davis (OL/LB), Keyshawn Jones (RB/WR/DB), Terrence Landers Jr. (QB/WR), James Thomas (DL) and Jeffery Wagner Jr. (RB)