Ample maxims cover new season like blanket
Another football season kicks off Friday, Aug. 24, for teams throughout central Ohio, and some of the biggest cliches involved in high school sports are starting to come out in full force.
People are wondering whether perennial powerhouse Hilliard Davidson is "rebuilding," considering it lost 31 players to graduation.
Others expect to have a "target on their backs" because of preseason accolades, like the one Pickerington North received when it was listed in the "Best of the Rest" section in USA Today's Super 25 preseason national rankings.
Still, others like last year's Division I state runner-up, Pickerington Central, might have a "chip on their shoulder" considering the significant attention its sister school has been getting.
Sorting through the axioms to discern where some of the area's top teams stand is like trying to figure out when someone has twisted something just enough that a white lie sounds like the truth.
Numbers don't lie, of course, and the facts are that Davidson has just four returning starters while Pickerington Central has only five.
Equally as clear is that Dublin Coffman returns its quarterback, a pair of top offensive linemen and several key players on defense as it looks to "bounce back" from a first-round playoff loss last season.
Westerville South also seems poised to "silence its critics" considering it has back several key components from a traditionally strong offense.
Hilliard Darby and Reynoldsburg seem ready to "burst onto the scene" because of the number of returnees each has this season.
There's also no denying how much talent has been accumulated at Pickerington North, where the feeling has to be that "there are no more excuses" or simply that "this is our time."
There also are some occasions when the numbers cover up other facts, and this seems to be one of those times.
The last time Davidson failed to advance to the postseason was 2007, when it lost two games by eight points or fewer and went 7-3 the year after it won its first state championship.
Even coach Brian White isn't 100 percent immune to a "down season" when you think back to 2002, when Davidson went 4-6 in his fourth season leading the program.
Results from the past few years suggest, however, that Davidson fans probably don't have much to worry about.
It seems like a similar situation for Pickerington Central, where the mentality is that any challenge is an enjoyable one.
The Tigers will be just fine.
Then there are teams like Pickerington North and Reynoldsburg, which look great on paper.
Pickerington North has three players who have verbally committed to Division I college programs and is coming off an 8-2 season in which its only losses were to playoff teams.
Reynoldsburg has returned most of its key players on both sides of the ball and has its share of Division I-caliber talent as well after a surprising 6-4 record a year ago.
On the flip side, neither team has proven -- yet -- that it should be considered one of the area's elite.
Pickerington North has been to the playoffs only once during its first nine seasons. Reynoldsburg has been around much longer, and yet its only playoff berth came in 2001.
Of course, this kind of unpredictability is why we love high school football.
Who knows whether this could be the "breakout year" that Reynoldsburg has been looking for or whether Pickerington North is ready to move into the "inner circle" alongside Pickerington Central and Davidson.
I can't wait to see who "makes their hard work pay off," "flips the switch" and "finds their identity."
Jarrod Ulrey is a ThisWeek sportswriter. Follow his award-winning blog, "On the Recruiting Trail," for the latest in central Ohio high school recruiting news.