Self-focus common theme entering Week 1
Olentangy Orange High School's Brian Cross has been coaching football for more than 30 years, but he never tires of opening night.
When the season kicks off, Cross said he will feel much the same as he did when he first stood on the sideline as a head coach in 1982 at Andover Pymatuning Valley. It always is a step into the unknown as players deal with the pressure of the spotlight, the crowd and the clock.
"(The players) have yet to play under the lights when everything is on the line," said Cross, whose team plays host to Olentangy Liberty on Friday, Aug. 24. "It's always interesting to see how they react when they get out there for the first time."
Orange will be young at the skill positions and on defense, especially after losing the program's all-time leading rusher in 2012 graduate Brandon Schoen, who had 1,262 yards last season and was first-team all-state. Schoen also had two kickoff returns for touchdowns, two punt returns for scores and led the Pioneers with five interceptions as a defensive back.
Because of that, Cross has turned his attention to his team more than his opening opponent.
"We worry more about ourselves because we're not sure how (our players) will perform in a big game," said Cross, whose team finished 8-3 last season, losing to Hilliard Davidson 22-0 in the opening round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs. "We will get a couple of tapes from scrimmages and look at (our opponent) and how well they execute.
"But right now, on defense, we only have two or three starters back. We really worry more about how our kids respond to game-like situations. We have kids with not a lot of experience and hope that they don't make a lot of mistakes."
Buddy White's Reynoldsburg squad finished 6-4 in his first season as coach after the Raiders were 3-7 in 2010.
"Obviously, we like to be prepared for what we know our opponents like to do, but we focus on us," said White, whose team opens at home against New Albany. "We've got to play at a high level of intensity. It's good to have an idea of what you're looking for, but there's a great probability that you'll see things that they haven't done in their scrimmage. We just try to focus on playing the game of football."
White's coaching counterpart in the opener, Mark Mueller, wants the Eagles to limit mistakes.
"Any time you're in a week-one game, it's about executing your game plan and having less turnovers," said Mueller, whose team finished 10-2 last season, losing to Dresden Tri-Valley 24-7 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal. "We concentrate most on not having any turnovers."
Marion-Franklin coach Brian Haffele has the luxury of his team opening against a known opponent in Brookhaven. The Red Devils defeated the Bearcats 28-27 in last season's opener and beat them again, 34-28, in the opening round of the Division II playoffs.
Those were home games for the Red Devils. This one is at Brookhaven.
"It's hard to prepare for week one," said Haffele, whose team went 13-1 last season, losing to Trotwood-Madison 47-44 in a state semifinal. "You're not showing all of your cards in scrimmages, but with us having Brookhaven, it's not as bad because we've played them so many times. Their base schemes aren't going to change. If you're playing a team that's totally different, then that makes it tougher."
Jason Peters coached Grandview last fall to the program's first unbeaten regular season since 1955 and a Division V postseason berth. The Bobcats open at Centennial.
"You always worry about taking care of the little things because if you do that, you have a chance to be successful," said Peters, whose team went 10-1 last season, losing its first-round playoff game 45-29 to Ashland Crestview. "You want to be as healthy as you can be going into the (opener) and try just to execute and be consistent."
Dublin Coffman coach Mark Crabtree tries to treat the opener like any other game, but he knows that can be difficult. That's especially the case this season, as the Shamrocks open at Dublin Jerome.
"I don't think we approach the opener any differently, but in the opener you always feel like you have never prepared enough," said Crabtree, whose team finished 8-3 last season, losing 55-14 to Pickerington Central in a Division I, Region 3 first-round playoff game. "You're not exactly or entirely sure what we may do during the course of the game. You have sort of an unknown factor any year in week one. You have to wait and see how that part goes."
Bexley coach John Smith said coaches have to keep a balance in their approach to the opener. They have to worry about getting their players ready, but they can't forget about the players lining up across the line of scrimmage.
"We will still be trying to figure out the things that we do well and the things that are needed to be improved upon by that first game," said Smith, whose team finished 5-5 last season and opens at Harvest Prep. "That being said, we will also need to know what it is that our opponent is going to try and do to us. This task is a little difficult only from the standpoint that we are watching scrimmages and not games. So we do not get a true picture of what, how and when they are going to do something."