With just 30 players on the roster, Columbus Academy football coach Jim Collis realizes his team will have little room for error or injuries, but he believes the Vikings' skill players will give them a chance to win every week.
"I wish we had more numbers," said Collis, whose team finished 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the MSL-Ohio Division a year ago. "The kids are here, they're showing up, they're working hard and we're going to coach what we have and make the most of it. We have decent talent at our skilled positions. It's just a matter of whether we can stay healthy."
Academy will open at home against Grove City Christian on Friday, Aug. 30, and the Vikings will begin play in the revamped MSL-Ohio at London on Sept. 20.
Academy, Bexley and Whitehall have remained in the MSL-Ohio and will be joined by Grandview, London, Madison Plains and West Jefferson.
Worthington Christian also has joined the league and will play at the junior varsity level this season before beginning varsity play next year.
Granville, Licking Valley and Newark Catholic -- which shared the league title last season at 6-1 -- have joined the Licking County League along with Heath and Lakewood.
"The league will still be competitive," Collis said. "The thing that will help us is schools will be in our situation with numbers. They're our size, so they're probably going to be similar to us in terms of how many players they have and guys that are playing two ways."
Senior Charlie Watters (6-foot-4, 218 pounds) is expected to replace 2013 graduate Hart Wise at quarterback and direct Academy's wing-T and spread offense.
"(Watters) is going to have a good year," Collis said. "He's 6-4, so he can see over stuff. He has a strong arm. We're going to count on him a lot to do some things offensively."
Last season, Wise completed 83 of 144 passes for 1,045 yards with 10 touchdowns and rushed for 142 yards and three touchdowns on 53 carries.
"We haven't been in the playoffs in awhile (2006)," Watters said. "Team is what matters here. Playoffs, see how far we can go there. Keep working everyday. Come to practice everyday ready to go."
Also back is senior halfback Bryce Bailey (5-11, 175), who rushed for 468 yards and 10 touchdowns on 85 carries last season.
Bailey will look to replace Jared Harris, who as a senior led Academy in rushing with 1,085 yards and seven touchdowns on 167 carries.
"I can't wait for this season," Bailey said. "Each day during the summer I was working out. I went to multiple camps to get better and help my team win this fall."
Junior Ben Dahl (5-8, 165) is the fullback and senior Lee Solomon (5-9, 185) will play wingback.
Collis likes the development of his offensive line, but said it lacks depth.
Senior center Garrett Levine (5-11, 180) will be flanked by senior Isaac Sheumaker (6-1, 210) and sophomore Dalton Porter (5-11, 195) at guard and juniors Reed Clark (6-2, 185) and Dan Jones (6-1, 205) at tackle. Senior Tyler Krumlauf (6-0, 185) will play tight end.
Senior Tyler Kohman (6-3, 185) will handle the kicking duties, and Bailey will punt.
With the small roster, several offensive players also will start in the Vikings' base 4-3 defense.
"When you have low numbers you have to be physical. You have to do it all," said Watters, who also will play defensive end. "We're all going both ways. It's not just one person working. It's everybody going both ways, and we have a core group of guys we can really do something with."
Junior Luke Albers (5-9, 195) will play tackle, sophomore Matt Schmidt (6-0, 180) is an end and Jones is a guard.
Linebackers will include junior JaVahn Iverson (5-10, 180), freshman Roman Bellisari (5-10, 170), Sheumaker and Solomon.
The defensive backfield features Bailey and Dahl at cornerback and senior Conner Nelson (5-9, 165) and sophomore Jack Mills (6-0, 170) at safety.
Sheumaker and Solomon were second-team all-league and Bailey, Watters and Dahl (RB/DB) were honorable mention all-league a year ago, and Sheumaker and Solomon also were honorable mention all-district.
"It's going to be an interesting year," Collis said. "Our skilled guys are talented. Injuries are going to occur in this game. It's a matter of when they occur and who it happens to and at what time."