Irish have plenty of questions to answer
Last season, more than two dozen seniors helped lead the Dublin Scioto High School football team to the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
It was a refreshing development for a program that had been to the postseason each year from 2001-05 and won the Division II state championship in 1995, the year the school opened.
But with an offense that features a new quarterback and a young group up front, the Irish have more question marks than this time a year ago.
"I know everybody talks about what we've lost from last year, but I think our defense is going to be good and we're a team that has something to prove," senior center Jacob Schafer said. "We've got young guys up front, but they're very mature. We open the season against Worthington Kilbourne and then we have Dublin Coffman, so we've got to come together."
For the first time in the 19-year "Battle of Hard Road" series between Kilbourne and Scioto, the teams will play in week one, Friday, Aug. 30, at Scioto.
Coffman, which has won the last three meetings against Scioto, will play host to the Irish a week later.
"I think we have guys back who understand what we want to do and they're going to have to be able to carry the load," 14th-year coach Karl Johnson said. "We have to mature quickly and learn how to win. The kids who were on the team last year experienced that and now they have to go out and do it."
Last year's class of 25 seniors led Scioto to the sixth seed in the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
The Irish finished 8-3 overall, losing 21-17 to third-seeded Olentangy in a first-round playoff contest in which they literally came up a yard short.
Wide receiver Mason Matheny caught a pass from quarterback Evan DeMars on fourth-and-goal from the 18-yard line and was tackled inside the 1 with 12 seconds remaining.
Those two are among the skill players Scioto must replace.
DeMars finished his career with program records for yards passing (5,658) and touchdown passes (43). Also gone is receiver Tim Shadoan, who shared OCC-Cardinal Division Player of the Year honors with Hilliard Darby's Caleb Day and Dublin Jerome's Donovan Wilson.
Shadoan, a first-team all-district selection, caught a program-record 81 passes for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
Fullback William Houston provided Scioto with a bruising ground game, rushing for 1,151 yards and 12 touchdowns on 245 carries.
In the OCC-Cardinal, Scioto went 6-1 to finish second behind Darby (7-0). This season, Canal Winchester has joined the OCC-Cardinal and Kilbourne has moved to the OCC-Capital.
With a seventh playoff division added, Scioto will compete in Division II, Region 5.
In working with his young offense, Johnson has put particular focus on those who will play on the line, where Schafer is the only returning starter.
"I feel like we're coming together more than I expected," Schafer said. "We're a group that supports each other. It's going to be different for these guys with the speed of the game and the spotlight, but I know they can handle it."
Those competing for starting spots include seniors Bryan Chu and Trevor Jones, juniors Cody Rice, Sedaya Keita and Alan Goodhue and freshman Brian Zimmerman. Rice sat out last season with an injury.
Taking over at quarterback is 6-foot, 200-pound junior Nathan Densel.
"For him, the good part is that he ran the same offense as the junior varsity quarterback," Johnson said. "We haven't changed anything offensively. He's worked hard in the offseason and now it's a matter of getting reps and making good decisions."
Scioto will continue to run its no-huddle offense in which senior Darius McDonald, a Division I college prospect, will be the main focus as a runner and a receiver. Seniors Cody Steffy and Matt Messick return at receiver and senior Jacob Mosher will start at tight end.
The defense will be led by seven returning starters in seniors Elijah Berry (DL), Jack Flood (DB), Troy Zimmerman (LB) and Spencer Talentino (DB) and juniors Brennen Sawicki (DL), Kevin Sanabria (DL) and Nick Conner (LB). Zimmerman, who had a team-high 131 tackles last season, was special mention all-district and honorable mention all-league. Sawicki was second-team all-league.
Others expected to contribute include seniors Graham Smith and Devin Hawkins at cornerback, junior Ras Lumpkins and senior Isaiah Robinson on the line and senior Derrick Agbaike and junior Mitch Winters at linebacker.
"I think our defensive line is one of our strengths," Johnson said.