While the rest of central Ohio's high school football teams begin their respective seasons Friday, Aug. 30, Northland and Independence will get things started the night before.
As part of "Thursday Night Lights," which will be televised on The CW Columbus, the Vikings will travel to face the 76ers at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29.
Northland coach Kevin Tooson expects to face a similar run-based approach by Independence that his team struggled to stop in a 26-7 loss in 2008, the last meeting between the programs.
Games on Friday, Aug. 30, include Brookhaven at Columbus West and Dayton Dunbar at Beechcroft.
"(Independence will) always be a power running team," said Tooson, whose team went 5-5 a year ago while Independence finished 6-4. "Maurice Douglas is an excellent football coach because no matter what he's given, he'll go out and maximize the effort out of his kids."
Independence should be led at running back by sophomores Ronnie Kuipers, Kaavon Parker, Kevon Jones and C.J. Harrison. Senior Anthony Bange, who started at linebacker and also saw time at wide receiver last year, is expected to be at quarterback.
Northland is hoping to take advantage of the speed of seniors Jhustus Cornley and Malcolm Marshall, with both seeing time at wide receiver and slotback. The Vikings return junior Glenn Smith III at quarterback and started several other underclassmen a year ago on both sides of the ball.
While Northland has lost its opener each of the last two seasons, Brookhaven also is seeking a better start after losing to Marion-Franklin in each of its past three openers.
Replacing the perennially strong Red Devils on the schedule is Columbus West, which went 5-5 a year ago.
Brookhaven was 7-3 last season and is expected to be led by seniors Bruce Foster (QB) and Paul Hughes (TE/LB).
Senior Markell Wyche is back at quarterback in a pass-oriented offense for West that also returns seven other starters. Senior Charles Holland is expected to be the top wide receiver.
"We keep hearing about a wide receiver they have who is pretty good," Bearcats coach Trevor White said. "It's definitely going to pose a challenge for us because our entire (defensive) backfield is new."
Three-time defending City League-North Division champion Beechcroft will play host to Dunbar, which went 5-5 a year ago and last made the playoffs in 2010.
Dunbar, which has been a perennial state power in boys basketball and is expected to field a speedy challenge against the Cougars, has a new coach in Darran Powell.
"They're big up front and have got decent numbers," coach Bruce Ward said. "They're known at that school for having great athletes. They'll be a big challenge."