Football | Week 1 Preview

Franklin Heights at Westerville North

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The Westerville North High School football team used an array of big offensive plays and defensive stops to defeat Mount Vernon 33-26 in a scrimmage Aug. 23.

Warriors coach Rodger Elander is hoping his team duplicates that effort in its opener Friday, Aug. 30, at home against Franklin Heights and ends a 45-game losing streak.

"We had some nine- and 10-play drives in our scrimmages, and those were nice to see," Elander said. "We had some success throwing the ball, too, especially in 7-on-7 situations, and our quarterback has developed some confidence in his receivers.

"Ultimately, we want to have drives that can demoralize the other team, and maybe ice a win."

Senior Jake Downs is projected to start his first game at quarterback against a Franklin Heights team led by former North coach Mike Owens. The Falcons entered the season with only 26 players on varsity, less than half of the Warriors' 55.

"We've been getting ready for this game since the beginning of August," said Owens, who coached North from 2009-11 and led the Falcons to a 2-8 record last year. "It's going to be a big game for both of us. All we can do is be well-prepared."

The Falcons won last year's game 21-14. They led by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter before North tight end Moises Vasquez, now a senior, caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from 2013 graduate Austin Smales. But the Warriors failed to score the tying touchdown on their next three possessions, including being stopped on downs inside Franklin Heights' 30-yard line in the final five minutes.

Elander expects Franklin Heights to keep a run-based offense that thrives off jet sweeps and counters, and run a 4-3 defense.

"They'll keep us on our toes," Elander said. "I know (Owens) would say he wants more numbers, but they definitely have some athletic threats."

North will depend on senior Andy Struttmann (401 yards and a team-high five touchdowns on 130 carries in 2012) to pace its ground game.

"Our guys are going to have to execute, that's what it will come down to," Owens said. "No. 1, will we be mentally tough enough to overcome the adversity that we will face in this game? No. 2, can we eliminate costly turnovers that will give them a short field and opportunities on offense? If we don't, it's going to be a long night for us."

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