Even with his team having a new starter at quarterback in junior Ronald Robinson, Gahanna Lincoln High School football coach John Snoad felt good about his offense throughout the preseason.
Helping take the pressure off Robinson (6-foot, 185 pounds) are three returning starters on the offensive line and senior wide receivers Kevin Randolph (5-11, 190) and Tank Davis (5-8, 155), both of whom had more than 30 catches last year.
However, the Lions' offense, which includes a group of running backs taking on key roles for the first time, expects to be challenged Friday, Aug. 30, in the season opener at Huber Heights Wayne.
The contest marks the first meeting between the programs since 2004.
Wayne, which finished 7-4 last season, losing to Cincinnati Moeller 43-21 in the first round of the Division I playoffs, features a pair of talented linebackers in Dorian Hendrix (6-1, 230) and Diamond Jones (6-0, 205) and an anchor at defensive tackle in junior Robert Landers (6-1, 280).
Hendrix has made a verbal commitment to the University of Kentucky and Landers was a Division I state qualifier in track and field last spring in the shot put.
"Their linebackers are good," said Snoad, whose team finished 7-3 last season. "They've got two linebackers that really impressed the heck out of me. They're fast and physical and I think that's going to be the strength of their defense."
Gahanna has only one returning starter on defense in senior cornerback Emile Camm (5-9, 165), who had seven interceptions a year ago.
Having lost two first-team all-district players in linebacker Mitchell Rowell and lineman Granyl Smith to graduation, the Lions are looking for players to step up in key roles for the first time.
Wayne's offense features running back Trey McFadden (5-9, 195), who rushed for nearly 900 yards a year ago. Other key players include wide receivers Tristan Davis (5-10, 165) and Devin Reed (6-2, 195) and junior quarterback D'Mitrik Trice (6-0, 170).
According to Warriors coach Jay Minton, Tristan Davis is receiving interest from Division I colleges.
Minton has guided Wayne to 10 playoff appearances in 16 seasons, including Division I state runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2010. His 2010 team was led by current Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.
"Gahanna is a great program with great talent that usually makes the playoffs each year," Minton said. "We do not know much about each other, only that each school usually has big-time talent each year."