The Central Crossing High School football team enters the season looking to avenge a 40-7 loss to Whitehall in last season's opener.
Comets coach Chris Harr expects an improved effort when the teams meet Friday, Aug. 30, at Central Crossing.
"We're more concerned with this team and this year and protecting our house," said Harr, whose team finished 2-8 last season. "It's always a little more (intense) when you're at home. Everybody is 0-0, so everybody thinks and hopes they're going to have a great year. It's more about taking the hard work that we've put in throughout the whole offseason and unleashing it and letting it pay off in week one."
Whitehall coach Jake Kuhner also expects a different game. His team was 3-7 a year ago.
"I think they'll definitely come into the game a little more focused than what they were last year," Kuhner said. "They probably thought since we're a Division III team and they're in Division I that we weren't going to give them too much of a fight, but they're going to be ready for us this year and it's going to be a real tough game for us."
Senior Cody Koons, Whitehall's quarterback, rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns and senior tailback B.J. Upchurch added 98 yards and two scores in last season's game.
Koons has been sharing time at quarterback in the preseason with junior Tristen Ritchie after both saw playing time last season.
The Comets' 4-3 defense should be led by senior end Jake Whitlock and junior end Shane Maxey, who had 83.5 tackles last season.
Central Crossing will run a spread offense for the second consecutive season after switching from a power-I formation.
Senior quarterback Luke Duncan, who was second-team all-OCC-Central Division and honorable mention all-district last season, will direct the offense. Last year, he completed 117 of 230 passes for 1,782 yards with 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and rushed for 515 yards and seven touchdowns on 175 carries.
Senior Michael Traversa had 35 catches for 271 yards last season.
Junior Ethan Swank, a transfer from Grove City Christian, and sophomore Colter Bass should be threats at running back.
Whitehall's 3-4 defense includes Upchurch at safety, where last season he was first-team all-district and first-team all-MSL-Ohio.
Junior Cameron Barker (DL) had 45 solo tackles and assisted on 15 last year.