The Pickerington High School North football team believes it can compensate for not having as much speed as it did last season with depth and experience.
That theory will be tested Friday, Sept. 6, when the Panthers travel to Cincinnati Princeton.
After beating St. Charles 20-0 in its opener Aug. 30, North will go against a Princeton team that won just one game a year ago but has one of the best athletes in southwest Ohio in quarterback Tyrell Gilbert.
A 6-foot, 193-pound senior who has run 40 yards in 4.49 seconds according to various reports, Gilbert has made a verbal commitment to the University of Cincinnati as an athlete.
Last season, Gilbert completed 72 of 161 passes for 883 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 699 yard and 11 scores.
North scored three touchdowns of more than 80 yards on the way to beating Princeton 41-20 in the programs' first meeting last season. The Vikings opened this season with a 48-10 win over Xenia on Aug. 30.
"(Gilbert is) a very athletic kid," Panthers coach Tom Phillips said. "They're a very, very athletic team. I didn't sleep that whole week before playing them last year. That's by far the fastest team we'll face all year."
Princeton went 7-3 in 2011 in coach Gary Croley's first season but struggled last year with inexperience and finished 1-9.
Other key players for the Vikings include senior wide receiver and defensive back Bryant Holloway (6-2, 200) and senior middle linebacker Aubrhee Woods (6-0, 215), who is the son of former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods.
Princeton runs a spread offense.
"(Gilbert) is a pretty good quarterback, and most of our kids are back," Croley said. "I started nine sophomores pretty much starting from the game after we played Pickerington (North) last season.
"I'm sure (North) will reload. They've got a good program."
In North's opener, quarterback Zeph Miller was 14-for-25 passing for 103 yards with one touchdown and one interception and rushed for 97 yards and one score, and running back Brett Howell had 11 carries for 66 yards.
Wide receiver Jaye Williams had five catches for 48 yards and wide receiver Justin Childers had a 2-yard touchdown reception.
The Panthers found out a week before their opener that they wouldn't have senior running back Ron Brown, who has received an offer from Temple, as well as several FCS schools. He moved to Pickerington from Pittsburgh during the offseason before deciding to move back to Pittsburgh.
"This is still one of the most experienced teams I've been around," Phillips said.
"This year there's not much of a drop-off from our first team to our second. I like our depth at running back and I like on defense that we've got five out of our seven back that we play in the box."