Hilliard Darby High School football coach John Santagata said his defense will need to account for several explosive offensive players in its season opener Friday, Aug. 29, at home against Clayton Northmont.
Santagata particularly is concerned with containing senior tight end Jonte' Broski, who had 14 catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns last season and is a Division I college recruit.
Last year, Broski helped the Thunderbolts finish 8-3 and snap a four-year absence from the playoffs. The Panthers also finished 8-3 and advanced to the postseason for the third time in four seasons.
"Northmont has a spread offense that uses the hurry-up quite a bit," Santagata said. "They run the ball well and they are balanced, passing about half the time. Their athleticism is on another level than what we've scrimmaged against so far, so we've got to be really sound with our assignments. We also need to be aware of where (Broski) is at all times because they line him up as a tight end, H-back and wide receiver to try to get him the ball in space because he's capable of breaking big plays."
Ryan Smith, who rushed for 389 yards and three touchdowns as a tailback last year, has shifted to quarterback for Northmont.
Among the Thunderbolts' offensive linemen is 6-foot-3, 290-pound senior Josh Perry, a Division I recruit.
Darby's 4-3 defense is led by senior linebacker Ben Radcliff (66 tackles last season), junior linebacker Braeden Hook (52 tackles) and senior backs Zack Donatelli (45 tackles) and Trevor Cox (44 tackles).
"They like to spread out and use four wide receivers at a time, but we're going to stick to our base defense and play hard-nosed football," Radcliff said. "We're not a fancy team. We just play well as a unit. We need to play fast, read our keys and tackle."
Darby's spread-option offense includes junior quarterback Nick Powers, senior running back Lorenzo McLaurin and Donatelli at wide receiver.
Powers has taken over for 2014 graduate Nate Green as starting quarterback. Last season, McLaurin rushed for 570 yards and eight touchdowns on 136 carries and Donatelli had eight receptions for 199 yards and four touchdowns.
Northmont employs a 4-4 base defense.
"We need to run the ball effectively to keep Northmont's offense sitting on the bench for as long as possible," Santagata said.
"We always have to be a team that doesn't hurt ourselves with turnovers. We had too many turnovers in our scrimmages and we won't be able to get away with that in this game."