The Delaware Hayes High School football team and host Buckeye Valley both will be starting new eras when the season opens Friday, Aug. 29.
Mike Golden will be making his debut as Pacers coach and Matthew Stephens will be coaching his first game with the Barons.
Golden, who is in his 26th season as a head coach and has a 203-78 career record, replaced Zebb Schroeder, who left for Olentangy Orange. Schroeder compiled a 11-19 record in three seasons with the Pacers, including a 5-5 mark last year.
Stephens, a former assistant at Olentangy Liberty and Otterbein University who served as head coach at Cardington from 2006-09, replaced Mike Marshall, who stepped down after 11 seasons. The Barons finished 3-7 a year ago, including a 51-0 loss to the Pacers.
"I still get a little excited, but the game isn't about coaches," Golden said. "I'm more excited for the kids. This is their team. They sacrificed their time and effort and have worked hard and now they get to go out there and see where they stand and how we can continue to improve."
Both teams are concerned about their defense entering the season. The Barons allowed 373 points last season.
"One of our problems last year was that in several games we lost by many (points) and we weren't competitive enough," Stephens said. "This year, we aim to be competitive every week and hope to see constant improvement throughout the season."
Golden said the team must improve on its defensive performance during a scrimmage against Johnstown. The Pacers were outscored 210-206 last season.
"Good teams have good defenses, and we need to get there," he said. "It's a daily grind, but the more reps we get, the better we'll be.
"Buckeye Valley is moving to a spread offense and they're going to throw the ball around some. They've got some athletic receivers and they have the capability to spread the defense out and run with conviction. This is going to be a challenge right out of the gate."
Buckeye Valley averaged 12.9 points per game last season and was shut out five times. Entering the Barons' scrimmage Aug. 22 against the Columbus Crusaders, Stephens had yet to decide who would be his starting quarterback -- incumbent Tim Schilling or Jacob Mann. Both players are juniors.
Outside linebackers Josh Daughenbaugh, a senior, and Ethan Tucky, a junior, are expected to lead Delaware's defense, with senior Jake Brown playing middle linebacker.
On offense, Tucky and senior Ernest Bonsu will be the main cogs in Delaware's power-run offense. The Pacers also were unsettled on their quarterback entering their scrimmage Aug. 22 against Marion Harding, as junior Connor King and sophomore Cullen Moore were vying for the starting job.