Entering its final scrimmage Aug. 21 against Bexley, the Watkins Memorial High School football team appeared to be making improvements, according to seventh-year coach Jeff Severino.
The Warriors, who open Friday, Aug. 29, at Briggs, finished 5-5 overall last season.
"We are where we're supposed to be at this point of the season, and I'm expecting us to show great improvement over the first few weeks of the season," Severino said. "We're trying to prepare for the new summer weather that we didn't have most of the summer because that will probably play a role in the first month of the season."
The Warriors, who defeated Briggs 62-0 in their opener last year, have returned just one starter on offense and two on defense.
The lone returning starter on offense is senior Mike Ford, who was a running back last year in the Warriors' spread-option attack, rushing for a team-high 545 yards and six touchdowns on 107 carries. He has shifted to quarterback this year, replacing 2014 graduate Ben Shroyer, who was 56-for-174 passing for 1,041 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year and ran for 217 yards and five touchdowns on 81 carries.
Zach Jenkins, who was the starting center last season, also has returned, but the junior has moved to defensive tackle.
According to Severino, the Warriors will utilize a rotation of four running backs in Kaleb Goad, Solomon Broomfield, Robert Speaks and Evan Caniff.
"Our strength is Ford at quarterback, and we have excellent (running) backs and slotbacks and the offensive linemen are just catching on," Severino said.
The two returning starters in the Warriors' 4-2-5 base defense are senior tackle Nathan Miller and senior cornerback Taven Jenkins.
Also expected to be key contributors are strong safety Cameron Smith, ends Alex Miles and Rex Miles and linebackers Corey Hare and Terrial Hitchings.
Briggs, which is in the City League-South Division, underwent a coaching change during the offseason, as Larry Willoughby replaced former Ohio State running back Butler By'not'e. The Bruins finished 1-9 last year.
Willoughby is trying to improve a defense that allowed an average of 52.2 points per game last season.
"We're giving up a little bit in size to get the speed on the field," Willoughby said. "We spend a lot of time tackling and pursuing. You go back and look at those big scores (last season) and it's the result of big plays. Fundamentals can take care of those cut-back runs and big plays."
Briggs' 3-4 defense will be led by linebackers Mason Cullen and Michael Bradley and linemen Tavin Jordan and Collins Dede.
Leading the Bruins' wing-T offense are quarterback Tyson Miles and running back Maleik Gore. Both are returning starters.
Willoughby coached Heath from 1994-2000, posting a 41-29 record and winning two MSL-Cardinal Division titles.
"Larry takes over a typical City team, that although small in numbers, has some very good athletes and some decent size," Severino said. "His teams like to power the ball at you, but they have breakaway speed and we'll have to match up with their athletes."