The Westerville Central High School football team is set to open its season Friday, Aug. 30, at home against DeSales.
The contest marks the first meeting between the programs.
Central and DeSales both enter the season seeking a return to the postseason. Last year, both teams fell one spot shy of qualifying for the playoffs, as the Stallions went 5-5 and finished ninth in Division III, Region 10 and the Warhawks went 7-3 and finished ninth in Division I, Region 3.
Central coach John Magistro views the matchup with DeSales -- which had its 18-year playoff streak snapped a year ago -- as an early-season test.
"The thing that is exciting about this is a lot of their players are Westerville kids," Magistro said. "These kids sort of know one another and some of them have even played ball with them somewhere up through the ranks. They have a proud program over there. We all know about their success. When we had the opportunity to play them, I thought it was a nice challenge for our program."
DeSales coach Ryan Wiggins also sees the contest being a stern challenge.
"We play good people all the time," Wiggins said. "Our team is used to that, but it is a challenge. You're talking about a big school and a team that we know has a lot of talent on it and just being a neighborhood, a local team, it will be crowded. It will be a great atmosphere for our kids. It's very exciting. Both teams are champing at the bit to play."
DeSales should have a new look offensively, as former Ohio Northern University coach Tom Kaczkowski is serving as the quarterbacks coach. The Stallions are expected again to run their triple-option offense with a mix of pistol formations.
Brandon Krietemeyer, a junior who sat out last season after transferring from Thomas Worthington, is expected to start at quarterback. Another key player on offense for DeSales should be senior Griff Saunders, who will play H-back and tight end and has made a verbal commitment to Bowling Green.
Central's 4-2-5 base defense features seniors Jordan Bratton and Andy Oppliger at linebacker.
The Warhawks averaged 26.1 points last season and senior quarterback Jared Drake has returned to lead their spread offense. Last season, Drake passed for 1,308 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 951 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Senior Alex Fisher is expected to be Central's featured running back after rushing for 734 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. The Warhawks' receiving corps includes seniors David Hatchett, Micah Lowe, Tommy Mansfield and Jalon Talley and their offensive line is anchored by left tackle Nick Richardson, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior who has verbally committed to the University of Kentucky.
DeSales allowed an average of 22.6 points last season. Looking to help improve that defense and contain the Warhawks are Griffin at linebacker and senior defensive backs Sayyid Kanu and Tucker Yinger.