The season opener between the host Hilliard Bradley High School football team and Thomas Worthington on Friday, Aug. 29, has the makings to be a quick game.
The teams possess similar offensive philosophies, as first-year Thomas coach Rodney Hopkins has implemented a flexbone triple-option scheme and fourth-year Bradley coach Mike LoParo employs a spread-option attack. Both teams utilize the 50-shade defense.
"I like what they're doing on film, and I know Rodney Hopkins is a great schemer who will have his team prepared for everything we do," LoParo said. "We both rely on option principles, staying on schedule, keeping the clock running and moving the chains.
"It's a great move for (Thomas). When you're a first-year coach trying to build a program, I think option is the best system. It's built on reading defenses and the defenses have to be exceptionally disciplined and fundamental."
Thomas won 32-0 in the teams' only previous meeting in 2009, which was Bradley's first season.
"We're a young team with 11 seniors and very few returning starters learning a new system with an almost entirely new coaching staff," said Hopkins, who replaced Scott Gordon. "We got better from our first scrimmage to our second scrimmage, but we have things to work on. We need to tackle better and swarm to the ball better on defense and not put the ball on the ground on offense."
Bradley, which finished 6-4 last season, holds an edge in experience, as it has returned five starters on offense and six on defense. In addition, the Jaguars have three senior running backs who moved into the district in Patrick Enright, Jordan Haywood and Jamil Jones.
Haywood, the brother of former Davidson standout running back Christian Haywood, played for Grove City Christian last fall and was named honorable mention all-district after rushing for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns on 173 carries.
Jones transferred from Gahanna, where he rushed for 117 yards on 13 carries last year, and Enright played for Darby the past two seasons.
"They've got very good speed at all of the skill positions, so we'll have to read our keys, get people to the ball and tackle better," Hopkins said. "They have decent size and are a physical bunch."
Thomas, which finished 4-6 last year, is expected to be led defensively by end John Petrucelli, linebacker Kyle Hilyard and strong safety John Lee.
"They've got some good-looking kids on film in (Hilyard and Lee)," LoParo said. "Both get to the ball well and are all over the field. Offensively, I think their young quarterback (Terrell Washington) is making the right reads and appears to be a good athlete."
Lee, who also plays running back, and running back Jozay Kidd are expected to get the bulk of the carries for a Cardinals offense that has just two returning starters.
Bradley's defense is led by returning linebackers Chris Wall, Keegan Driscoll and Dalton Hatfield.
"We're strong in our linebacker corps and we have a lot of speed defensively," LoParo said. "Wall is the most instinctual kid we have. He's explosive, gets great leverage and beats the block."