When the Walnut Ridge High School football team opened Aug. 25 at Duncan Falls Philo, it suited up 17 new starters.

The positions where the Scots have their most experienced players -- up the middle, as coach Byron Mattox likes to call it -- have helped them overcome any relative immaturity so far.

On Friday, Sept. 15, Walnut Ridge kicks off City League-South Division play at home against West.

The Scots beat Beechcroft 6-0 on Sept. 8 to improve to 3-0, while the Cowboys improved to 2-1 with a 42-7 win over East that same night.

"We returned our quarterback, our center, some of our linebackers and some at wide receiver, so we were experienced this year in some important spots," Mattox said. "We've been pleased with our defense. Our front seven has been really good."

Senior inside linebackers Justin Vance and Jajuan Johnson, both of whom are in their third season as key players, will try to help the Scots have better success defensively against the Cowboys than a year ago.

West went 9-2 overall last season, including beating Walnut Ridge 53-44.

Through two games for Walnut Ridge, junior quarterback Isaiah Murphy had rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns and was 16-for-31 passing for 193 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Senior Xzavier Collins had one reception for a 37-yard touchdown and junior Julius Wood had six catches for 121 yards, including an 84-yard touchdown that represented the team's first points of the season.

Senior Calvin Dawson also had six catches through two games.

Defensively through two games, Johnson had 29 tackles, Vance had 25 and Wood had 23.

Mattox also has been pleased with the performance of Novell Thorton, a 5-foot-5, 175-pound sophomore who has seen action at nose guard.

"(West) jumped out on us last year," Mattox said. "It got a little close, but it might as well have been a blowout."

Punchers to face
winless Cougars

Beechcroft will take a 20-game winning streak in the City-North into its league opener Friday, Sept. 15, at Mifflin.

The Cougars fell to 0-3 with a 6-0 loss to Walnut Ridge on Sept. 8, while the Punchers improved to 3-0 with a 55-48 win over Harvest Prep that same night.

A year ago, Beechcroft beat Mifflin 40-14 on its way to finishing 10-2 overall and 6-0 in the league.

During the Cougars' 26-8 loss at Marion-Franklin on Sept. 1, the game was tied at 8 after senior running back Shemar Samuel ran for a 15-yard touchdown and added a two-point conversion run.

The Red Devils, however, scored the game's final three touchdowns.

Mifflin is led by senior quarterback Daveonn Logan, who threw for 312 yards and rushed for 54 during the Punchers' 38-26 win over West on Aug. 25. Senior wide receiver Jeremiah Jackson and junior H-back Aman Thornton also have been key contributors on offense.

Vikings preparing
to face Stars

After earning runner-up finishes each of the past four seasons in the City-North, Northland opens league play Friday, Sept. 15, at home against Centennial.

The Vikings dropped to 1-2 with a 44-26 loss to Granville on Sept. 8.

In a 31-28 win over Whitehall on Sept. 1, junior running back J.J. Branham rushed for 284 yards and three touchdowns and added a 72-yard kickoff return for a score as Northland totaled 471 yards of offense, including 436 on the ground.

Centennial routed Fairfield Christian 86-6 on Sept. 8 to improve to 1-2. The Stars scored 28 points in each of their first two games.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek