Athletics director John Betz promises there won't be anything special about Olentangy Berlin High School's inaugural football game -- other than the game itself.

When the Bears battle visiting Briggs on Friday, Aug. 24, Betz said the school will, in a manner of speaking, let football do the talking. However, don't be surprised to see Betz give the school's "Claws Up" gesture a few times throughout the evening.

"There will be nothing out of the ordinary, just Friday night football," he said. "That's a spectacle in itself. It's a time for the community to come out, tailgate and have some fun.

"It might take some time to get here (because of the limited access to the facility) but once you do, it will be a lot of fun. Just come early, tailgate a little and enjoy yourself."

Coach Mark Nori hopes to be able to enjoy himself. His team has little previous varsity experience and a roster without a senior class.

Nori, who played college and professional football, coached the past eight seasons at Stow-Munroe Falls. He said he has never had an opening night like the one ahead.

"We're opening more than just a football season," said Nori, who went 60-29 at Stow-Munroe Falls and reached the playoffs in four of the past five seasons. "This game is extended to the school, the community and the stadium. It's going to be a true opening night."

Briggs coach Sean Zink was an assistant at Licking Heights in 2003 when the Hornets were the opening act for Liberty's first football season. The visiting Patriots won 14-0 but lost their next nine games.

"It's always hard to get a read on a (first-year) team like this because you don't know what to expect," said Zink, whose team finished 4-6 last fall. "Their coach has been around for a while and has a good resume. One thing I do know is that they are going to be ready to play."

Senior Eli Dillion had 297 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 61 carries last season and is the top returning running back for Briggs. Senior Jalen Lake is the top returning receiver after having 17 catches for 337 yards and five scores, and senior Josh Gainey started six games at quarterback last fall.

Senior Reed Anderson is back at nose guard to lead the defense, with Dillion and junior Koreon Galloway returning at linebacker and Lake in the secondary.

"It hasn't been bad (in the preseason), and we're working on getting out the kinks on defense," Zink said. "I'm happy with where we are at right now. We saw a few things in the scrimmages that we want to clean up to get ready for the opener. You're always going to find something."

The Bears will unveil a multiple-formation offensive attack with sophomore Jake Moeller at quarterback and junior Johnny Spinner at running back. The 3-5-3 defensive scheme will have a rotation on the line of juniors Gabe Chrysler, Noah Dursik and Jake Hill and sophomore Cole Troyer.

"We're getting better each scrimmage," Nori said. "We're young and very inexperienced at the varsity level, and the players need to see varsity speed.

"This (first game) is a barometer that we can use to analyze our team. It will show us who is ready to play and where our deficiencies lie. It's the first time you really get a true evaluation of your team and where you are headed."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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