Losing the state's all-time leading rusher as well as a two-way standout who is now at a Football Bowl Subdivision program hasn't changed the Harvest Preparatory School football team's focus this season.
The Warriors still have a successful running game, and their expectation of being a team capable of making a deep playoff run remains.
"We're doing all right," senior Daquan Owens-Johnson said. "We've got to get better. We want to win states. That's always the goal out here. We fight, and our conditioning pushes us through."
Harvest Prep improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the MSL-Cardinal Division with a 38-0 win over Zanesville Rosecrans on Sept. 21 in a matchup of teams that made last year's Division VII, Region 27 playoffs.
The Warriors, who are 41-12 under fifth-year coach Milan Smith with playoff appearances in each of his first four seasons, opened league play with a 16-12 comeback win over Worthington Christian on Sept. 14.
Harvest Prep originally was scheduled to play Millersport in a league game Friday, Sept. 28, but the Lakers canceled their season because of low numbers.
In place of Millersport, the Warriors will play host to Reigning Sports Academy, a club team that is not affiliated with the OHSAA. The Thunder lost two of their first three games, with losses to Independence (64-6 on Aug. 24) and Saltsburg (Pennsylvania) Kiski Prep (43-0 on Sept. 8) and a win over Springfield Catholic Central (44-0 on Aug. 31).
Harvest Prep was second in last week's Division VII state poll behind McComb. The Warriors' other wins came against Bexley (32-21 on Aug. 24), Franklin Heights (20-0 on Aug. 31) and Mifflin (52-14 on Sept. 7).
Bexley competes in Division IV, Franklin Heights and Mifflin are Division II programs and Worthington Christian is in Division VI.
Harvest Prep was first in Region 27 in computer points before playing Rosecrans.
"We've got great parents in our youth program that allow for our kids to build a program," Smith said. "Our younger kids are already running our varsity stuff. Our seventh- and eighth-grade team is 4-0 and our fifth- and sixth-grade team is 4-0.
"We've got heart and got comeback. You've got to play better, though, and you can't let the circumstances dictate the way we play, but that's part of our immaturity. That's the great thing about youth. It forgets really quickly. Our guys are doing the right things. They're great kids. I'm starting two freshmen and six sophomores. At the end of the day, we are (undefeated)."
Daniel Bangura was lost to graduation after rushing for a state-record 9,650 career yards, as was Isaiah Mullens, a defensive lineman and tight end who is now at Wisconsin.
Harvest Prep has rushed for 1,809 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season, with Owens-Johnson leading with 649 yards and seven scores and five others having rushed for at least 100 yards.
Quarterback Moses Davis is the Warriors' second-leading rusher with 345 yards and four touchdowns on 57 carries and has completed 14 of 43 passes for 101 yards.
Senior Zion Bangura, Daniel's younger brother who plays H-back on offense and is a linebacker on defense, and senior lineman Jeffrey Ray have led the defense.
"We don't have that guy who is running for 4,000 yards a season, so it's a little bit of an adjustment, but we're in the same situation with the same chances," Owens-Johnson said. "We just need to cut down on our mistakes and sharpen some things up."