The top two teams in the City League-South Division a year ago won't have to wait to find out who gains an early advantage in the title race this fall.

The top two teams in the City League-South Division a year ago won't have to wait to find out who gains an early advantage in the title race this fall.

On Friday, Sept. 18, the Marion-Franklin High School football team -- which has won at least a share of the last 11 City-South titles -- plays host to Walnut Ridge in a matchup of teams looking to improve on inconsistent starts.

The Red Devils take a 40-game league winning streak into the matchup, with their last league loss coming 21-14 to Walnut Ridge in 2009.

"It's a big game, part of a three-week grind for us," Marion-Franklin coach Brian Haffele said.

Marion-Franklin opened with a 28-13 win over Westerville North on Aug. 28 but lost to Beechcroft 7-0 on Sept. 4 and to Hartley 44-14 on Sept. 10 to fall to 1-2.

Against Hartley, the Red Devils gave up 548 yards of offense, including three touchdowns and 230 yards rushing to Quri Hickman.

Marion-Franklin's most experienced players are at the skill positions. Senior Anthony Hodnett is at quarterback in a balanced system that includes junior Derrione Leeper and seniors Justin King and Allen Roberts-McMichael as key rushers.

Against Hartley, Hodnett was held to 5-for-18 passing for 22 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Leeper rushed for 91 yards and King added 33 yards rushing and one touchdown.

Walnut Ridge lost to Lancaster 60-28 on Sept. 11 to fall to 1-2.

Senior Malik Harrison and sophomore Justin Vance have been splitting time at quarterback, with Harrison also seeing action at wide receiver and outside linebacker. Harrison has a dozen offers form FBS schools, including from Wisconsin and Michigan State.

According to Scots coach Byron Mattox, senior Tarik Wright (DL), junior Darrick Forrest (DB) and junior Michael Ayers (DB) have been other standouts.

"Our defense has been solid, but we've not been tackling very well," Mattox said. "Lancaster is very solid. There are no cupcakes in our non-league schedule, but that gets us ready for the league."

Cougars, Vikings ready to open league

Because it ended a two-year contract with Dayton Dunbar after opening against the Wolverines each of the past two seasons, the Beechcroft football team ended up with an opening-week bye.

The Cougars' first two opponents, Marion-Franklin and Central Crossing, were playoff qualifiers a year ago.

Beechcroft, which opened with a 7-0 win over the Red Devils on Sept. 4 and then lost 28-6 to the Comets on Sept. 11, plays host to Linden-McKinley on Friday, Sept. 18, in its City-North opener.

The Panthers lost to Independence 56-7 on Sept. 11 and are 0-3.

"There are all kinds of things to work on," Cougars coach Trevor White said. "The first game we knew we were going to have to overcome mistakes and we sure did make plenty of them. We have a long way to go to be as good as a team that we want to be, but with that kind of effort, improvement will definitely come."

Against Marion-Franklin, quarterback Macyah Fleming hit Rodell Rahmaan for a 34-yard touchdown with 6 minutes, 57 seconds to play.

Beechcroft scored against Central Crossing late in the first half when Fleming connected with Tyree Mapp for a 14-yard touchdown.

Northland, which was runner-up to Beechcroft in the City-North last season, opens league play Friday, Sept. 18, at home against Columbus East.

The Vikings bounced back from a 38-6 opening loss to Independence on Aug. 28 by beating Whitehall 14-7 on Sept. 4 and Eastmoor Academy 21-20 on Sept. 11.

East lost to West 38-14 on Sept. 11 to drop to 0-3.