Will Boeckman and Jeff May were freshmen football players in the fall of 2006. That season, Columbus Academy reached a Division V, Region 19 semifinal where it lost 36-9 to Amanda-Clearcreek.

Will Boeckman and Jeff May were freshmen football players in the fall of 2006. That season, Columbus Academy reached a Division V, Region 19 semifinal where it lost 36-9 to Amanda-Clearcreek.

"I remember that team being similar to us this year," said Boeckman, whose team opens Friday at home against Northridge. "We didn't have a huge number of guys, but the guys we did have were really strong and we thought our core of 30 guys could compete with bigger schools.

"In the preseason that year, people said we weren't going to do well, but we surprised a lot of people. I think we can do something like that."

"That team from 2006 brought a lot of intensity," May said. "We need to bring that again this year."

According to Boeckman, who is one of five captains, the team has brought that intensity.

"We're hitting harder and yelling more than we have the last few years. We took it upon ourselves to return Academy to the past where teams feared us."

Academy returns 10 starters that accounted for 14 positions from a team that finished 4-6 overall and sixth at 2-5 in the MSL-Ohio Division behind champion Licking Valley (7-0). It was the second consecutive season the Vikings finished 4-6.

"The last couple of years injuries to the wrong guys changed how our season went," coach Mark Barren said. "That's part of playing at small high schools. You're going to run into that."

In order to try and prevent a lack of depth at a position or two, Barren and his staff expect to feature players in various roles. Academy's players are able to play multiple positions and the added responsibility is a good thing, according to the Vikings' fourth-year coach. Each player has more opportunity for playing time.

"They're in good condition because they have to be, but they're also lucky," he said. "At bigger schools, they have enough athletes. This is a great opportunity to get to play both sides of the ball and play more. Our kids understand that. Size-wise, we're not going to be as big as other schools, but we make up for that in our athleticism, speed, quickness and aggressiveness."

In addition, Academy returns experience including junior quarterback Josh Hill (6-foot-2, 200 pounds). Although Academy runs the wing-T, six of the last seven years the Vikings have had a 1,000-yard passer.

Hill gives Academy the potential to become a balanced offensive attack.

"He's a big kid, with an excellent arm and he's fast enough to buy some time back there," Barren said. "The potential is there for him to be a good quarterback. He made progress as last year went on and he's more poised and relaxed this year as far as decision making."

Academy's leading rusher, Gus Sessley, was one of eight players the Vikings graduated. Junior Austin Peterman (5-10, 180) looks to assume Sessley's role. Peterman played in only half of Academy's games last season after separating his shoulder.

"He played well toward the end of last year," Barren said. "He's got good running instincts, things you can't teach. He has potential to burst onto the scene."

Junior Preston Pearson (5-10, 180) returns at halfback and senior Jordon Hoffman (6-0, 200) returns at wingback with seniors May (WB; 5-11, 175) and junior Jimmy Koerner (FB; 6-0, 190) and sophomore R.J. Watters (HB; 5-10, 164) providing depth. At wide receiver, Barren has six players he expects to rotate in seniors May, Ariel Chay (5-8, 160), Anthony Ciminello (5-9, 180), Ben Krempley (5-9, 170) and Travis Rooke (5-10, 145) and junior Mitchell Slutsky (5-9, 160).

"Regardless of skill guys, it starts with our offensive line," Barren said.

Senior Jacob Peters (6-2, 195) returns at center. Peters will be will be flanked at guard by classmates in three-year starter Mike Rohrenbeck (6-0, 206) and two-year starter Andrew Mauer (6-0, 190). At tackle, Boeckman (6-3, 235) slides over from tight end opposite senior John Durel (6-1, 220) . Durel is expected to be ready for the opener despite suffering a back injury.

Providing depth up front are juniors Steven Guendert (G; 5-11, 180), Ben Mechem (T; 5-11, 180), Brent Mullin (C; 6-0, 215) and Tyler Navarro (G; 5-9, 180), sophomore Tyler Terry-Walker (T; 5-11, 200) and freshman Jacob Hill (C/G; 5-5, 170).

Replacing Boeckman at tight end is sophomore Zach Ratcliff (6-4, 195), with senior Kim Littlefield (6-1, 202) and junior Bret Balasky (6-2, 170) capable of spot duty.

Academy returns more than players. Former head coach Jim Collis is back as an assistant who works with the quarterbacks, defensive backs and serves as offensive coordinator. Collis coached Academy when the team won the Division V state title in 2003.

"He brings his own school of thought," Boeckman said. "Coach Collis complements coach Barren's strategy style. I think it'll give us an edge we've been missing. We've had the most productive two-a-day practices I've been a part of."

Yet as well as Academy's offense has fared in the past and expects to produce again this season, it comes down to the Vikings' four-stack defense and their ability to stop their opponents.

In the front eight, Durel, Hoffman, Mullin and Terry-Walker are expected to see time at defensive tackle, Balasky, Boeckman, Littlefield, Peters and Ratcliff at defensive end, Koerner, Mauer and Pearson at inside linebacker and senior Vincent Caffee (5-8, 150), Ciminello and Watters at outside linebacker.

In the secondary, May and Slutsky are expected to start at cornerback and Peterson at safety. Also likely to see action are Chay, Hill, May, Peterman, Rooke, Slutsky, junior Michael Hoffman (5-10, 150) and sophomore Ben Bechtel (6-0, 155).

"With kids going both ways, to have the ability to get someone off the field for a series or two makes all the difference in the world," Barren said.