The Pickerington High School Central football team won the OCC-Ohio Division race in a landslide a year ago with a roster that opponents couldn't match up with athletically.

The Pickerington High School Central football team won the OCC-Ohio Division race in a landslide a year ago with a roster that opponents couldn't match up with athletically.

The Tigers had four players that ended up playing at Division I schools -- three of them going to the Big 10 -- and they had several other quality players, including an experienced senior quarterback.

If Central's roster has taken a step back with those big-time recruits no longer in the mix, the other coaches in the OCC-Ohio don't appear to be buying it. The Tigers, with their two regional championships in three years and three regional titles since 1999, have apparently lost their right not to be considered a league favorite.

Central won the OCC-Ohio last year at 7-0, finishing ahead of Grove City (6-1), Lancaster (4-3), Pickerington North (3-4), Groveport (3-4), Gahanna (4-3), Reynoldsburg (2-5)and Newark (0-7). The Tigers' closest league game in 2008 was a 37-19 win over Grove City.

"They had several D-I athletes that graduated and you don't get that kind of talent every year, but they seem to reload," said Groveport coach Tim Brown, whose team lost to Central 49-21 last year. "They have a good coaching staff. They're going to be one of the teams we need to beat to get where we want to go."

Central's cupboard wasn't left bare. The Tigers still boast a defense that has two players who have committed to Division I schools in cornerback Malcolm Pannell (Ohio University) and running back/linebacker Willie Tatum (Bowling Green). And even though Grant Hammond is a first-year starter at quarterback, Tyler Hammond became the first sophomore to rush for more than 1,000 yards under coach Jay Sharrett when he totaled 1,134 yards last year.

Tatum joined Central last year as a move-in from Marion-Franklin and this season move-ins will continue to have an impact.

Perhaps the most noticeable player move-ins came at Pickerington North, where former Grove City players Steven Crane, Chris Fuqua and Lucas Mason are expected to make a major impact on a program searching for its first playoff appearance. The former Dawgs reunited with former Grove City coach Matt Jordan, who led the Dawgs to the playoffs last year in his first season. Crane (6-foot-5, 340 pounds) will start at right tackle and Fuqua (6-4, 325) will start on the defensive line.

"Pickerington North has a gigantic offensive line this year," said Reynoldsburg coach Steve Evans, who will start a move-in from out of state in outside linebacker Dominique Walker.

The Raiders are looking for anyone to step up and take the pressure off of defensive end Roosevelt Nix, who had 34 tackles for loss last year.

Other league teams last year tried to negate Nix by putting their best offensive lineman on him no matter where he lined up. Groveport tried that method with Seth Nelson, who graduated last year.

So the Cruisers are hoping to have found a replacement in Mifflin transfer Anthony Pruitt, who will start at left tackle.

Pruitt and Kwan Bailey are expected to pave the way for running back LeVeon Bell (6-2, 215), who has offers from Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan and Marshall.

Lancaster ran the spread last season with the intent of throwing the ball more, but limited success led the Gales to switch back to the wing-T for their seventh game, a 20-7 win over Reynoldsburg. They could try to air it out some more with the return of Nathan Carpenter and the addition of C.J. Jones, another out-of-state move-in.

"Week in and week out (the OCC-Ohio is) a brutal schedule," said Evans, one of three second-year coaches in the league along with John Snoad at Gahanna and Jeff Buchannan at Newark. "There's not a team in there we look at and say we can (easily) win this football game."