Pickerington High School Central football coach Jay Sharrett realizes his defense faces a huge challenge in its opener against Cincinnati Moeller.
Not only do the Crusaders run a variety of plays out of the spread and power formations, but they also run and pass equally well out of either scheme.
Sharrett said it will be crucial that his players quickly recognize and read Moeller's offensive formations and adjust their defense accordingly.
The game, scheduled for noon Saturday, Aug. 27, at the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium, is part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.
"Moeller's run-to-pass ratio is pretty close to 50-50, and what makes them effective is they can run some good power football out of a spread formation and sometimes throw when it looks like they're lining up to run," said Sharrett, whose team finished 11-1 overall last year with a 13-6 loss to Hilliard Davidson in the Division I, Region 3 final. "So we've got to be ready to switch gears each play defensively because there's nothing predictable about their offense."
Leading Moeller's offense are junior quarterback Spencer Iacovone (6-foot, 200 pounds), senior wide receiver Monty Madaris (6-2, 185), senior tight end John Tanner (6-4, 260), senior running back Brian Burkhart (6-0, 230), junior running back Keith Watkins (5-11, 175) and junior right tackle Blake Chambliss (6-4, 225).
Junior quarterback Ricky Davis (6-2, 185) also runs a number of packages for the Crusaders.
Last year, Madaris had 50 receptions for 719 yards and seven touchdowns, and Iacovone threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns while playing in parts of six games.
In 2010, Moeller went 7-4 overall and lost to Centerville 27-17 in the first round of the Division I, Region 4 playoffs.
The Tigers' defense will utilize multiple fronts and blitz from different positions and areas of the field in an effort to rattle Moeller's relatively inexperienced quarterback tandem.
Central's defense, which features four Division I recruits in lineman Jacoby Boren (Ohio State), linebacker Jake Kincaid (Kent State), cornerback Roger Lewis (Ohio State) and free safety Sebastian Smith (Indiana), gave up only five points per game and forced 26 turnovers last year.
"Moeller has one of the biggest lines we've seen in years and skill kids who can score at any moment, so we've got to use our speed to get to whoever has the ball and we need to gang tackle," Sharrett said.
Central's offense will change formations and rotate in personnel to execute a variety of packages to keep the Crusaders' defense guessing.
Quarterback Nick Jensen-Clagg, who threw for 716 yards and four touchdowns last year, has the ability to throw deep to wide receivers Lewis and Jake Raymond, and running backs Addison Clopton and Devone Penick both have the ability to run up the middle or on the perimeter.
Last year, Penick rushed for 607 yards and nine touchdowns on 80 carries, and Clopton rushed for 172 yards and two scores on 11 carries. Lewis had nine receptions for 288 yards and four touchdowns, and Raymond had 14 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown in addition to eight carries for 118 yards and two scores.
Leading Moeller's defense are senior linebackers Dillon Kern (6-4, 225), Tanner and Tyler Williford (6-3, 220), senior end Brian Markgraf (6-1, 230), senior outside linebacker Brandon Marsh (6-0, 220) and senior tackles Kevin Robinson-White (6-2, 300) and Eric Lalley (6-2, 275).
In 2010, Kern and Williford combined for four sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions.
"They have a size advantage on us, so we need to put together some good blocking schemes to create some seams because this is a team that you can't line up and blow off the ball," Sharrett said. "We'll need a lot of guys to come in and contribute because we're playing a handful of guys both ways, and Moeller only plays one or two players both ways. When we get a chance for a big play we need to take advantage of it because their defense is hard to get out of position."