The Bexley High School football team has been looking forward to Friday, Aug. 30, for some time, and not just because it's opening night.

The Bexley High School football team has been looking forward to Friday, Aug. 30, for some time, and not just because it's opening night.

For the second consecutive season, the Lions open against Harvest Prep, and they're determined to improve on last year's 34-6 loss to the Warriors.

"We know they were a good football team last year," senior two-way lineman Jack Needles said. "We've been thinking about this game all summer. It's really been motivation for us. We're all really excited."

While the Lions finished 2-8 a year ago, the Warriors went 6-4.

First and foremost for Bexley will be attempting to slow down Harvest Prep quarterback/receiver R.J. Johnson, who also is a standout track and field athlete. Last spring in the Division III state meet, Johnson placed second in the 200 meters, third in the 400 and fifth in the 100.

"We definitely have the speed to contain him," Needles said. "If all of our defensive players maintain our discipline, we should be able to slow him down."

The Lions also will be focusing on Robert King, who plays on the offensive line, occasionally lines up at fullback and is a standout linebacker. He had 11 tackles and a sack in last year's game.

"I know they had a very good football team last year, with some very talented people," Lions coach John Smith said of the Warriors.

On offense, Bexley returns several of its top players from a year ago, including junior quarterback Andre Stewart, senior running back Rasheed Morgan, senior fullback Jacob Old and senior receiver Chad Meyer.

Girls volleyball teamexpects improvement

With a season of experience as coach of the girls volleyball team, Edward Cruz sees improvement across the board from this time a year ago.

"I think we are better at almost every position from last year," he said. "I think we will be very competitive and should be considered one of the top teams in our league. If anyone takes us lightly, that will be a mistake."

Outside hitters include freshman Hannah Hilgeman and junior Olivia Riley, middle hitters are sophomore Tyler Mansfield and senior Taylor Simmons, and senior Sarah Podlasiak is the opposite hitter.

Junior Mary Massarelli is in her second year as the starting setter, the libero is senior Kayleigh Deitz and the defensive specialist is sophomore Sophie Phillips.

Cruz, who has named Deitz, Podlasiak and Simmons as captains, said having Massarelli back is a boost.

"She worked with the Ohio State setter in the offseason," Cruz said. "Her back set and quick set have really improved."

Bexley will compete in a realigned MSL-Ohio Division with Columbus Academy, Grandview, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson, Whitehall and Worthington Christian. The Lions went 10-14 overall last season and finished sixth (4-10) in the MSL-Ohio behind champion Newark Catholic (13-1).

"The league change doesn't matter to us," Cruz said. "We focus on whoever is on the other side of the net and play hard."

The Lions lost their first two matches of the season, Aug. 20 against Hamilton Township (25-22, 25-18, 25-22) and Aug. 22 against Central Crossing (25-23, 21-25, 25-13, 25-19).

After introducing a new system last season, Cruz said the players are well acclimated to their responsibilities.

"This season we readily picked up where we ended last year," he said. "The players understand the system and have been able to add more plays."

Seniors leadingcross country teams

Cross country coach Eric Acton, in his 21st season, isn't worried about leadership on the boys and girls teams.

Leading the boys is senior Ian Kellogg, who returns after advancing to the state track meet last spring and finishing 21st (17 minutes, 17.42 seconds) in the Division II regional meet last fall.

Other senior boys include Jason Adkins, Josh Adkins, Nate Agnoli, Oliver Gladfelter, Simon Horn, Cole Keny, Alex Meyer and Sam Shorr.

Also on the team are juniors Christian Adkin, Jackson Feinknopf, Gray Levine and Patrick Lape and freshman Peter Hayden.

Kellogg, Keny and Meyer are captains.

"Clearly, I have great senior leadership," Acton said. "They have high expectations and for that matter, so do the juniors. They worked hard over the summer and you mix that in with a little bit of effort and attitude, and it makes for a good team."

Acton is trying to form a lineup that bunches runners as closely behind Kellogg as possible.

"You always want a front runner, and we have Ian back," Acton said. "We have him coming off a strong track season and I don't think he's ever been more fit or confident as a runner."

In their opening meet, the Lions were second (44) behind Hilliard Darby (21) in the Mount Hamilton Invitational on Aug. 19 at Hamilton Township, with Kellogg placing second (16:40.9).

Returning on the girls team following multiple injuries is senior Regan Detwiler, who just recently began running competitively after missing track season. She was 42nd (20:50.29) at regional last year.

Also back are seniors Lissy Schmidt and Samantha Shamhart, who are captains along with Detwiler.

"All three of those girls are very competitive and have competed at a high level in high school," Acton said. "Having Regan back and getting to see her run again is satisfying."

Detwiler and Shamhart competed in the state meet in 2010 as freshmen.

Others on the team include seniors Meghan Hayden and Jocie Steinke, juniors Leslie Janco, Megan Myers and Anna Rhoads, sophomore Meg Rhoads and freshmen Julia Cohn and Veronica Mendivil.

"If you have healthy senior captains running with some of those talented underclassmen, it's a pretty solid core," Acton said. "If one's not doing so well, another is there. I see a much tighter pack with the girls than the boys.

The girls won the Mount Hamilton Invitational (25) ahead of Darby (36) as Meg Rhoads (22:10.6), Cohn (22:11) and Mendivil (22:14) finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.