The Grove City Christian School football team visits Columbus Academy on Friday, Aug. 28, with both squads looking for strong starts.

The Grove City Christian School football team visits Columbus Academy on Friday, Aug. 28, with both squads looking for strong starts.

Academy is under new leadership, as Robin Miller has replaced interim coach Sheldon Hill.

It's the first head coaching position for Miller, who was an assistant at Licking Valley the past seven seasons.

"First impressions go a long way," Miller said. "We want to set the tone and establish what type of team we're going to look like on the field. It's one thing to do it in practice and in the weight room, but when the lights come on we have to be able to perform."

Last season, the Vikings defeated Grove City Christian 54-14 in the opener before losing four of their next five games. They finished 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the MSL-Ohio Division.

"Columbus Academy is usually a pretty tough team," Grove City Christian coach Andrew McCampbell said. "I don't expect them to be anything less. They always have well-coached kids."

Academy expects to be solid at the skill positions, led by the return of wide receiver Jerome Buckner and running back Herman Moultrie. Both are sophomores.

Senior Matt Watters and junior Nick Stringer were competing during the preseason for the starting quarterback position in the team's pistol offense. Miller said the job still was open entering the week.

Last season, Watters passed for 1,253 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Linebackers Roman Bellisari, a junior, and Stringer should lead the team's 4-3 base defense. Last season, Bellisari led the team in tackles with 70.

"We have to perform up front on the offensive and defensive lines," Miller said. "We told them it all starts with them. It doesn't matter what type of speed you have or schemes, if we're not establishing winning the line of scrimmage and establishing that tough, hard-nose mentality up front it's all for naught."

McCampbell believes his squad needs to get out to a better start after losing its first two games last year. The Eagles bounced back to finish 6-4 overall and 5-1 in the MSL-Cardinal.

"Once the games start meaning something, you have to pick your game up a little bit more," McCampbell said. "You have to go a little bit harder every day. We're definitely ready for them to count."

McCampbell is expecting a big season from senior running back Tavian Sim, who was named second-team all-league last season after rushing for 244 yards and six touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Caleb Sullivan saw time last season and will guide the team's power-formation offense.

Key players for the 4-3 base defense include seniors William Carson and Pierce Thissen on the line, Sim, junior Clayton Lepley and sophomore Andrew Reynolds at linebacker and senior Brady Holt and Sullivan in the secondary.

"Tackling is No. 1," McCampbell said of the key to winning the opener. "If you can tackle the ball-carrier and stop them from any big plays we'll be doing OK. If we get that done, I like our chances."