For the sixth consecutive season, the Pickerington High School Central football team will travel more than an hour to play its opener.

For the sixth consecutive season, the Pickerington High School Central football team will travel more than an hour to play its opener.

The Tigers hope their trip to play Trotwood-Madison at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, at Huber Heights Wayne in the Backyard Blitz will be a bonding experience like it was last year when they beat Goose Creek (S.C.) 14-7 at Centerville in the same event on opening weekend.

If nothing else, coach Jay Sharrett knows there will be plenty of people paying attention despite the fact that the game might not be over until well past when many have gone to bed.

"The best thing is that it's a high level of football played," Sharrett said. "Colleges will request that film immediately. They know Trotwood's got a handful that could be maybe (Mid-American Conference-level) or better."

Both teams will have significantly different personnel but should present looks and schemes similar to the ones they possessed a year ago. The Tigers went 11-1 and reached the second round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs and the Rams finished 12-1 and reached a Division III state semifinal.

Central lost 32 players to graduation but has 28 seniors, including a pair of Division I commits in Jaylin Bannerman (Kentucky) and Seth Currens (Wisconsin).

Trotwood-Madison was expected to return senior quarterback Messiah DeWeaver, a Michigan State recruit, but he transferred to Wayne during the offseason. DeWeaver is expected to play in the first game of the Backyard Blitz doubleheader when Wayne faces Jordan (Ontario) Canada Prep.

Even though Trotwood-Madison lost DeWeaver as well as one of the state's co-Defensive Players of the Year in Kei Beckham (DB) and two other first-team all-state selections in Brice Hinton (OL) and Lamont Ragland (DL), Sharrett expects to see an opponent loaded with athleticism and speed.

The Rams have made the playoffs each of the past six seasons and eight of the last nine, winning the Division II state title in 2011 and finishing as state runners-up in 2010, '12 and '13.

Central has made the playoffs nine consecutive seasons.

"We have similar strengths (to last year), but we have quicker linemen who are not as big but are quicker, skinnier guys," Tigers senior running back and defensive back Brandon Burks said. "We have tall wide receivers, and that's pretty much a plus."

The top returnee for the Rams is 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior Roland Walder, who plays wide receiver and also could see time on both the defensive line and at outside linebacker.

Like Bannerman, Walder has committed to Kentucky.

Last season, DeWeaver passed for 1,700 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for seven scores. Expected to replace him as starting quarterback is sophomore Markell Stephens-Peppers.

Jeff Graham, who was the Rams' offensive coordinator from 2009-13, took over as head coach last fall. He was an all-Big Ten Conference wide receiver at Ohio State in 1990 and spent 11 seasons in the NFL.

"They have some football players that are flat-out fast," Sharrett said. "They lost their quarterback from when they went to the final four last year, but I've already had a bunch of college coaches contact me asking me about that game. People can say a lot of things about us, but dodging competition isn't one of them."