Much of the battle between the Gahanna Lincoln and Westerville South high school football teams Friday, Sept. 4, could be determined outside the hash marks.

Much of the battle between the Gahanna Lincoln and Westerville South high school football teams Friday, Sept. 4, could be determined outside the hash marks.

The visiting Wildcats have two of the area's best athletes in senior Marcus Williamson, who doubles as a wide receiver and cornerback, and sophomore Jaelen Gill, who said during the preseason that his goal was to "either rush for 1,000 yards or have 1,000 receiving."

Although the Lions' top returnee is senior defensive lineman Jonathon Cooper, they feature a quarterback in Mason Blancett who has thrown for more than 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons and a wide receiver in senior Elijah Whiteside who has received college interest.

"We feel like (Williamson and Gill) are definitely players we want to try to utilize in different ways and take advantage of their talent," South coach Kyle Stout said. "Jaelen is a special talent. What we're trying to do is play disciplined and keep the ball in our hands."

Both teams are coming off opening-week matchups against 2014 playoff teams.

South opened Aug. 28 by losing 41-17 to Olentangy, a 2014 Division II state semifinalist that now is competing in Division I, Region 1 along with the Wildcats.

Gahanna began its season Aug. 28 by falling 28-21 in overtime to Westerville Central, which made it to the third round of the Region 1 playoffs a year ago.

Last season, the Lions opened 0-2, including losing to South 34-17, but bounced back to make the Division I, Region 2 playoffs and finish 7-4.

The Wildcats started 4-1 but finished 6-4, missing the Region 2 playoffs by one spot.

The fact that both Williamson and Cooper have committed to Ohio State and that Gill has been offered by the Buckeyes adds to the matchup.

Whiteside, who has been offered by Ohio Dominican and was cleared to play in the regular season after missing preseason time, is part of a Gahanna offense that has some new faces in the skill positions but should have a similar mix of the run and pass.

Junior Braden Barker, a running back who transferred from Whitehall in the offseason, is another new key player for the Lions.

"South is loaded," Gahanna coach Bruce Ward said. "The difference between (Westerville) Central and (Westerville) South is that their skill positions are both good, but South might have a better line. We watched (South) against Pickerington North (in a scrimmage) and Jaelen Gill is lightning quick."

Another battle worth watching is in the trenches, particularly when Gahanna is on defense.

In addition to Cooper, the Lions return a junior linebacker in Cael Baker who has developed into a team leader.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, have one of the area's top returning offensive linemen in senior Gunnar Vogel, who has committed to Northwestern.

"It's no secret that these first two games for us are extremely tough," Stout said. "We're hoping we come out on top. We know we're going to learn a lot."