Former OCC-Cardinal Division rivals Dublin Scioto and Westerville South will help kick off the high school football season Friday, Aug. 26, at South.

Former OCC-Cardinal Division rivals Dublin Scioto and Westerville South will help kick off the high school football season Friday, Aug. 26, at South.

While the Irish have remained in the OCC-Cardinal, the Wildcats now will compete in the OCC-Buckeye following the conference's realignment. The teams had been OCC-Cardinal foes since 2008.

The Wildcats, who hold a 7-5 edge in the series, snapped a three-game losing streak against the Irish with a 28-14 win last season.

"It's important to get off to a good start," Scioto coach Karl Johnson said. "The front end of our schedule is tough. We're playing South (in) week 1 and (Dublin) Coffman (in) week 2, so we have to be ready to go and our kids are excited and hungry."

The contest features a matchup of South's speed against Scioto's 4-3 base defense.

That speed is highlighted by junior Jaelen Gill, who will see time at wide receiver and running back and could also get snaps at quarterback.

Gill, who has received interest from several Division I colleges, rushed for 1,553 yards and 19 touchdowns on 189 carries and caught seven passes for 224 yards and three scores last year. He was named first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state.

"They have Jaelen Gill and they have some really good athletes," Johnson said. "We have to make sure Gill earns all his yards. Our defense is going to have to be spot on and the offense is going to have to do a great job of taking care of the ball."

For South at quarterback, senior Trent Burke and junior Max Barber remained in a competition for the starting spot as the season approached. The Wildcats must replace 2016 graduate Brian Jennings.

"We have to play well up front," South coach Kyle Stout said. "We have to take care of the ball and those key situations we have to make sure go our way, and defensively we have to get off the field. We can't give up a lot of points."

The game will mark the return of Scioto senior quarterback Noah Densel, who missed the 2015 season after suffering a right ACL injury in a scrimmage against Hilliard Davidson.

Johnson said Densel was impressive in the preseason while guiding the team's spread offense.

"Their quarterback being back and being a good program, we look for them to be a good team this year and we're still learning about ourselves," Stout said.

Seniors Evan Hutras and Weston Talentino and junior Jaden Penn should be key targets for Densel at wide receiver.

Scioto is looking to replace its top rushers from last season with the graduation of Jestin Penn (786 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Dominick Cutchember (288 yards, 3 TDs). Seniors Dimetri Brandon and Yohan Purugganan and junior Jose Ramirez were preseason candidates to share carries.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank