Thomas Worthington High School football coach Matt Zingery sees a lot of similarities between his team and Canal Winchester, which will play host to the Cardinals on Friday, Aug. 25, to open the season.
Zingery and Indians coach Josh Stratton both are in their first seasons at their respective schools and are implementing their philosophies and strategies on programs that are trying to find solid footing.
"We're starting from the ground level," said Zingery, whose team has lost 17 consecutive games and 31 of its past 32. "My takeaway from our scrimmages is we're growing into that right mindset. We're responding to adversity the way I want us to respond, by learning from it and moving forward. Our progress is slow and steady, and you hope you improve every day."
Stratton, a Westland graduate who coached the past four seasons at New Richmond, also likes his team's demeanor as it tries for its first winning season since 2012.
"We're trying to figure out what fits, maybe moving some guys around to another position from where they were if it makes them better and us better," Stratton said. "We're reminding the guys we need them to be sound fundamentally. We won't out-scheme (opponents), but what we want from our team is for them to play harder for their teammates than the other team."
Canal Winchester won the first meeting between the programs 24-21 in double overtime last year. Trevor Thompson, who is back as the Indians' kicker, made the game-winning field goal from 38 yards.
Canal Winchester ended last year on a five-game losing streak, all of those losses in OCC-Capital Division play, to finish 3-7 overall.
Thomas has not won since Sept. 11, 2015, when it defeated Columbus South 23-0.
The Cardinals return a handful of their top playmakers from last year in quarterback Nick Kendig, running back/slotback Khalil Jones, wide receiver Cameron Ryan and tight ends Louis Dykstra and Charlie Kneessi. Jones had 1,103 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns a year ago, while Ryan caught 26 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown.
"They look a lot like the film I watched from last year's game," Stratton said. "They'll run some tight end sets and an even front on defense. They seem committed to what they want to do and they'll play downhill."
Quarterback Stanton Smith returns for Canal Winchester after completing 45 of 75 passes for 477 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions last season. The Indians' spread offense will feature running backs Tanner Conley and Jacob Robertson as well as wide receivers Drake Burris, Jake Howard and Dominic Davis.
Stratton and Zingery traded film of their first scrimmages last week, even as they continued to concentrate on their own teams.
"They look like a strong team with a lot of older guys back," Zingery said. "Both of us are trying to accomplish the same thing. We're trying to make ourselves better. We're both going to try to control the line of scrimmage and utilize all the weapons we have. At the end of the day, I think it'll be two similar teams on the field."