The Columbus Academy football team will face a difficult test as it begins its pursuit of a third consecutive postseason appearance.
The Vikings, a Division V program, visit Division IV power Cincinnati Wyoming on Friday, Aug. 24, in the first meeting between the teams.
Academy reached a Region 19 semifinal last season, losing to eventual state champion Wheelersburg 35-16.
Wyoming reached the Region 16 final, losing to Clarksville Clinton-Massie 28-7. The Cowboys are coming off back-to-back 12-1 seasons and are seeking their sixth consecutive playoff berth.
"I've been on both sides," Academy coach Robin Miller said. "I've had huge challenges in Week 1 and then I've had cupcakes (in) Week 1. It should be that carrot dangling, the light at the end of the tunnel, that big challenge to look forward to all through summer workouts and two-a-days. You're building towards such a monumental game and a monumental challenge, but it doesn't make any other easier."
Academy lost several key players to graduation, including all-purpose standout Herman Moultrie, but returns a solid group led by Dorrian Moultrie, Herman's brother.
Last season, Dorrian Moultrie was named first-team all-district and all-league and honorable mention all-state after catching 60 passes for 608 yards and seven touchdowns.
Herman Moultrie is a freshman running back at Georgetown.
Junior Andrew Swartz is expected to replace 2018 graduate Matt Saling at quarterback.
Academy also lost its four starting linebackers to graduation, with seniors Keenan Bellisari and Caleb Crawley looking to help fill that void.
"Starting the season off with a playoff team is a challenge and they return some playmakers," Wyoming coach Aaron Hancock said. "They lost in the second round of the playoffs to Wheelersburg, which went on to win a state title in Division V, so Columbus Academy is a great program and it's going to be a challenge for us."
The Cowboys return 10 starters on offense, including junior quarterback Evan Prater, and nine on defense.
Senior running back Pierson Rogers has 1,898 rushing yards for his career. The 5-foot-10, 215-pounder has received interest from several Ivy League schools.
"That running back is unbelievable," Miller said. "He's a bowling ball with speed and he's been a four-year starter in the backfield. That's almost unheard of. ... We have to try to stop what they do well, try to make them one-dimensional, try to stop the run and just do what we do well. You can never afford to make any mental errors or physical errors against a good team. They'll just punish you."
Wyoming should be led on defense by senior outside linebacker Hasan Black, who has received several Division I college offers.
"They are awfully impressive," Miller said. "They might be the favorite to win the state championship in Division IV. They have a lot coming back and they're one of those teams that just has such an established program, such an established culture that really knows how to win. They have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football and won a ton of football games."