Hilliard Bradley High School football coach Mike LoParo watched his team's opening opponent scrimmage Aug. 17 and came away with concerns.
Findlay has an experienced quarterback and other weapons that could expose a young defensive backfield when the teams meet Friday, Aug. 24, at Bradley, prompting the eighth-year coach to design a game plan to neutralize the Trojans' potent attack.
Last season, the Jaguars defeated Findlay 55-20 in the first meeting between the programs. The Trojans went on to finish 4-6, but they return quarterback Tanner Rickle, who was 118-for-225 passing for 1,370 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions a year ago. The 6-foot, 210-pound senior also rushed for 575 yards and 11 scores.
"(The Trojans) look really similar to last year, and they have a lot of kids back in general," said LoParo, whose team finished 11-1 last season, losing to eventual state champion Pickerington Central 42-31 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal. "They have a couple of good players on the outside and their quarterback really flings it. We will have our hands full on the back end of our defense."
Findlay's arsenal includes senior wide receiver Adam Gilbert, junior wide receiver Parker Fetterman and senior running back R.J. Nunn, who sat out last season to focus on basketball. Gilbert (31 catches, 415 yards, 6 TDs) led the team in receiving last year, while Fetterman started at cornerback.
"They have some playmakers on the outside, especially (Fetterman)," LoParo said. "He's pretty dynamic, making a nice one-handed catch on a fade against Davidson (in the scrimmage).
"They run a lot of little quick screens, and they have plenty of weapons. We'll have to try to pressure the quarterback to face him into mistakes. If we let him sit back there, he will just pick us apart."
Findlay coach Mark Ritzler also was impressed with Bradley's offense, led by a first-year starter at quarterback in Griffin Veil. The senior will have several receiving outlets, including a third-year starter in senior Trey Warner (35 catches, 338 yards, 3 TDs) and senior tight end/H-back Zach Hummel (8 catches, 68 yards, 2 TDs). Also back is senior running back Jack Richards (111 carries, 582 rushing yards, 10 TDs).
"We were able to see (Bradley) in a scrimmage with Marysville (on Aug. 10), and they have an exceptional quarterback who is accurate and a nice runner," Ritzler said. "They have an athletic receiver (Warner) and an athletic tight end/H-back (Hummel). They look like they have the ability to both throw and run the ball."
Ritzler said his team's biggest strength is its defense. The Trojans return eight starters on that side of the ball, including senior ends Dawson Brunner and Khail Stokes and Fetterman (4 interceptions) and junior Moses Gaines (3 interceptions) in the secondary.
"We have a lot of kids that started or saw a lot of (playing) time on Friday nights," Ritzler said. "We're hoping our defense can carry us a little bit early in the season because of that experience."