Throughout its run to a 9-2 overall finish and a fourth consecutive MSL-Cardinal Division championship last fall, the Harvest Preparatory School football team had seniors playing key roles at nearly every position.
The Warriors again have a group of key seniors leading the way, but many of those players, such as running back Daquan Owens-Johnson, linebacker Zion Bangura and quarterback Moses Davis, are taking on leading roles for the first time.
Young players like sophomore Shaun Goines (RB/DB) and freshman Joseph Temple (DL) also have been key contributors to Harvest Prep's undefeated start.
"We start so many babies and play so many babies," coach Milan Smith said. "My offensive linemen are babies, my defensive (linemen).
"Our conditioning is great. Our youth is what it is. It doesn't know what it can or can't do. It doesn't know anything but to play hard and play fast."
Harvest Prep, which was fourth in the Division VII state poll and first in the area poll last week, is 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the league as it prepares to visit Grove City Christian on Friday, Oct. 12.
The Warriors have won 29 consecutive league games but were tested in league wins over Worthington Christian (16-12 on Sept. 14) and Berne Union (22-7 on Oct. 5).
Temple shined in the win over the Rockets, finishing with three tackles for loss to help spark a defense that gave up a 50-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter but didn't allow another score.
Harvest Prep is allowing an average of just 10 points per game and has posted two shutouts.
Grove City Christian is 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the MSL-Cardinal, with all three of its wins coming against teams that are 0-7. The Eagles have been competitive in league play, though, losing to Berne Union 36-32 on Sept. 14 and Fisher Catholic 23-7 on Sept. 28 in addition to beating Fairfield Christian 54-7 on Oct. 6.
Through six games, senior Brett Baker had completed 68 of 142 passes for 961 yards and 12 touchdowns at quarterback and had seven interceptions at defensive back. He also is the Eagles' punter.
Sophomore running back Christian Lautenschleger had 743 yards and nine touchdowns on 117 carries through six games.
Harvest Prep, which is first in Region 27 in computer points, led Berne Union 14-7 at halftime after Owens-Johnson and Davis both rushed for a touchdown and then got a 20-yard scoring run from Owens-Johnson late in the third quarter.
"We still need to do better," Owens-Johnson said. "We come out and never give up until the very last down. We're winning, but we aren't winning the way we should be winning. Whether we're ranked No. 1 or last in the state doesn't matter. As long as we give our very best effort, it's going to take us a long way."