The Eastmoor Academy football team is set to meet Harvest Prep for the first time in a decade on Friday, Aug. 30, at home, but 17th-year Warriors coach Jim Miranda has seen this type of opponent many times before.
"It's almost like preparing for Independence," said Miranda, whose team has defeated City League-South Division rival Independence each of the past 12 seasons. "If you don't prepare for their scheme, you get turned around. You've got to prepare for their unbalanced sets. (Harvest Prep coach) Milan (Smith) does a great job with his kids and motivates them well. They've been a traditional playoff team and he gets his guys going. They're well-coached."
Eastmoor won the last two meetings, defeating Harvest Prep 40-7 in 2008 and 54-0 in 2009.
However, Harvest Prep, whose nickname also is Warriors, has blossomed under Smith, who is in his sixth season leading the program. Harvest Prep has qualified for the Division VII playoffs each season under Smith, including last year when it went 11-1 and reached a Region 27 semifinal.
Eastmoor went 12-2 and was a Division III state semifinalist last season, but it features new players at almost every position.
The only returning starters who played key roles last year are seniors Cameron Long (RB/DB) and DaHan Franks (WR/LB).
Senior Demetrius Salley is expected to start at quarterback for Eastmoor, with seniors Julian Binford and Antonio Tatum, junior Cameron Foster and freshman Donovan Lewis joining Long at running back.
Harvest Prep won its first 11 games last season despite losing running back Javon Eggert in a season-opening 32-21 win over Bexley.
Eggert, who rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns against Bexley but missed the next eight games with a hip injury, figures to join seniors Khelin Jackson and Langston Perry, junior Rahshaun Goines and sophomore Jaylen Jennings in the backfield of what traditionally has been a run-heavy system.
Harvest Prep is four divisions smaller than Eastmoor but has about 40 athletes out this fall, which it hopes will help it handle a schedule that features three Division II and three Division III opponents.
"I'm excited," Eggert said. "We've got a whole bunch of new guys and we're just looking forward to the season."
Vikings, Cougars prep for road openers
Northland and Beechcroft are opening their respective seasons with road games Friday, Aug. 30.
Beechcroft will visit Dayton Ponitz, which it defeated 27-10 to open last season in what was the first meeting between the programs.
The Golden Panthers went 7-3 in 2016 and 3-7 in '17 before slipping to 1-9 last fall in coach Ryan Jackson's first season, while the Cougars are under their fourth coach in as many seasons in Lee Snyder.
Snyder was an assistant coach for Beechcroft last season, when the Cougars went 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the City-North to tie Centennial for second behind Northland (6-0) in Charles Gibson's only season as coach.
Among the key players for the Cougars is senior Alhaji Sidibe, a third-year starter at linebacker and a returning starter on the offensive line who is expected to line up at left tackle.
Senior DeShannon Butler Jr. returns at quarterback after earning second-team all-league honors last season, and senior Davon Wooden is expected to see time at running back and wide receiver.
Senior Travaughn McConnell (WR), junior Demetrius Haynes (WR) and sophomore Diante Latham (RB) are other key skill position players, with senior De'Marj'eon Harris (left guard) and junior David Adjei (center) also returning as linemen.
"(Ponitz is) a nontradition school and a newer school," Snyder said. "They've got low numbers but some athletes, so they'll be a little dangerous."
Northland opens against Marysville in a game being played at Olentangy. The contest was to be held at Marysville, but renovations to the Monarchs' stadium have yet to be completed.
Last season, the Vikings lost their first two games by a combined four points, but won their final eight to finish 8-2.
Northland opened last season with a 28-27 loss to Zeeland (Michigan) West.
Marysville, a Division I program that went 5-5 with two overtime losses last season, expects to be led at running back by senior Chase Kilgore, who rushed for 632 yards and was special mention all-OCC-Central last season.
Seniors Matt Belt and Ian Johnson and sophomore Gavin Rohrs are returning starters on the offensive line.
The top returnee for the Vikings is senior Kalil Branham, a Kentucky commit who started at quarterback last season but is moving to his natural position of wide receiver.
Three City crossovers also on schedule
There are three opening-week matchups between City-North and City-South teams.
East visits South on Friday, Aug. 30, in a matchup of two teams looking for breakthrough seasons.
The Tigers improved from 1-9 in 2017 to 4-6 last season and return their top player in senior Deo Samuel Pierre, who figures to be at wide receiver and defensive back and also play a prominent role as a kick returner. Pierre also could see time at quarterback or running back.
The Bulldogs finished 6-4 last season, opening with a 24-8 win over East, and return senior running back Daivion Greene-Tucker, senior fullback/linebacker Leon Miller Jr. and senior wing back Coriawn Wade.
The other matchups featuring City programs are Linden-McKinley at West and Mifflin at Walnut Ridge.
The Scots opened last season with a 55-7 win over Mifflin and went 9-2 and made the Division II playoffs, while the Punchers finished 2-8.
West finished 1-9 last fall, with its lone win coming against Africentric (15-14 in Week 9), and Linden went 0-10. The programs last met in 2014, with the Cowboys winning 40-20.