For the second consecutive season, the Columbus Academy football team opens against one of the state's top programs in Division IV.
The Vikings play host to Cincinnati Wyoming on Friday, Aug. 30, looking to avenge a 42-14 loss to the Cowboys last season.
Wyoming went on to finish 15-0, capturing its second state title by defeating Girard 42-14, while Academy finished 6-4 and placed ninth in Division V, Region 19 to fall one spot shy of the playoffs.
"It helps to have some level of familiarity with them," coach Robin Miller said of the rematch. "They handled us last year. We didn't compete all that well and they showed why they were 15-0 and D-IV state champs. They're a pretty impressive program, but maybe a year under our belts hopefully gives our guys a touch of confidence."
The Vikings' spread offense again will be led by junior quarterback Brady Hess, who completed 132 of 203 passes for 1,819 yards with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions last season. He was first-team all-district and second-team all-state and all-MSL-Ohio Division.
Senior Carter Warstler, who has moved from running back to slot receiver, led the Vikings in rushing with 466 yards and seven touchdowns. He was special/honorable mention all-district and honorable mention all-league.
Senior Donovan Simpson should anchor the offensive line at left guard. He was special/honorable mention all-district and honorable mention all-league last season.
Academy will feature several two-way players on defense, led by Simpson and senior Philip Soderberg on the line and Warstler at cornerback.
"They had some very good skilled athletes (last season)," Wyoming coach Aaron Hancock said. "They were well-prepared, so we're looking for a great contest again this year."
Wyoming's spread offense is guided by senior quarterback Evan Prater, who rushed for 242 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 149 yards and two scores in the state final.
Prater, a Cincinnati recruit who is 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, passed for 2,181 yards and 28 touchdowns and ran for 1,788 yards and 32 scores last season.
"I would be shocked if they change anything they've done in the past," Miller said. "They're going to do what they do because it's worked so well for them for so long. While they had a really good senior class last year, the cupboard certainly isn't bare. They have a lot of talent coming back. ... It's certainly a pretty big challenge for us in Week 1."
Wyoming has dominated the Cincinnati Hills League in recent years, winning the last three titles with perfect records and five of the last six. The Cowboys have won 31 consecutive regular-season games.
"Every team that we have here has potential to do what the team did last year," Hancock said. "We have a great group of guys that are committed and focused on being the best they can be. I never settle for anything. We look to be our best each and every week and this team is no different."
Volleyball team seeks league title repeat
The girls volleyball team is seeking back-to-back MSL-Ohio titles.
Academy won its first league championship a year ago, sharing it with Bexley. The Vikings went 7-1 in the league and earned the most wins in program history, finishing 15-7 overall.
"We would like to win the league title outright," second-year coach John Kelley said. "We have some work to do. We lost five seniors from last year and three of them were full-time starters, and 60 percent of our offense graduated. The good news is I have nine seniors this year, so we have a lot of experience, but they don't have as much playing time experience as the ones we lost."
Academy was 2-2 before playing Whetstone on Aug. 26. It began league play Aug. 27 against Grandview.
The top returnees are outside hitter Sophia Freytag, who was second-team all-league last season, and middle hitter/middle blocker Mabry Nichols, who was honorable mention all-league. Both are seniors.
Freytag led Academy in kills (125) and senior setter Noelle Boltz led in assists (247).
Also back are seniors Sasha Ahern (outside hitter), Sarah Edwards (outside hitter), Abigail Freytag (middle hitter), Mackenzie Smith (setter) and Carolyn Zhang (defensive specialist) and junior Lily Plaugher (outside hitter).
Other players are senior Emma Smith (setter), junior Olivia Pierre-Louis (middle hitter) and sophomore Kerry O'Connor (outside hitter).
"We have the foundation for a pretty good team," Kelley said. "A lot of the girls played club in the offseason and have improved themselves from where they were last year. A lot of it is just finding the right chemistry (and) the right lineup."
Below are the coming schedules for the Academy cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 31 -- Dual at the DeWine's in Cedarville
*Aug. 29 -- Home vs. Lancaster
Aug. 31 -- At Hudson
Sept. 3 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
Aug. 29 -- Watkins Memorial at Cumberland Trail
Aug. 31 -- Pinnacle Classic
Sept. 4 -- Marysville at Darby Creek
*Sept. 3 -- Bexley and Worthington Christian at Blackhawk
Aug. 29 -- Home vs. Grove City
*Sept. 4 -- Home vs. Grandview
*Aug. 29 -- Home vs. Bexley
Sept. 4 -- Watterson at Park of Roses
*Aug. 29 -- Home vs. Bexley