As is often the case in this football rivalry, Grandview Heights will pit its size and strength against Centennial's athleticism when the Bobcats play host to the Stars in the opener Thursday, Aug. 29.
Coming off its first winning season since 2001, there are high expectations surrounding Centennial.
"Coach (Donte) Goosby does a heck of a job over there at Centennial and his teams are usually quite disciplined," said Grandview coach Jason Peters, whose team won the matchup 27-0 last season and went on to finish 7-4, losing to Bainbridge Paint Valley 39-36 in the first round of the Division VI, Region 23 playoffs. "He has a knack for finding what the kids do well and putting them into position to succeed. If we're not ready, they'll hurt us."
The Stars finished 7-3 last season and return a plethora of playmakers, but must fortify a depleted line on both sides of the ball.
"We've got to be prepared and ready to go from the kickoff, especially on the line of scrimmage because Grandview is such a physical football team," Goosby said. "It's a typical Grandview team under coach Peters. They're tough as nails, have some good athletes, but basically have their own brand of toughness. It's their trademark.
"And I wouldn't call this a rivalry game. It's not a rivalry when one side always kicks the other's butts. We haven't had much success against them in my (first) six seasons. We beat them (20-7) in my first season (in 2013), but lost the last five."
The Stars will be led by returning starters Jaylen Gilbert at quarterback, Luchene Davis at running back, Marquese Scott and Tyreek Gunnell at slotback and Syquee Womack at receiver. Gilbert, a third-year starter, was 63-for-92 passing for 1,013 yards with 14 touchdowns and rushed for 600 yards and nine scores on 85 carries last season. Davis rushed for 1,201 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Scott had 18 catches for 445 yards, rushed 24 times for 187 yards and returned 17 kickoffs for 513 yards while totaling 13 touchdowns. Womack had 15 receptions for 387 yards, 14 kickoff returns for 302 yards and scored six touchdowns.
"Their quarterback looks slimmer than last year and can really run it well," Peters said. "They have some real weapons all over the field and we need to be very disciplined, tackle well and get to the ball. One missed tackle and they're gone."
Grandview will counter with a 4-3 defense that returns seven starters, including lineman Joey Bertani, a third-team all-state selection last season with 56 tackles, three sacks and one safety.
Darreion Davis had 79 tackles at linebacker last season, but has moved to defensive end. Glenn Cribbs (37 tackles) and Alfie Sterneker (71 tackles) lead the linebackers.
On offense, Grandview has a third-year starter at quarterback in Kyle Casey, and his favorite target is back in tight end/wide receiver Luke Lachey. An Iowa recruit who was second-team all-state last season, Lachey caught 45 passes for 763 yards and 12 touchdowns and also had two kickoff returns for scores.
Casey completed 72 of 124 passes for 1,039 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
"We need to be more sound and not get dominated from a physical standpoint," Goosby said. "We need to make quicker reads defensively because their offensive line executes very well and fast. They have great tempo.
"Their quarterback is a tough kid and good athlete ... and the Lachey kid may be the best receiver I've seen at the high school level."
Centennial's 4-2-5 defense is led by Seth Arrowood, Justin Grimes, Kelvin Motley and Noah Hatem up front. Womack was third-team all-state as a defensive back last year.