Hilliard Davidson football coach Brian White has been stressing to his players that they should expect to face an improved Grove City team Friday, Aug. 30, at home.
The teams will compete in the opener for the 10th consecutive season. The Wildcats have won eight of the nine meetings, including 31-0 last season, with the Dawgs win coming in 2014 by a 6-0 score.
"I expect them to be better," White said. "I've heard they've changed their scheme on the offensive and defensive side and that obviously causes us some concern because you worry about what they haven't shown in their scrimmages and what they have left to show in their games.
"We know the community of Grove City and how badly they want to win. Our kids will get the message by the time Friday rolls around."
Davidson leads the all-time series 41-32.
Grove City is coming off a 0-10 season, which followed a 1-9 mark in 2017 and a 0-10 record in 2016. The Dawgs are seeking their first winning season since 2013 when they finished 6-4.
"We haven't had much success against Davidson in years past, but our kids have worked hard and hopefully we can be competitive," Grove City coach Tennyson Varney said.
Davidson reached the Division I, Region 3 final last season, losing to Pickerington Central 20-13 to finish 11-2. The Wildcats have advanced to the postseason in 10 of the 11 past years but were hit hard by graduation, returning just one starter on offense in senior Nick Sands at left tackle.
They return five starters on defense, all seniors, in Nick Dymek at strong safety, Gage Keys at defensive end, Dylan Kokoska at linebacker, Bobby Smith at defensive tackle and Alex Van Voorhis at free safety.
Senior Evan Tekancic, who played wide receiver last season, has replaced 2019 graduate Carson Felicetty at quarterback.
"We have to control the line of scrimmage, control the clock and limit our penalties and turnovers," White said. "That's the name of the game with us. We're not doing anything fancy. It's just not my personality, it's not our philosophy. We're going to do what we do. It's won a lot of games. If it's not good enough to win, we'll just try to get better at what it is we do."
Varney, who is in his third season, said his team will have a new look on offense, moving from the spread to the wing-T.
Junior Jared Knight returns at quarterback after passing for 621 yards a season ago.
Senior Jevin Yors, who was Grove City's top receiver last season with 36 receptions for 489 yards and one touchdown, has moved to wingback.
Senior running back Cole Crager rushed for 391 yards and one touchdown a year ago and again should be a featured playmaker.
Varney is looking forward to the challenge of facing Davidson.
"This is a game every year where we know they're going to be really good," he said. "They're very disciplined and you have to physically beat them to win the game. You have to play mistake-free football."