The Olentangy Berlin football team will begin its second season shorthanded.
When the Bears kick off Friday, Aug. 30, against visiting Briggs, they will be without junior quarterback Jake Moeller, senior left tackle Cole Troyer, junior left guard Antonio Alonso and senior wide receiver Jalen Weitzel because of injuries.
Coach Mark Nori said he hoped the first three would only miss the opener.
"This isn't like the NFL where you can just swap people out," he said. "We'll be without a lot of experience, which hurts. And Alonso also starts on the defensive line."
The Bears defeated Briggs 53-22 in their first game last fall before losing their final nine contests. The Bruins, who finished 3-7, opted for a second game at Berlin instead of playing at home.
"We like playing on turf because we don't get to play on it much," Briggs coach Sean Zink said. "Also, we like the atmosphere up there. They have tailgates before the game and things like that. The Olentangy schools take their football seriously."
Expect the Bears to lean heavily on senior running back Johnny Spinner, who rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns on 29 carries against the Bruins last year. He was the team's leading rusher for the season with 781 yards and eight touchdowns on 191 carries.
Sophomore Dylan Reyes steps in at quarterback for Moeller, who was 112-for-199 passing for 1,517 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Senior Corey Hill (27 catches, 386 yards, 5 TDs) and Weitzel (30 catches, 487 yards, 6 TDs) were the primary receiving targets. Weitzel will be out to start the season with a broken collarbone, but senior Jack Nebraska should be a capable option.
"(Nori) is a good coach and he's been successful wherever he has been," Zink said. "He knows what he's doing. Olentangy, Liberty and Orange have all been successful, so there's no reason they won't be as well."
Sophomore running back David Downs and sophomore lineman Glen Browning are Briggs' only returning starters on offense, and Downs at linebacker and senior Mykeal Daniels in the secondary are the only two defensive starters back.
The Bears have an advantage in terms of returnees because they didn't have any seniors last season.
"I think having guys back for a second season has helped us, and we're the only team in the state that has our roster back," Nori said. "We were a little shortchanged last year with a new program and a new system, but I think we're on the right path."