The opening week of the football season brings hope as teams witness the fruits of their offseason labor.
Second-year St. Charles coach Deke Hocker is eager to see his team take the field Friday, Aug. 30, at Dublin Scioto in the second meeting between the programs. The Irish won 56-7 in Hocker's first game leading the Cardinals.
However, despite the anticipation, Hocker said the opener is just one of 10 games guaranteed his squad.
"I don't think anything is different (for the opener) because they are all equally important," said Hocker, whose team finished 4-6 last season. "There's more excitement because it's opening week. Everyone prepares hard for this ga me."
The game holds special significance to Scioto's Yousef Alchahal. The two-way lineman has been anticipating his senior opener for years.
"I have been looking forward to this since I started playing my freshman year," he said. "We're a band of brothers who keep fighting for each other."
The Irish are without three of their top offensive players from last season when they finished 7-3. Senior center Nate Samblanet will miss the season with a knee injury and senior wide receiver Tobias Thomas (39 catches, 578 yards, 5 TDs last season) moved to Florida.
Quarterback Kyron Rogers, a 2019 graduate, was 136-for-238 passing for 1,955 yards with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. He will be replaced by senior Chad Ray, who moves over from tight end.
Senior Pete Hrelec (169 carries, 833 yards, 9 TDs) returns at tailback.
Defensively, seniors Aidan Ekis and Donovan Hardin will anchor the line with seniors Gage Hannan and Sam Roper leading the linebackers.
"I know they have a good program and a good history," Hocker said. "They will be a good, quality opponent to open the season with."
For St. Charles, senior Andy Mason took over at quarterback for the last four games a year ago after 2019 graduate Dan DiNapoli suffered a broken leg in a 35-7 loss to DeSales. Mason completed 20 of 51 passes for 348 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Senior Roland Rowe had 22 receptions for 335 yards and three scores, and senior Luke Eversole rushed for 271 yards on 61 carries with three touchdowns. Senior Thomas Berry also will get reps at running back.
"That first game is more about you than your opponent," Scioto coach Karl Johnson said. "It comes down to how you execute and if your special teams are ready and things like that.
"It's hard to know what a team is about by watching a scrimmage, but (St. Charles has) a good slot receiver (in Rowe) and a pretty good running back (in Eversole)."
Rowe also excelled at defensive back last year, recording 30 tackles with three interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Senior Connor Carretta returns on the line after making 20 tackles, including a team-leading 13 for loss, and four fumble recoveries. Berry had 32 tackles at linebacker.
"(The opener) is a good indicator of where you are at," Hocker said. "Some of the kids have never played before on Friday night and it's important to see how they react to that experience."