Entering his third year in the program, Central Crossing coach Trevor White is adamant that he has not adjusted expectations to meet a different standard than he implemented the day he was hired.
"We ask three things of these guys -- to show up, compete and have energy. It's not always easy but it's pretty simple," said White, whose team opens Aug. 30 at home against Dublin Jerome. "If we do those three things without question, things will take care of themselves."
If the Comets are to improve on back-to-back 4-6 seasons, they likely will depend not only on the talents of versatile senior Anthony Lowe but also how quickly several areas grow with new players and new schemes.
Lowe will play wide receiver and safety and contribute on special teams as a kick and punt returner.
He had a season-record seven interceptions last year and caught 16 passes for 335 yards and five touchdowns.
"It's a big role. You always want to do the right thing. I have to go out there and be 100 percent at everything I do," Lowe said. "We need a leader. We need somebody to step up and bring the energy and intensity."
Central Crossing begins OCC-Central play Oct. 4 at defending league champion Hilliard Davidson. The Comets, who are seeking their first winning season since 2015, went 1-4 in the league last year to finish fifth behind the Wildcats (5-0).
Knowing that the team would need to reload, White implored his returning players to redouble their effort and intensity throughout the offseason. So far, he says he likes what he has seen.
"We have a lot of guys in there battling for positions. We need a lot of growth out of these guys as fast as we can get it," White said. "We had a big senior class (last season) and a lot of experienced seniors. A lot of them played significantly for two years. We have a group coming up without a lot of varsity experience, guys who aren't used to being counted on or having the spotlight on them.
"A lot of what we talked about was handling the pressure, being able to go in and make a mistake in front of a bunch of people and go back out there and do it again. That's an adjustment."
Senior Drew DeYarmon saw action at quarterback in every game last season and earned three starts, but found himself in competition for most of the preseason with senior Logan Green. Green also will be a wide receiver as needed.
DeYarmon completed eight of 23 passes for 76 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions a year ago.
Whoever starts will run an offense that, according to White, will emphasize the run more than in years past while still using the spread. Previous offensive coordinator David Lakso left in January to become head coach at Marion-Franklin.
"I like to think of myself as the guy who is going to be there and lead this team but I embrace competition," DeYarmon said.
"You want to have somebody there to push you. Human nature is to sit back and go through the motions if somebody isn't there competing with you. (Green) is a great quarterback as well. He's a little more athletic than I am. We both bring different things to that role."
Junior Jahaan Upchurch is expected to lead a group of running backs that also includes sophomores Alec Boyd and Jae'V'on Pass. Upchurch rushed for 333 yards and three touchdowns on 73 carries last year behind 2019 graduate Pierre France, who rushing for 782 yards and seven touchdowns on 181 carries. France left as the program's all-time leading rusher with 422 carries for 1,883 yards and 17 scores.
"Jahaan is more of a shifty back," White said. "Pierre was more of a downhill power runner. Jahaan has more finesse."
Two starters return on the line in senior tackle Lance Blackwell and junior center Freddy Burchett.
While the entire defensive backfield returns in seniors Tye Bradley, Jalen Coles, Green and Lowe, there are no returning starters on the defensive line or at linebacker.
"Game speed was a challenge in some of our scrimmages. The tempo was different for them. We will be fine," Bradley said. "This year, we're working hard. We're pushing each other. We're trying to compete more and I think we are. I want to be a force on both sides of the ball. I want to play a lot more on offense (and) I want to get some picks. Last year, I didn't have any interceptions. That's really my goal."
Seniors Omari Green and Trent Rivers and junior Jonathan Mather were favorites to start on the line. Seniors Joe Rojo and Nate Vanhouten will start at inside linebacker, with senior Joe Tamburrino and junior Tristen Needham on the outside.
"When you have a lot of question marks, you have a lot of competition at different positions and that's exactly what we want, (either with) guys who are fighting for a starting spot or younger guys coming up and getting more reps," White said. "That's refreshing."
Junior Tyler Terrell returns as kicker and punter after making 19 of 21 extra-point attempts and four of eight field goal tries a year ago.
DeYarmon also returns at long snapper.
Quarterbacks: *Drew DeYarmon (sr., 5-10, 170), Logan Green (sr., 6-0, 165)
Running backs: *Jahaan Upchurch (sr., 5-8, 165), *Alec Boyd (so., 6-0, 155), Jae'V'on Pass (so., 6-0, 165)
Receivers: *Jalen Coles (sr., 6-4, 195), *Anthony Lowe (sr., 5-11, 165), *Cole Wright (sr., 5-9, 180), Brody Musto (jr., 5-9, 155)
Linemen: *Lance Blackwell (sr., 6-1, 295), *Drew Basham (jr., 5-11, 260), *Freddy Burchett (jr., 6-1, 275), *Matt Frye (sr., 5-8, 185), *Caleb Ross (jr., 6-4, 200)
Tight end: *Jonathan Mathers (jr., 6-3, 185)
Linemen: *Omari Green (sr., 6-0, 245), *Mathers, *Trent Rivers (sr., 6-1, 210)
Linebackers: *Tristen Needham (jr., 6-1, 200), *Joe Rojo (sr., 5-7, 195), *Joe Tamburrino (sr., 6-2, 175), *Nate Vanhouten (sr., 5-7, 175)
Secondary: *Tye Bradley (sr., 6-0, 170), *Coles *Green, *Lowe, Upchurch
Kicker: *Tyler Terrell (jr., 6-0, 130)
Returner: To be determined
Long snapper: *DeYarmon
(*Denotes projected starter)