In his first season as coach of the Columbus Crusaders club team, Paul Dwyer plans to continue with the ministry goals that the program has had of "building Godly young men" since it was formed in 1996.
Having a chance to compete for a league title is something that he believes only will add to his players' focus this season.
The Crusaders have joined the Great Lakes Christian Athletic Conference (GLCAC) and will compete in a five-game league schedule.
The league's semifinal round will be held Oct. 26, with the league championship game taking place a week later.
Because the Crusaders are a club program, they played their season and league opener Aug. 24 at Middletown Christian.
"We're a ministry first and foremost, but we are in a new league and potentially have a chance to play for a championship," Dwyer said. "I'm using that for motivation for these guys this year. (The GLCAC) has been around for a while and we're very excited because we've never had this opportunity before."
Dwyer, who previously served as defensive coordinator for the Crusaders for seven seasons and also was defensive coordinator at Washington Court House in addition to coaching in South Carolina for three years, will try to turn around a team that went 2-7 last season after a 2-8 finish in 2017.
Mike Stanley was the Crusaders' coach the past two years and 12 seasons overall.
Dwyer's son-in-law, Ben Barlow, guided the program for five seasons, including in 2016 when the Crusaders went 7-3.
This season, the Crusaders will feature about 30 players, although there are few returnees from last season.
According to junior offensive lineman Zac Emery, there's "definitely a different energy" surrounding the program this season with "a lot more optimism."
"They've come together and jelled together very well," Dwyer said. "We've got a lot of camaraderie, great team spirit and they're working together and working hard."
The Crusaders are moving from the triple option to a spread package.
Junior Mike Medas is one of the few returnees on offense and will play at left guard, and senior Tayshaun Henderson is a returning running back who also will play a key role in the attack.
"It's a transition going from the triple option to the spread, but at the same time, we have a lot of new guys coming in that have been learning the offense," Medas said. "The team is really strong in bonds. We have strong connections. Coach Dwyer has been done a really good job of establishing expectations of what he wants us to do."
Senior quarterback Marcus Horsley joins the program after previously competing for Franklin Heights. His backup, senior Robert Christian, previously played for Beechcroft. Horsley is "very much a dual-threat quarterback," according to Dwyer.
Senior Reggie Pace also is expected to be among the top running backs. He competed for the Crusaders as a freshman and sophomore but not last season.
Sophomore Jeffrey Blankson has competed in track and field for Cristo Rey, which does not have a football team, and is competing for the Crusaders for the first time and will be among the wide receivers.
Junior Darius Thrweatt is starting at wide receiver and senior Logan Lang, who played for Olentangy Berlin last year, is serving as the H-back.
Emery is expected to be at left tackle, with sophomore Ashton King at center, senior John LaPat at right guard and senior Blayne Birhanzl at right tackle.
Medas, Christian and Henderson also will be at the heart of the defense, with Medas at middle linebacker and the other two at outside linebacker.
Emery is expected to start at nose guard, with Lang and sophomore Daniel Pacheco at end.
Reggie Pace likely will be the strong safety, while Blankson and Pace's brother, sophomore Coleman Pace, also will see time at safety. Coleman Pace also will be one of the team's slot receivers.
Thrweatt and sophomore Mohamed Camara, who is only 5-foot-3, 123 pounds but is "tough" according to Dwyer, are at cornerback.
Dwyer wasn't sure which player among a group that included Blankson, Pacheco and sophomore Andy Plant would win the placekicking job entering the season.
Jack South, the third-string quarterback, was among the candidates along with Pacheco and Plant to do the punting.
Reggie Pace is expected to be a punt returner after competing in that role two seasons ago, and he, Christian and Coleman Pace will be among the kick returners.
Quarterbacks: *Marcus Horsley (sr., 5-9, 162), Robert Christian (sr., 5-11, 170), Jack South (so., 6-3, 200)
Running backs: *Reggie Pace (sr., 5-9, 157), Tayshaun Henderson (sr., 6-0, 190), Darius Thrweatt (jr., 5-10, 142)
Receivers: *Jeffrey Blankson (so., 5-11, 190), *Christian, *Coleman Pace (so., 5-10, 170), *Thrweatt, Mohamed Camara (so., 5-3, 123)
H-back/tight end: Logan Lang (sr., 6-4, 200)
Linemen: *Blayne Birhanzl (sr., 5-10, 290), *Zac Emery (jr., 6-1, 272), *Ashton King (so., 5-7, 196), *John LaPat (sr., 5-10, 175), *Mike Medas (jr., 5-9, 193)
Linemen: *Emery, *Lang, *Daniel Pacheco (so., 5-8, 240)
Linebackers: *Christian, *Henderson, *Medas
Secondary: *Camara, *Coleman Pace, *Reggie Pace, *Thrweatt, Blankson
Kicker: Blankson, Pacheco, Andy Plant (so., 5-5, 127)
Punter: Pacheco, Plant, South
Returners: *Christian, *Coleman Pace, *Reggie Pace
Long snapper: *Lang
(*Denotes projected starter)