As the school celebrates its 25th year, Dublin Scioto coach Karl Johnson hopes for a return to the glory days of the program's first year in 1995, when the Irish defeated Akron Buchtel 21-14 to win the Division II state title.
"It's our 25th year as a school, so there's a lot of excitement about that," said Johnson, who is in his 20th season. "It's a big point of emphasis for (our players) to understand they're part of a 25-year history. We can't get away from the early years. They see that state championship picture every day they come to practice."
Last season, the Irish finished 7-3 overall, but missed qualifying for the Region 7 playoffs after a 13-11 loss to OCC-Cardinal Division rival Hilliard Darby in week 10.
Scioto went 5-2 in the league to finish behind Hilliard Bradley (7-0) and Darby (6-1).
The Irish are seeking their first OCC championship since 2003 and their first postseason appearance since 2016.
"Last year wasn't a failure, but obviously we want to get back to the playoffs," senior Chad Ray said.
"We've had senior talks and that's been pretty much everybody's goal, getting back to the playoffs."
Scioto opens Aug. 30 against visiting St. Charles and begins OCC-Cardinal play Sept. 20 by playing host to Dublin Jerome.
"If you coach football, you better like this time of the year," Johnson said. "This is the fun part. This is seeing it come together, seeing guys compete, getting ready for that first game."
The Irish lost 15 players to graduation, led by quarterback Kyron Rogers. After completing 136 of 238 passes for 1,955 yards with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions, Rogers was named first-team all-district and all-league and third-team all-state.
Kenyon Pannell (WR/DB), who had 44 receptions for 847 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Cayson Pfeiffer (TE/DE), who had 63.5 tackles, six sacks and five forced fumbles, were first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state.
Senior Tobias Thomas (WR/DB), who had 39 catches for 578 yards and five touchdowns and was second-team all-district and all-league, has enrolled at Ridge Community in Davenport, Florida.
"It's always next man up," Johnson said. "That's why we practice and that's why practice is important. It means everybody is getting ready. We had a really good start to preseason."
The Irish suffered a blow on offense when senior center Nate Samblanet was sidelined with a season-ending knee injury.
"Losing Nate to injury was tough, but guys are stepping up and we have to work to still pursue our dreams," Johnson said.
Ray, who played tight end last season, has replaced Rogers at quarterback and will direct the spread offense.
"Chad is going to be able to do quite a few things," Johnson said. "He has a good pop in his arm. He's smart. He does a great job reading defenses. He has a nice, big frame. He's gotten faster in the last two years."
With the loss of Samblanet, Johnson and his staff have revamped the line, with senior Alex Mar moving from guard to center and classmate Cole Nolan switching from tight end to the line. Also expected to start are seniors Yousef Alchahal (right tackle) and Donovan Hardin (left tackle).
"I look forward to this time of the year," Alchahal said. "Football is my passion and it's my senior year, so I feel like we have to break out as a team and leave our mark on Scioto history. We definitely have the potential."
Last season, Hardin was first-team all-district, second-team all-league and third-team all-state.
Senior Pete Hrelec, who ran for 833 yards and nine touchdowns on 169 carries and was special mention all-district, will play tailback.
Key receivers are senior Marty Neuhardt and junior Xavier Lopes. Neuhardt was special mention all-district.
"The offense has a great number of returnees and senior leadership has been good," Johnson said.
Hardin (tackle) and senior Aidan Ekis (end) should help anchor the line.
Senior Deron Pulliam, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, could be out early with a foot injury but should eventually contribute.
Senior Gage Hannan, who had had 87.5 tackles and was second-team all-district and special mention all-league, will be at linebacker along with senior Sam Roper.
Hrelec and Neuhardt should lead the secondary at safety.
"Our young guys need to fill in on defense and grow up quickly," said Johnson, whose team uses a 4-2-5 base scheme.
The Irish must replace kicker Griffin Crosa, who is a freshman at North Dakota State.
He was first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state.
Seniors Declan Farrell and Zack McQuade, who both also play on the boys soccer team, are early candidates to replace Crosa.
Farrell, Hannan, McQuade and Ray are punters, and Hannan, Hrelec, Jackson, Lopes and Neuhardt are in the mix to return kicks.
The long snappers will be sophomore Nick Crawford and Nolan,
Quarterback: *Chad Ray (sr., 6-2, 200)
Running backs: *Pete Hrelec (sr., 5-11, 160), Gage Hannan (sr., 5-8, 165)
Receivers: *Xavier Lopes (jr., 6-3, 170), *Marty Neuhardt (sr., 6-1, 155), Leslie Andoh (so., 6-0, 150), Tysen Boze (so., 6-1, 180), Andre Jackson (sr., 6-0, 160), Jordon Penn (sr., 5-7, 150)
Tight ends: Cole Nolan (sr., 6-2, 220), Joe Trent (jr., 6-4, 195), Vernon Williams (jr., 6-5, 235)
Linemen: *Yousef Alchahal (sr., 6-3, 275), *Donovan Hardin (sr., 6-1, 285), *Alex Mar (sr., 6-0, 225), Nick Ansley (so., 6-0, 315), Maxwell Martin-Lee (so., 6-1, 230), Kody Maughmer (jr., 6-3, 310)
Linemen: *Aidan Ekis (sr., 5-9, 160), *Hardin, *Deron Pulliam (sr., 5-10, 190), Martin-Lee, Nolan, Trent, Koel Shaw (jr., 5-8, 175), Harrison Smith (jr., 6-0, 190), Williams, Nick Wolfe (sr., 5-11, 230)
Linebackers: *Hannan, *Sam Roper (sr., 5-9, 165), Vaughn Francis (jr., 6-0, 205)
Secondary: *Hrelec, *Neuhardt, Shaker Al Jafari (sr., 5-10, 165), Andoh, Zion Freeman-Walker (jr., 6-0, 160), Jackson, Penn
Kickers: Declan Farrell (sr., 5-9, 130), Zack McQuade (sr., 6-2, 165)
Punters: Farrell, Hannan, McQuade, Ray
Returners: Hannan, Hrelec, Jackson, Lopes, Neuhardt
Long snappers: Nick Crawford (so., 6-0. 225), Nolan
(*Denotes projected starter)