The newest central Ohio program to become a part of the OHSAA is KIPP Columbus, which is located on the east side of town and will face a full varsity schedule for the first time this fall.

The public charter school itself, though, comes from a national network of more than 200 free open-enrollment schools that was founded 25 years ago and has expanded to about half of the states.

KIPP, which stands for "Knowledge is Power Program," founded its first school in Columbus in 2008, with its high school opening four years ago. According to its website, KIPP Columbus has nearly 2,000 students in grades K-12.

The idea of adding a football program, as well as other sports, was another way to serve its student population, according to third-year coach Andrew Mensah, who has been working at the academy for eight years.

This is KIPP Columbus' first year having seniors.

"We used to be in Linden and then we bought Bridgeview Golf Course and started building buildings," Mensah said. "This is the first year of us having K-12. As the school has grown, we now serve 2,000 kids within (I-)270 and have nearly 30 buses bringing kids from all over the city. We have more kids on the waiting list than we do at our school."

KIPP Columbus, which also has boys soccer and girls volleyball in the fall, boys and girls basketball in the winter and boys and girls track and field in the spring, played its first varsity game against the Columbus Crusaders in 2017 and also played against DeSales' freshman team that season.

Last fall, the Jaguars went 1-5, defeating Portsmouth Sciotoville East 34-2. They also tied DeSales' junior varsity team at 28.

Mensah is a Northside Christian graduate who played for the Crusaders because his alma mater didn't offer football, and he also competed for Otterbein.

This fall, KIPP Columbus will field a 39-player roster that includes 12 freshmen and four seniors.

The Jaguars open Aug. 30 at Portsmouth West, which went 6-5 and made the Division V, Region 20 playoffs last season, and then play Sept. 6 at Columbus East before visiting the Crusaders on Sept. 13.

KIPP Columbus is in the process of building a stadium, but it isn't expected to be ready until Oct. 1, leaving the Jaguars with one home game Oct. 25 against Galion, a Division IV program that went 6-4 last season.

The Jaguars are playing two other teams that made the postseason last fall in Marion Pleasant (Oct. 4) and Lima Central Catholic (Oct. 11) and are facing nine OHSAA teams overall.

Approaching a .500 record during its first season in the OHSAA is among the team goals, according to Mensah.

"We've been putting the work in and it's fun," said junior offensive lineman and linebacker Brandon Perry, a Linden resident who grew up playing for the Columbus Gators. "I'd like to see what we're going to put together this year and see what we can do."

OFFENSE

Junior Tylond Harris has been the team's quarterback for much of the past two seasons and is expected to be in that role again this fall.

Junior Trent Richardson can "throw the ball 50 yards," according to Mensah, but is expected to begin the season at wide receiver.

The Jaguars likely will be a power running team, with senior junior Amauri Collins and senior Fabian Rodgers as the top options.

Among those expected to join Richardson at wide receiver are freshmen Xavier Ferguson and Tymir Wynn, each of whom has a "good football pedigree," according to Mensah.

Collins also will be the H-back depending on the formation.

Perry would be the top candidate to play tight end if the Jaguars decide to use one but likely will lead the offensive line.

Sophomore Zachariah Walton will be the center, with junior Sean Raine expected to be the left tackle.

"We've been looking better than last year," said Harris, another Linden resident who grew up competing for the Linden Eagles. "We've been working hard every single day trying to win more games and score more touchdowns."

DEFENSE

Raine should lead the defense from one of the spots on the line, which also should include freshman Sidikiba Kaba at nose tackle or end.

Perry should start at middle linebacker, with senior Tony Cunningham filling a hybrid role at outside linebacker and strong safety.

Expected to be at cornerback are Wynn and sophomore Dayvone Perry, who is just 5-foot-3, 130 pounds, but showed ability to cover during the preseason, according to Mensah.

Richardson and senior Chaunzay Walker also should see action at safety, with junior John Dixon also seeing time in the secondary.

"(Dixon has shown) strong leadership and has grown up playing football," Mensah said. "We're excited to have him."

SPECIAL TEAMS

Because their practice field doesn't have a goal post, the Jaguars aren't planning to use a placekicker.

Raine likely will be the punter, with Dayvone Perry at long snapper.

Collins and Dixon should lead the kickoff and punt return teams.

THE LINEUP

Offense

Quarterbacks: *Tylond Harris (jr., 5-11, 146), Trent Richardson (jr., 6-0, 158)

Running backs: *Fabian Rodgers (sr., 5-7, 140), Amauri Collins (jr., 5-8, 146)

Receivers: *Xavier Ferguson (so., 5-7, 150), *Richardson, John Dixon (jr., 5-5, 143), Tymir Wynn (fr., 5-8, 140)

H-back: *Collins

Linemen: *Malcolm Carter (so., 5-10, 205), *Taliby Kaba (fr., 5-8, 275), *Brandon Perry (jr., 5-11, 187), *Sean Raine (jr., 5-10, 238), *Zachariah Walton (so., 5-8, 180)

Defense

Linemen: *Sidikiba Kaba (fr., 5-10, 215), *Raine

Linebackers: *Tony Cunningham (sr., 5-10, 163), *Harris, *Perry, *Rodgers

Secondary: *Dixon, *Dayvone Perry (so., 5-3, 130), *Wynn, Richardson, Chaunzay Walker (sr., 5-9, 145)

Special teams

Kicker: None

Punter: *Raine

Returners: *Collins, *Dixon, Rodgers

Long snapper: *Dayvone Perry

(*Denotes projected starter)

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek