With the outright OCC-Ohio Division championship on the line and a shot at a playoff berth still alive last fall, Lancaster's season ended with a 28-7 loss to Reynoldsburg in Week 10.

Being in that position, though, was a step up from 2017 when the Golden Gales finished 4-6 after back-to-back postseason appearances.

Lancaster beat two teams that made the playoffs last season, including eventual Division I state semifinalist Pickerington Central (31-30), with its style of power running and physical defense that likely isn't to change this fall.

However, going 6-4 overall and having to settle for a share of the league title with Reynoldsburg at 4-1 last season, has players like senior defensive tackle Devon Pearson feeling hungry to get this season started.

The Gales open Aug. 30 at home against Watterson, which went 5-5 last season but won its final three contests, and they'll get a chance to avenge a 14-13 loss to Hilliard Darby when the Panthers visit Sept. 13.

Lancaster opens league play Oct. 4 at home against Grove City.

"Just barely missing (the playoffs) definitely pushed me a lot harder for this season," Pearson said. "We've got a couple young guys that need to get into the playbook like all teams do, but I think we look pretty good."

Many of the names will be different offensively, but the Gales have a talented senior wide receiver in Casey Finck and a veteran defense to build around.

After losing its first three games to begin last season, Lancaster won its next six, including beating Newark (62-0) and Upper Arlington (29-28) to close the non-league schedule. Both of those programs return to the schedule and have new coaches.

Meanwhile, the Gales are led by 22nd-year coach Rob Carpenter, who has the longest continuous tenure among current coaches in the OCC and has guided the Gales to eight playoff berths.

"We missed out (on the playoffs last season) and it's just been something that's kicked us into overdrive this offseason," senior Curtis Young said. "We want to make sure we take what's ours this year. We have a lot of guys returning on defense. The offense has a lot of young guys and the secondary is pretty young, but we're making sure they get their reps."

OFFENSE

Young is expected to be one of the key players on both sides of the ball for the Gales, who averaged about 13 pass attempts per game a year ago.

Young had 11 receptions, including one touchdown, at wide receiver last season, but also could see touches at running back this fall. Seniors Owen Snyder, Sage Hill and Carson Rainier and sophomore Sam Finck are other running backs.

Junior Titan Johnson is expected to take over at quarterback for 2019 graduate Tyler Monk, who rushed for 264 yards and passed for 1,243 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.

Senior Casey Finck, Sam Finck's brother, is the most proven weapon at the skill positions after recording 28 catches for 631 yards and six scores at wide receiver last fall.

Senior Max Hamilton, who had 10 catches a year ago, should be another wide receiver, while senior Dominic Carpenter and junior Christian Riley both are expected to see time at tight end.

The top returnees on the line are seniors Dalton Golden and Simon Voigt. Several others, including seniors Noah Burnside and Drew Solt, could rotate in some of the positions up front.

DEFENSE

The Gales return several key contributors on defense, including Hamilton at cornerback and Young at linebacker.

Pearson returns at tackle on a line that also should include senior Carson Rainier at nose tackle and seniors Tristen Rothenberger and junior Zindale Graf at end.

Young is expected to be at weakside linebacker beside senior Owen Snyder at middle linebacker and either Hill or senior Cole Smith at strong-side linebacker.

Looking to fill roles in the secondary are Sam Finck, junior George Sherrick and sophomores Riley Poston and Eli Rathburn.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Gales have an experienced kicking game.

Junior kicker Phillip Slater made five of six field-goal attempts and 24 of 25 extra-points tries last season while Young averaged 35.3 yards per punt and placed six inside the 20-yard line.

Hamilton should be among the kickoff and punt returners after returning 13 kickoffs for 505 yards and two touchdowns and five punts last season.

THE LINEUP

Offense

Quarterbacks: *Titan Johnson (jr., 5-11, 160), Curtis Young (sr., 6-3, 215)

Running backs: *Owen Snyder (sr., 6-3, 215), Sam Finck (so., 6-1, 175), Sage Hill (sr., 5-10, 185), Ajay Locke (so, 5-9, 180), Carson Rainier (sr., 5-10, 190), George Sherrick (jr., 6-1, 185), Cole Smith (sr., 5-8, 190), Brock Thomas (sr., 6-0, 190), Young

Receivers: *Casey Finck (sr., 6-2, 180), *Max Hamilton (sr., 5-10, 165), Young

Tight end: *Dominic Carpenter (sr., 5-11, 215), Christian Riley (jr., 6-2, 235)

Linemen: *Dalton Golden (sr., 6-0, 350), *Simon Voigt (sr., 6-2, 280), Noah Burnside (sr., 5-9, 290), Ty Hedges (so., 5-9, 160), Bynen Hill (jr., 6-0, 220), Anthony Smith (so., 6-1, 240), Drew Solt (sr., 6-0, 235)

Defense

Linemen: *Zindale Graf (jr., 5-10, 215), *Devon Pearson (sr., 5-11, 240), *Rainier, *Tristen Rothenberger (sr., 6-0, 240), Golden

Linebackers: *Snyder, *Young, Hill, Cole Smith

Secondary: *Casey Finck, *Hamilton, Sam Finck, Riley Poston (so., 5-10, 155), Eli Rathburn (so., 6-2, 175), Sherrick

Special teams

Kicker: *Phillip Slater (jr., 6-0, 175)

Punter: *Young

Returners: *Hamilton

Long snapper: To be determined

(*Denotes projected starter)

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek