A major goal for third-year Marysville coach Brent Johnson and his staff during the preseason was to re-emphasize the importance of having solid practices.
Johnson believes strong practices will lead to improved performances on game night as the Monarchs look to better last season's finish of 5-5 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Central Division.
"I like this time of the year. I'm anxious," Johnson said. "Our numbers are up. We're at 73 (players). Last year, we were at 62 guys. ... One thing that we're really pushing right now and have for the last two years is I want our guys to compete. If they can feel that pressure in practice, we're going to be better in games."
Marysville will test that theory when it opens Aug. 30 at home against Northland.
"We talked about the season, but we're more focused on what we have to do now, one play at a time, one practice at a time," said senior lineman Ian Johnson, the coach's son. "We're not really worried about senior night coming and being our last time (on the field). We're just going out and having fun."
Coach Johnson realizes the Monarchs again will face a tough test in the OCC-Central, so he's stressing the importance of focusing on his team and not its opponents. Marysville opens league play Oct. 4 at Dublin Coffman.
"We want to be more physical and we want to be good in our process -- great effort, great physicality, very competitive," he said. "We've changed our culture and we're looking forward. We always say 'on to the next.' "
Marysville lost several key players to graduation, including Mike Powers (RB/LB), who led the team in tackles with 148 and rushed for 495 yards. He shared league Defensive Player of the Year honors and was first-team all-district in Division I.
Also gone are two-way lineman Tyler Connolly (first-team all-district, second-team all-league), quarterback Walker Heard (first-team all-league, special mention all-district) and running back/defensive back Bodie Eberhart (first-team all-league, honorable mention all-district).
Connolly and Powers are playing at West Virginia.
Marysville's running game accounted for more than 2,600 yards last season, and Johnson hopes it can surpass that total this fall.
Senior Chase Kilgore rushed for a team-high 632 yards and was special mention all-league.
"I like the group of guys we have and the bond we've made with each other," Kilgore said. "The bond really helps us play together."
Senior Jayden Simmons rushed for 242 yards and also will see time in the backfield.
"We want to end on a good note, a high note," Simmons said. "(Qualifying for the) playoffs is definitely a key for us. We want to focus one game at a time, one practice at a time, work on our speed and hitting each other."
There was a preseason competition to replace Heard at quarterback, with senior Nathan Morey having a slight edge over juniors Logan McSwords and Ashton Schmutz.
"Nate is doing a good job," coach Johnson said. "He sat behind Walker for two years. He has grown each day. He's doing a better job of managing our offense. We're not asking them to be anything special other than be a role player, just like any other position."
Top receivers include seniors Jake Carper and Carson Smith and junior Logan Neer.
Smith is a transfer from North Union.
The offensive line should feature Ian Johnson, a returning starter, at right guard. He was second-team all-league last season.
Senior Matt Belt, another returning starter, will be at center. Sophomore Gavin Rohrs will play left tackle.
Players still were competing in the preseason for the remaining starting spots on the line.
"Depth-wise we're pretty good on the line of scrimmage," coach Johnson said.
The Monarchs are looking for someone to emerge as a leader on defense in place of Powers.
Senior Colby Goodwin should start at end, with Ian Johnson also seeing time at that position. Senior Skylar Lawson will play nose guard and junior Colby Kerns is a tackle.
Junior Zach McMinn, a transfer from Dublin Jerome, also should be a key contributor on the line.
Kilgore, senior David Farley, juniors Luke Harper, Lincoln Heard and Aidan Lambert and sophomore Gabe Powers are key linebackers.
The secondary features Carper, Smith and sophomore Tanner Powers at cornerback and Schmutz, Simmons and senior Brody Lewis at safety.
"I'm really excited," Lewis said. "I want big things for this team. I don't want to go 5-5 like we did last year. I expect a lot more from us. It's just the little things. We have to keep doing our thing every day and just expect to be better."
Coach Johnson said the preseason also featured competition for the kicking and punting duties, with Lewis, senior Joe Duke and junior Logan Hall sharing time at kicker and Duke, Hall and junior Nick Kessler vying at punter.
Kilgore, Lewis and Smith are the top return threats and Tanner Powers will be the long snapper.
Quarterbacks: *Nathan Mowery (sr., 6-1, 180), Logan McSwords (jr., 6-1, 160), Ashton Schmutz (jr., 6-0, 165)
Running backs: *Ryan Kern (jr., 5-11, 205), *Chase Kilgore (sr., 6-0, 200), David Farley (sr., 5-9, 180), Colby Goodwin (sr., 6-1, 240), Chris Lambert (sr., 5-9, 155), Brody Lewis (sr., 6-2, 200), Gabe Powers (so., 6-2, 220), Jayden Simmons (sr., 5-10, 165)
Receivers: *Jake Carper (sr., 6-1, 170), *Logan Neer (jr., 5-10, 155), *Carson Smith (sr., 6-2, 170)
Linemen: *Matt Belt (sr., 5-11, 220), *Ian Johnson (sr., 6-0, 195), *Colby Kerns (jr., 6-1, 230), *Gavin Rohrs (so., 6-3, 290), Dominic Gaetano (jr., 5-10, 210)
Linemen: *Goodwin, *Johnson, *Skylar Lawson (sr., 6-1, 230), Nick Kessler (jr., 6-5, 205), Zach McMinn (jr., 6-3, 260)
Linebackers: *Farley, Kilgore, Luke Harper (jr., 5-10, 185), Lincoln Heard (jr., 5-6, 160), Aidan Lambert (jr., 5-10, 185), Powers
Secondary: *Carper, *Lewis, *Simmons, Logan Hall (jr., 5-10, 170), Tanner Powers, (so., 6-1, 155), Schmutz, Smith
Kicker: Joe Duke (sr., 5-8, 165), Hall, Lewis
Punter: Duke, Hall, Kessler
Returners: Kilgore, Lewis, Smith
Long snapper: *Tanner Powers
(*Denotes projected starter)