As has been the case for much of fourth-year coach Derek Hone's tenure, the Beechcroft boys soccer team isn't deep in terms of returnees.
However, the Cougars have 13 seniors and many players who have experience playing at various levels.
Beechcroft was 2-1 overall before facing Horizon Science on Sept. 3 and opens City League-North Division play Tuesday, Sept. 10, at home against Whetstone. The Cougars went 5-8-2 overall and 1-4-1 in the league last season.
Mifflin and Northland both went 5-0-1 in the City-North last season to share the league title, but the Punchers represented the league in the City final, which was won by West 2-1.
"We have everything, from kids that have never played on a team to three or four that can play on a really high level," Hone said. "We pretty much have a whole different group than last year. ... We're adding 12 to 15 new kids every year, which makes it a challenge to build a program."
Beechcroft opened Aug. 16 with a 5-2 loss to Jonathan Alder but defeated Buckeye Valley 5-1 on Aug. 19 and Heath 9-0 on Aug. 22.
Senior center midfielder Maxime Ngoupa is a move-in who quickly has become one of the team's top players, according to Hone, and had four goals through three games.
Seniors Michael Anunobi (forward), Samuel Kyereh (center midfielder), Josh Mang (defender) and Anup Rimal (defender) are among the top returnees. Anunobi had seven goals and three assists through three games.
Juniors Eric Mensah (center back/sweeper) and Roland Amoah (forward), who had four goals and five assists through three games, also are key players.
Senior Leo Agyepong is at goalkeeper.
"(The City-North) looks to be super tough this year," Hone said. "Whichever City school is most consistent will have the best shot. Our fitness is not good because in the summer it's difficult to get our athletes here. My theme leading into the season is that we're only going to be as good as our fitness in the first couple weeks."
Vikings volleyball team getting on track
During a City League crossover match against Walnut Ridge on Aug. 19, the Northland girls volleyball team lost the first two sets before finding its footing to rally for a 16-25, 17-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-8 victory.
Things have been coming together slowly for the Vikings, according to coach J. Sanchez.
Sanchez has been Northland's coach for 17 of the past 18 seasons, including every year beginning in 2007.
"We haven't had a gym this summer because we haven't had access to our school," Sanchez said. "So many (City) schools are getting (air conditioning) and we're all sharing space. It's been a struggle bouncing locations and times. You're inviting students to come up with a reason not to come to practice."
Northland beat Beechcroft 25-14, 25-9, 25-10 on Aug. 29 and was 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the City-North before facing Linden-McKinley on Sept. 3.
The Vikings opened league action Aug. 22 with a 25-13, 25-6, 25-9 win over International before losing to Centennial 25-11, 25-17, 25-21 on Aug. 27.
Senior outside hitter Shaniya Samuel is the top returnee.
Sophomore newcomer Tiarra Vance is at middle hitter and also has seen action at right-side hitter.
Seniors Ashley Edwards (right-side hitter), Tiffany Ofori (middle hitter), Kayla Page (outside hitter) and Lamaiya Reavish (setter) also are key players, with seniors Katherin Mancia and junior Jayla McKinnie serving as backup setters.
Also looking to contribute is sophomore Skye Cole (defensive specialist).
"Shaniya is a pretty awesome player," Sanchez said. "She's a great passer, has got a great jump serve and cleans up everything as a back-row passer. She's an all-around terrific player."
City football teams prep for Week 2
One of the most dramatic games on the Marion-Franklin football team's schedule last season was a 46-44 win over Westland in Week 2.
The Red Devils, who have a new coach in David Lakso after going 7-3 last season and 130-35 in 14 seasons under former coach Brian Haffele, opened Aug. 30 against 2018 Division III playoff qualifier Granville and will play host to Westland on Friday, Sept. 6.
Considering Marion-Franklin concludes its non-league schedule Sept. 13 at home against Reynoldsburg -- a Division I playoff qualifier last season that beat the Devils 36-6 -- the rematch with the Cougars could be vital to its playoff hopes later this season.
Westland is coming off a 1-9 season but lost its opener 34-32 a year ago to Licking Heights as well as the tight game to Marion-Franklin and faced four Division I programs that posted winning records.
The Red Devils have dropped from Division III to Division IV.
"We have an excellent junior class and have got a really good senior class," Lakso said. "We're solid at the skill positions, but we just don't have depth."
Senior Jeremiah Tucker began the season at quarterback after being Marion-Franklin's leading receiver a year ago. Junior Quanaire Tatum is at left tackle and leads an offensive line that should be one of the team's strengths, according to Lakso.
One of the non-league teams the Devils beat last season, Central Crossing, opened against Dublin Jerome on Aug. 30 and will visit Beechcroft on Sept. 6.
The Comets are coached by former Cougars' coach Trevor White, while Beechcroft has a new coach in Lee Snyder and opened against Dayton Ponitz on Aug. 30. Last season, the Cougars went 6-4 and the Comets finished 4-6.
Two other matchups of programs that have become familiar with each other include Northland and Walnut Ridge. The Vikings will play host to Whitehall on Sept. 6 and the Scots will visit Watkins Memorial on Thursday, Sept. 5.
Northland went 8-2 last season but lost its first two games, including a 31-28 decision to the Rams, who went on to make the Division II, Region 7 playoffs. The Vikings remain in Region 7, but Whitehall is now in Region 8.
Walnut Ridge crushed Watkins Memorial 55-7 last season and will look for its third consecutive win over the Warriors.