The game clock is on coach Mike LoParo's mind as his Hilliard Bradley football team prepares to open the season Friday, Aug. 28, at Marysville.
That's because his biggest concern is keeping the Monarchs' offense off the field.
Fullback Ryan Kern is back to help carry the load in Marysville's wing-T attack. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior rushed for 750 yards and nine touchdowns on 117 carries last fall.
Also returning in the backfield is Gabe Powers, a 6-4, 220-pound junior who has committed to play linebacker at Ohio State.
"Marysville is really big, and they have some good backs," LoParo said. "I think they will be really good this year.
"We have to get them stopped. They are huge, and I'm not sure we can stop them. All they want to get is three yards anyway, and they want to keep us out there on defense. We have to beat them with our speed."
Marysville finished 6-5 last season, losing to Springfield 23-0 in the first round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs.
A.J. Mirgon returns for a second season at quarterback for Bradley, which finished 4-6 last year. The senior rushed for 687 yards and seven touchdowns on 156 carries and completed 130 of 216 passes for 1,508 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
"I would think my arm has gotten better and I have a better feel for the game," he said. "Last year was the first time I played much at quarterback since my freshman year, and freshman football can be difficult but it's definitely not varsity. You have to know where your receivers are at all times and my timing is better."
Mirgon's top target from last season returns in wide receiver Tayshaun Mayfield, a junior who had 45 receptions for 556 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Kenyon Richardson caught 16 passes for 223 yards and senior Jack Pugh, a 6-5, 230-pound Wisconsin recruit at tight end, added 13 catches for 155 yards and one touchdown.
Not surprisingly, the Monarchs' 4-3 defense is led by Powers, who had a team-high 97 tackles last year.
Bradley has seven starters back in its multiple-front scheme, including senior Caden VanVorhis, who had 53 tackles last fall in his first season starting at safety.
"Last year, I was worried that I wasn't going to do my own job," VanVorhis said. "I felt like I was going to let someone down. Now I know what I'm supposed to do, and I have more confidence that I can do it."
The teams have met only twice, with Marysville winning the last meeting 21-17 in 2013. The Jaguars won 17-10 in 2012.