Columbus Academy at Whitehall-Yearling: Vikings, Rams to open with league tilt

FRANK DIRENNA
fdirenna@thisweeknews.com
Junior Melvin Scott and the Whitehall football team hope to start strong in the MSL-Ohio Division when they play host to Columbus Academy in the season opener Friday, Aug. 28.

The Columbus Academy and Whitehall-Yearling football teams enter their opener Friday, Aug. 28, looking to jump-start their pursuit of an MSL-Ohio Division championship.

All teams are eligible for the postseason this fall after a six-game regular season, making a league title even more of a prize.

Last season, Academy finished second (5-1) and Whitehall placed third (4-2) behind Harvest Prep (6-0).

"We're just happy to play and give our kids a chance to compete, win or lose," Academy coach Robin Miller said. "You could go 0-6 and go to the playoffs."

Whitehall coach Rod Lightfoot is looking forward to the challenge presented by the visiting Vikings after navigating preseason training amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"Our staff is anxious to see how our players respond to whatever Academy throws our way in Week 1," Lightfoot said. "Our kids have given us tremendous effort all summer and they love to compete, so I'm expecting to see the Rams put forth a great effort."

Academy should be led by senior quarterback Brady Hess, who completed 109 of 194 passes for 1,353 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. He was first-team all-league and special/honorable mention all-district in Division V.

Junior tailback Carter James rushed for a team-high 552 yards and six touchdowns on 107 carries. He was honorable mention all-league.

The Vikings' defense should be led by junior Gyvnn Mendenhall at defensive end. Last season, he was first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state.

"As we prepare for Academy, our primary concern is for our young and untested players, most of whom have never played under Friday night lights," Lightfoot said. "Coach Miller will field, as he always does, a highly disciplined and extremely well coached team."

Whitehall was hit hard by graduation, but Lightfoot believes he has solid replacements.

Junior Melvin Scott will replace Ni'Kai Cameron at quarterback, with junior Dorrin Mixon expected to be a featured tailback.

Lightfoot also expects big seasons from senior Da'Leon Jackson at tight end and defensive end, and junior Taron Biles-Walker at wide receiver.

Last season, Jackson had 62 tackles, seven sacks, six fumble recoveries and an interception. He was second-team all-league.

"They are scary good every year," Miller said. "They always have some size. I don't care who they graduated. They always have speed. Rod and his staff do a good job of getting those guys prepared. They have so much more structure and discipline. They'll keep you up at night for sure."

Competing at the Division V level for the postseason, Miller realizes his team faces a challenge against the Division II Rams.

"We have to get more of our younger guys up to speed so that when injuries hit, which they will, we don't miss too much of a beat," Miller said. "We're thin and every team our size is. Nobody has a ton of depth."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

WEEK 1

COLUMBUS ACADEMY at WHITEHALL-YEARLING

*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28

*Last meeting: 2019, Academy 38-24

*Top Vikings: Kyle Carlin (WR/DB), Keir Gorospe (OL/LB), Brady Hess (QB/LB), Sam Huyghe (WR/DB), Parker Logan (RB/LB), Graham Mallory (WR/DB), Gyvnn Mendenhall (OL/DL), Robert Mills (TE/DE), Durell Moultrie (WR/DB) and Chris Sugar (RB/DL)

*Top Rams: Taron Biles-Walker (WR/DB), Noah Church (OL/DL), Jarell Hazziez (OL/DL), Dauvion Henderson (RB/LB), Da'Leon Jackson (TE/DL), Termir Mosley-Allen (TE/DL), Melvin Scott (QB), Jalen Townsend (WR/DB) and David Winegarner (OL/DL/LS)

Columbus Academy quarterback Brady Hess looks for running room against Grandview last season. The Vikings will open at Whitehall in an MSL-Ohio contest Friday, Aug. 28.