Franklin Heights at Westerville North: Warriors hope to ground Falcons

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Senior running back and linebacker Sylvester Bockarie (24) and the Warriors will play host to Franklin Heights in the opener on Friday, Aug. 28.

Much of what the Franklin Heights and Westerville North football coaches learned about the other team in anticipation of their season and OCC-Capital Division opener Friday, Aug. 28, came from institutional memory.

The Falcons and host Warriors are playing for the third consecutive season, and given that many area teams weren't able to have full-contact practices until the middle of August, two weeks later than normal because of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions, scouting became more difficult.

"We've looked at the last two years of film and how they've played us to see who they have. Hopefully they're running a lot of the same stuff, but you never know," North coach Bryan Johnson said. "It's a guessing game. We thought all summer that we were opening with Westerville Central and then New Albany, so when we found out (our opener) would be against Franklin Heights, we changed a few things we were doing in order to prepare for them. The good thing is we've prepared for almost every defense we think we'll see, unless our opponents throw something really different at us."

Senior Sylvester Bockarie, one of this year's projected top running backs for the Warriors as well as one of their top linebackers, ran for 110 yards and two crucial touchdowns last year in a 28-20 victory against Franklin Heights. His first score, from 33 yards in the third quarter, gave North a 20-13 lead after it briefly had trailed 13-12, and the second proved to be the game-winner in the fourth.

Bockarie ran for two-point conversions after both touchdowns.

"It was a close game last year," Falcons coach Cory Fenner said. "They are going to be physical up front and they ran the ball really well. When a team is physical and executes well, you can tell that they are well-coached.

"This is OCC football and (there are) high-caliber football programs. They are going to be talented and you have a couple of slip-ups, that can cost you the game."

North senior linebacker Brennan Albertini hopes to improve on his team-leading 78 tackles from a year ago. Albertini, who had five tackles for loss and two interceptions, also is expected to split time with Bockarie at running back in front of junior quarterback Wyatt Buxton, who started the final seven games of last season.

Junior quarterback Jeffery Beverly returns to lead the Falcons offense after completing 98 of 174 passes for 1,306 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. He also rushed for 230 yards and three scores on 41 carries.

Junior Artrell Saunders is the Falcons' top returning receiver, having caught 32 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns last year.

"They like to throw the ball around and they have a big line up front. Like a typical spread team, they're centered around their quarterback," Johnson said. "Defensively, they have a four-man front and play some 'cover 2.' They sent the house at us quite a bit two years ago."

North is seeking its fourth win in a row over Franklin Heights dating to 2013. The Warriors also defeated the Falcons 48-18 in 2018.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

WEEK 1

FRANKLIN HEIGHTS at WESTERVILLE NORTH

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

*Last meeting: 2019, North 28-20

*Top Falcons: Jeffery Beverly (QB), Adrian Bowers (RB/LB), Jacob Prince (OL/DL), Sam Rush (RB/DL), Artrell Saunders (WR/DB) and Bobby Watt (OL/DL)

*Top Warriors: Brennan Albertini (RB/LB), Sylvester Bockarie (RB/LB), Wyatt Buxton (QB), Coby Darlington (WR/DB), Mitchell Gillam (OL/DL), Mohammed Nasser (OL/DL), Ty O'Hearn (WR/DB/LS), Reuben Simiyu (OL/DL) and Hunter Weigand (WR/DB/K)