Hartley: Hawks to face Cincinnati Moeller in tough opening contest
Matchups such as the one that will take place when the Hartley football team plays host to Cincinnati Moeller on Friday, Aug. 28, don't often happen under typical circumstances.
The Hawks are one of the state's smallest programs in Division III, with 252 boys in the school, but have been placed in that division because of the Ohio High School Athletic Association's competitive balance calculations.
The Crusaders are firmly entrenched in the middle of Division I with 676 boys in the school.
Of course these are unusual conditions considering the OHSAA announced a six-game regular season so the season ends before Thanksgiving because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
With the abbreviated regular season, many teams are playing league-only schedules when possible, with the Hawks facing DeSales and Watterson in home-and-home series.
St. Charles was the Hawks' original Week 1 opponent but it has delayed its season, leaving Hartley with an opening that it filled with its first matchup against Moeller.
"They're a really good program, so I think it's going to be a heck of a challenge for us," first-year Moeller coach Mark Elder said. "I think our guys will be excited and ready to go."
While the Hawks went 12-2 and reached a state semifinal last fall, the Crusaders are coming off a 2-8 finish as they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the third time in five seasons.
Still, Moeller lost just 27-24 to Division I regional runner-up Cincinnati St. Xavier and lost six other games to programs that finished with winning records.
Elder, the program's fourth coach in as many seasons, guided Eastern Kentucky to back-to-back seven-win seasons and to a 21-24 mark in four years but was fired last November.
A 1996 Cincinnati Syca-more graduate, Elder had been an assistant at the college level for 15 years, including stints at Akron, Cincinnati and Michigan.
At Eastern Kentucky, he recruited former Hartley offensive lineman Payton Collins.
"I knew him when he was at Cincinnati and he's a great guy, a great coach and he'll do a great job," Hawks coach Brad Burchfield said. "They're Moeller. They'll play anybody and they'll be big, strong and physical. Our guys will be excited to play them."
Senior T.J. Rotello was a running back last season but is expected to be at quarterback for the Crusaders. Junior wide receiver Brandon White and junior tight end Josh Kattus are other returnees.
Senior offensive lineman Landon Fickell is the son of former DeSales and Ohio State standout and current Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell.
Defensively for Hartley, senior linebackers Marcelis Parker and Sumo Kesselly, senior cornerbacks Shawn Saunders and Kason Sunderland and junior lineman Daniel Tooson are the top returnees.
Lost to graduation from the offense were running back Jalan January (2,163 yards rushing, 30 TDs), quarterback Miles Fleming and wide receiver Angelo Evans.
Stepping into more prominent roles are Parker, Kesselly and junior Trey Saunders at running back and Shawn Saunders, Sunderland and junior Richard Kenny at wide receiver.
Sophomore Peyton Underwood is expected to start his first game at quarterback, although junior Bryce January also could see action.
CINCINNATI MOELLER at HARTLEY
*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28
*Last meeting: First meeting
*Top Crusaders: Ben Broughton (OL), Landon Fickell (OL), Josh Kattus (TE), Nate Pabst (DL/TE), T.J. Rotello (QB), Deuce Shaw II (LB), Fredrick Sturgis (OL) and Brandon White (WR)
*Top Hawks: James Crenshaw (OL/DL), Richard Kenny (WR/DB), Sumo Kesselly (RB/LB), Marcelis Parker (RB/LB), Shawn Saunders (WR/DB), Trey Saunders (RB/DB), Kason Sunderland (WR/DB), Tony Thivener (OL/LB) and Daniel Tooson (TE/DL)