Worthington Christian at Grove City Christian: Warriors, Eagles kick off season with MSL game

FRANK DIRENNA
fdirenna@thisweeknews.com
Junior quarterback and defensive back Jayden Hanks is among the top returnees for the Grove City Christian football team.

The Worthington Christian football team will begin defense of its first league title when it visits Grove City Christian on Friday, Aug. 28, in the opener for both teams.

Since losing the first game in the series 50-21 in 2014, the Warriors have won the last five meetings against the Eagles, including 37-6 last season.

Worthington Christian went on to capture the MSL-Cardinal Division championship at 4-0, with Grove City Christian finishing fourth at 1-3.

"It's definitely a different season jumping right into the league," Warriors coach Jeff Hartings said. "We have to make sure we're ready. It's a new team, it's a new season and it's a different season. The toughest thing for us to do is to mentally be prepared, and it's a challenge to be physically prepared because you don't have any scrimmages."

The Warriors also earned the first postseason berth in their six-year history, losing to Covington 33-27 in a Division VI, Region 24 first-round game to finish 8-3 overall.

Grove City Christian finished 3-7 overall and is seeking its first winning season since 2014 when it went 6-4.

"I'm sure some teams would like to get a patsy (in the opener), but sometimes that backfires on you," Eagles coach Hank Patterson said. "It's probably good to start out with the league champion and see where you stand. I don't know if my logic is right."

The teams are playing an abbreviated six-game regular season amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. All teams will be eligible for the playoffs.

"It was almost like Christmas had happened again," Patterson said of Gov. Mike DeWine's announcement Aug. 18 to allow competition in contact sports. "He is a very compassionate guy and has a lot of passion for sports."

Worthington Christian will have a new look at quarterback as freshman Hobie Raikes replaces 2020 graduate Lucas Hartings, the coach's son.

Last season, Hartings completed 144 of 252 passes for 2,418 yards with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and rushed for 342 yards and 11 scores on 80 carries.

Key returnees for the Warriors include senior H-back and running back Braden Anderson, who rushed for 703 yards and nine touchdowns on 98 carries and had two receiving touchdowns, and junior wide receiver Jaiden Reynolds, who had 29 recepti ons for 435 yards and four scores.

"It's a positive (yardage) team," Patterson said. "They're always falling forward for yardage. They have good offensive and defensive line-type players. They have good skilled players. We have some (skilled players) similar to them, but they have much more than we do. Trying to keep them in check is going to be a big job for our guys. ... A big thing is going to be trying to corral their run game."

Junior quarterback Jayden Hanks returns to guide the Eagles' offense after completing 79 of 131 passes for 739 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.

Senior running back Christian Lautenschleger led in rushing with 550 yards and six touchdowns on 122 carries. He also had 118 yards receiving and a touchdown and should be a key defensive player at linebacker.

Junior Jaylin Walker and sophomore Braydan Taylor are key receivers.

"They were young last year," coach Hartings said. "I believe half their team were freshmen.

They're a private school so you never know, especially in light of the (pandemic) certain players might have come who weren't on the roster (last season). When you don't have a lot of film to look at, you have to have your team prepared for any kind of surprise formations."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

WEEK 1

WORTHINGTON CHRISTIAN at GROVE CITY CHRISTIAN

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

*Last meeting: 2019, Worthington Christian 37-6

*Top Warriors: Braden Anderson (H-back/RB/LB), Jeb Burford (OL/DL), Josh Carrel (OL/LB), Zach Hoheisel (OL/DL), Hobie Raikes (QB) and Jaiden Reynolds (WR/DB)

*Top Eagles: Josiah Bever (WR/LB), Jayden Hanks (QB/DB), Colin May (TE/DL), Christian Lautenschleger (RB/LB/P), Braydan Taylor (QB/LB) and Jaylin Walker (WR/DB)

Junior kicker Grant Woodfin returns for the Warriors, who reached the playoffs last season for the first time in program history.