Worthington Kilbourne at Canal Winchester Wolves, Indians preparing for first meeting

STEPHEN BORGNA
sborgna@thisweeknews.com
Quarterback Mitchell Tomasek and the Wolves will open Friday, Aug. 28, at Canal Winchester in the first meeting between the two schools.

A little more than a week before the Worthington Kilbourne football team's season and OCC-Capital Division opener Friday, Aug. 28, at Canal Winchester, second-year coach Mike Edwards didn't have any game tape of his opponent to review.

He wasn't expecting any until after the Indians scrimmaged Pickerington North on Aug. 22, and he wasn't sure how thorough it was going to be considering the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

However, regardless of what the tape shows, there is at least one thing Edwards knows about Canal Winchester. To have a chance in this game, the Wolves need to contain junior running back Stephan Byrd.

"That running back, obviously, he's (a force)," Edwards said. "We have to prepare for that. I think we have to prepare for some heavier sets. I think they're going to want to ... get that kid the rock."

Byrd, a first-team all-state honoree in 2019 with 13 college offers, rushed for 1,499 yards and 23 touchdowns on 220 carries last season as the Indians went 9-2 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Capital to share the league title with Groveport and New Albany.

As of Aug. 15, Rivals.com had Byrd ranked as the 12th overall prospect in Ohio and the 32nd in the nation.

Fourth-year Indians coach Josh Stratton also is excited for junior quarterback Reese Musick's first year as a starter.

"He's very consistent, does a good job throwing the ball efficiently and he's big," Stratton said. "He can run the ball as well. He's a big physical runner, which helps. I haven't had one of those at quarterback in a long time. So we plan to run the ball a little bit more with our quarterback than we have in the past."

Coming off a finish of 1-9 overall and 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal, Kilbourne will rely on a group of seniors to propel its offense, with second-year starting quarterback Mitchell Tomasek leading the way.

Tomasek, a second-team all-league selection in 2019, completed 146 of 259 passes for 1,415 yards with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

"They've got a great quarterback back, (a) big, tall kid (with a) really good arm," Stratton said. "(He) started every game for them last year. So they have a very experienced quarterback, which always helps."

Running back Terrique Gray and wide receivers Skylar Scott and Cayden Dougherty, all seniors, project to be Tomasek's key weapons. Gray had 145 carries for 517 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Kilbourne returns several starters on defense, including senior linebackers Brian Wilson and Harrison Kline, senior defensive end Bryce Taylor and senior safety Spencer Parker-Gordon.

Canal Winchester also returns several key defensive pieces, including senior linebacker Blaine Riley, a third-team all-state selection last year, and senior defensive end Jonathon Chandler. The coaching staff also is excited about adding senior free safety Korbin Martino, a standout track and field athlete who finished 12th in the 400 meters at the Division I state meet as a freshman and third as a sophomore.

Edwards said the fundamentals -- ball security, blocking and tackling -- are going to be the keys in his team's first meeting against the Indians.

"I think our job is to, No. 1, do what we do," he said. "No. 2, (we have to) play very disciplined and play great fundamental football -- block, tackle and pursue. If we can do that while protecting the football, we're going to have a really good chance to be in that game in the fourth quarter."

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve

WEEK 1

WORTHINGTON KILBOURNE at CANAL WINCHESTER

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

*Last meeting: First meeting

*Top Wolves: Luke Brown (OL/DL), Cayden Dougherty (WR/DB), Terrique Gray (RB/LB), Spencer Parker-Gordon (WR/DB), Skylar Scott (WR/DB), Bryce Taylor (TE/LB), Mitchell Tomasek (QB/P) and Brian Wilson (RB/LB)

*Top Indians: Stephan Byrd (RB), Jonathon Chandler (DL), Mason Fry (OL), Andre Heglar (WR), Korbin Martino (DB), Joey Moreno (OL), Reese Musick (QB), Blaine Riley (LB/P) and Luke Twiss (LB)

Junior running back Stephan Byrd and the Canal Winchester football team will play host to Worthington Kilbourne in the season opener Friday, Aug. 28. Byrd was a first-team all-state honoree last season.