Several opening-week games in Ohio will be rematches of epic contests from last season.
Fairfield-Centerville, Turpin-McNicholas and Loveland-Lakota East were all decided late in 2015 – two in the final minute – setting up must-see matchups in Week 1.
Here are the Best Bets for the inaugural weekend of prep football in the Ohio:
(NOTE: 2015 records for each team are in parentheses)
Turpin (10-2) at McNicholas (5-5), 5 p.m.
Turpin had one of the biggest turnaround seasons in the Tri-State, going from 4-6 in 2014 to 10-2 last year, thanks largely to a defense that help opponents to just 15.5 points per game. Luke Bohenek returns for his senior season after rushing for 1,343 yards last regular season, and the Trojans’ top receiver – Jack Campbell – is also back after catching 29 passes for 441 yards and pair of touchdowns.
McNicholas started off 1-3 and found itself mired below .500 most of the year thanks to losses by one, two and three points. The Rockets’ QB-receiver threat returns, as Cameron Haynes led the Co-Eds with 2,059 passing yards and completed 62.1 percent of his passes and Cole Burdick finished with 45 catches for 496 yards and two scores.
Fairfield (8-3) at Centerville (6-4), 7 p.m.
The U.S. Marines Battle of the Gridiron Series makes a stop in Elks Country with a GMC-GWOC clash. It was a crazy game when these teams met in last season’s opener, with Fairfield prevailing, 35-32, surviving a 36-point fourth quarter. Both teams won their last four regular season games to wrap up 2015. The Indians held five of their last eight opponents to two touchdowns or fewer and the Elks averaged 39.8 points per game.
Fairfield lost six key contributors on each side of the ball and will be especially inexperienced in its skill positions. Centerville also lost its top offensive threats: QB Jacob Harrison and WR Nate Richmond.
North College Hill (4-6) vs. Wyoming (8-3) at Sheakley Center, 6 p.m.
North College Hill won three of its final four games last season after an abysmal 0-4 start that saw the Trojans surrender more than 40 points in each contest. QB Franklin Steward, one of two 1,000-yard rushers as a junior in 2015, rushed 104 times for 1,062 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
Wyoming lost two regular season games last season – by five and eight points – and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by Indian Hill. The Cowboys went 8-3 despite losing QB Andrew Marty the third week of the regular season to a knee injury. Marty has 2,170 career passing yards and has accounted for 30 total touchdowns, and receiver Jake Edmonds has 56 catches for 718 yards and 10 TDs in his career.
Lebanon (4-6) at Kings (11-2), 7 p.m.
Lebanon managed to finish 4-6 despite averaging 38.0 points and outscoring its opponents by 50. With QB Dakota Allen and RB Dawson Wolf back this fall, the Warriors should be in good shape offensively. Allen threw for 2,844 yards and 30 TDs last season, and Wolf has rushed for 1,136 yards and nine scores in two campaigns.
This was a slugfest last year, with Kings winning 59-45, and the same can be expected this year. Kings advanced to the state quarterfinals last year but was pounded by La Salle, 42-7 in that round. The Knights averaged 37.8 points per game in 2015, and Tyler Knecht threw for 2,441 yards and 18 TDs in addition to rushing for 800 yards and 15 scores as a junior.
Glen Este (8-3) at Princeton (3-7), 7 p.m.
Glen Este posted an 8-2 regular season record but lost its quarterback, running back and top two receivers – who finished with over 1,600 receiving yards combined – so it will start from scratch at the skill positions after averaging 37.5 points. Princeton averaged less than half of that (17.4 PPG), but it did improve by a game over 2014 when it finished 2-8.
Loveland (6-4) at Lakota East (3-7), 7 p.m.
This is another must-see rematch after last year’s game. Lakota East held on, 35-34 when Loveland failed on a two-point conversion following a touchdown with 37 seconds left in regulation. The Tigers started 1-4 in 2015 before running off five straight wins to end their season as they missed the playoffs. Luke Waddell ran for 1,784 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior. Lakota East dropped its final six after a 3-1 start and threw for a total of 479 yards. Tyler Glenn led the team in rushing last season with 705 yards his junior season.