Chris Slone and Alex Hider
The 2015 football season has arrived and the first edition of Friday night lights is back in full swing with an exciting slate of week-one games, featuring rematches and rivalry games.
Minford at South Point
The Minford Falcons finished the 2014 season with a 6-4 record and missed the postseason with a week 10 loss to Valley for the second straight season. However, a switch from Division IV back down to Division V should give the Falcons a much needed boost in the 2015 campaign. Minford will attempt to kick off its season with a road win over the South Point Pointers, who posed no problems for the Falcons in a 37-14 blowout last year.
Northwest at Southeastern
The Northwest Mohawks finished at .500 and clinched a share of the SOC I title last season in their first season of SOC I competition — without playing an official home game. While Northwest will have the luxury of playing in McDermott this season, the Mohawks will open their 2015 campaign at Southeastern. Northwest beat the Panthers 28-14 last year at Trojan Coliseum in Portsmouth.
Millersport at Eastern
The Eastern Eagles are about to embark on their first varsity football season. With a spread attack, the Eagles plan on playing fast in 2015. First on the docket is the Millersport Lakers who finished with a 7-3 record last year. However, the good news for the Eagles is that the Lakers only boasted a 3-3 road record in 2014, while beating just one team with a winning record (St. John Central, who finished 5-4).
South Gallia at East
Last season in week one, the South Gallia shocked East by running all over the Tartans in a 48-12 victory. This season, the Rebels make the trip to Allard Park, and East hopes to return the favor.
Both programs finished at 5-5 last season, but both did so in very different ways. While South Gallia relied on a stingy defense — they allowed only 20 points per game last season — East made its mark by gashing opponents with a huge offensive line and a strong rushing attack. Tartan junior Akia Brown is looking for his third 1,000-yard rushing season in as many years, but East will need to find a way to replace two of their big offensive lineman from a season ago: Ohio State recruit Tyler Gerald, and recent graduate Nick Basham.
Green at Manchester
The Green Bobcats were forced to play a numbers game in 2014, often times suiting up with less than 15 healthy players. The 2015 campaign should be more promising as Green will have as many as 21 players at its disposal. This Friday, the Bobcats will try to avenge a 52-0 loss to the Manchester Greyhounds last season.
Oak Hill at Chesapeake
The Oak Hill Oaks finished with a 7-3 record last year, including a share of the SOC I title — their fifth title in the last six seasons. The Oaks are loaded with a deep roster in 2015. However, a move to Division V won’t help Oak Hill’s postseason aspirations as computer points will be an issue with the Oaks’ schedule all season. Oak Hill opens up with the Chesapeake Panthers who they dismantled last year 40-0.
Symmes Valley at Chillicothe Huntington
The Symmes Valley split the SOC I last year with Northwest and Oak Hill, but were the only team in the conference to earn a playoff berth. Nine of the Vikings 11 starters return from that playoff team in 2015, and this year, they want a bigger piece of the SOC I pie.
Symmes Valley’s journey begins against Chillicothe Huntington, a team just two years removed from an 0-10 season. Last year, the Huntsmen showed steady improved in a 3-7 season, including a 32-0 win over SOC I co-champion Northwest. The Vikings hope that a stable of running backs — including Payton Hayes, Collin Webb and Brandon Craft — can control the clock and keep the ball out of the Huntsmen’s hands.
Piketon at Waverly
Waverly may have won last season’s annual Pike County rivalry game by four touchdowns, but the scoreboard doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
Piketon actually held a 6-0 lead in the game before quarterback Devon Brewster was ejected and linebacker Matt Smith went down with an injury. Even still, the Redstreaks managed to keep the deficit at two scores until late in the fourth quarter, when the Tigers added two late touchdowns to win 34-6.
This year, the Brewster and Smith return for their senior seasons and are ready to bring a rivalry win back to Piketon. On the other side of the ball, Waverly’s new-look “Pistol” offense will make its debut on the brand-new FieldTurf at Tiger Stadium.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone. Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter