It’s been a productive offseason for Fairfield High School’s football team, but the Indians are eager to leave it in the past.
Highly regarded Fairfield will open the season Friday night against visiting Centerville in a Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown contest at Fairfield Stadium.
“We’ve spent over 200 days getting ready for this game,” Indians senior outside linebacker Drew Bartolovich said. “We’re ready to go. This is going to be a big season for us.”
The Indians went 7-4 and dropped their Division I playoff opener to St. Xavier last year, while Centerville missed the postseason with a 5-5 record.
Fairfield coach Jason Krause said his starting defense is looking especially strong and blanked Hamilton in a scrimmage last weekend.
“We wanted to play hard and play fast and be the most physical team and be clean. Defensively, we did that,” Krause said. “Offensively, we had some penalties, a couple misreads. In a scrimmage when you’re not using the whole playbook, you kind of struggle when you get behind the sticks like that.”
The offense is without two projected starters, senior running back Taimar Boykin and junior guard Wade Bullock. Boykin will miss at least the first game after undergoing recent knee surgery, while Bullock is expected to miss half the season with a leg injury.
Junior Jordan Jones and sophomore Jutahn McClain figure to get the bulk of the Indians’ carries. Sophomore Jaimar Gibson may get some runs as well.
“Health-wise, we’re in pretty good shape other than two guys,” Krause said. “This will be the first test when we put all the pieces together. Our guys have been hungry for this one, and that’s what we want to play like Friday night.”
Centerville has a new head coach in Brent Ullery, but he hasn’t changed much in terms of Xs and Os.
The Elks still run a spread offense and a 4-2-5 defense. The “D” is keyed by a line that includes three seniors who are college commits — Dylan Haller (6-4, 260, Indiana State), Sam Vance (6-4, 250, Air Force) and Jevon Henderson (6-4, 270, Bowling Green).
Krause called Centerville’s defensive linemen “the heart and soul of their team.”
“They’re a big, strong bunch,” Ullery said. “I think their potential is not completely tapped yet.”
The Elks return most of their offensive starters, including senior quarterback Alec Grandin (6-1, 190).
Asked about his run-to-pass ratio as the offensive coordinator, Ullery replied, “I am much more comfortable running the ball. I really don’t want to throw the ball 50 times a game to try to win. I think our odds go down that way. We can spread it out and throw, but if we can run the ball and win games, we will.
“This is a real nose-down, hard-working kind of team. They don’t command a lot of spotlight. They kind of get the job done just by working hard rather than being bigger, faster and stronger than someone else.”
Ullery described Fairfield’s defense as “electric.” That defense has a number of returnees, including Malik Vann and Greg Fitzpatrick up front, Bartolovich and Nashon Bell at linebacker, and Rudy Jones and Kyle Schimpf in the secondary.
“We trust each other on the defensive side of the ball,” Bartolovich said. “We’ve been working hard. We’ve got a lot of experience.”
Bartolovich is beginning his third year as a significant player for the Indians. Krause said he’s an excellent student in the classroom and on the field.
“He’s a high IQ football player who always seems to be in the right position,” the Fairfield coach said. “He’s a solid rock as part of the foundation of that defense.
“Outside linebacker is probably the most difficult position to play in our defense because there’s so many things we ask those guys to do, and Drew does all of them very well. He’s not Malik Vann physically, but he’s a guy that makes a lot of plays and forces a lot of things to happen.”
The Indians are 2-4 in their series with Centerville and have won the last two years.