High school football starts tonight: 5 Butler County storylines to watch in Week 1

High school football is back, and there is plenty of action to keep fans entertained in Week 1.

Seven area teams are coming off playoff appearances in 2018, and the march to a postseason berth this fall begins Friday when the season kicks into full gear.

There are plenty of storylines to watch along the way, but here are some things to know going into Week 1:

1. Can Madison reload?

The Madison Mohawks are coming off a 10-0 regular-season, back-to-back regional final appearances (a state semifinalist finish in 2017) and have won 17 straight regular-season games, but they graduated a large class and now are rebuilding under a new first-year coach.

»RELATED: Expectations high for young Mohawks

Steve Poff gave up the head coaching position in December after going 42-15 in five seasons, and assistant Ricky Davis was promoted to replace him. Davis’ first coaching job came with Madison last year when he helped run the offense, as the Mohawks went 12-1.

Just two starters return on offense and Davis is scrambling even more now after several preseason injuries depleted an already small roster. Madison opens at home against Franklin.

2. Bolden leading West resurgence

Bolden made the stunning decision to leave perennial Greater Miami Conference champion Colerain to become Lakota West’s new head coach in December, replacing interim coach Jeff Wadl, who stepped in when Larry Cox resigned last spring. The Cardinals have been kings of the GMC since the turn of the century, the last 12 under Bolden, and they own 75 consecutive GMC wins dating back to October 2008. They were coming off a Division I state runner-up finish just two weeks before he was announced as West’s coach.

»RELATED: Bolden confident Firebirds can have ‘pretty special year’

A graduate of Colerain, Bolden takes over a Firebirds program that went 4-6 last year, hasn’t had a winning season since 2015 and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2014. Eyes are on him to turn the program around. The Firebirds open at LaSalle on Friday and won’t be facing Colerain this season.

3. New coaches take the spotlight

There are a few other area teams with new coaches as well, and their situations are more like that of Bolden trying to turn around a program.

Hamilton High School graduate Nate Mahon has brought some excitement back to the community he grew up in, leaving behind a successful turnaround at Little Miami to take over at his alma mater. Chad Murphy was asked to resign after the end of last season, ending a six-year stint in which he went 14-46. Mahon is charged with leading a program that hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2010 when the Big Blue went 7-4 and last qualified for the playoffs. Caleb Jones replaced Mahon at Little Miami after three years as defensive coordinator.

»RELATED: Mahon eager for season opener

Lakota East graduate and former Thunderhawks assistant Bobby Mullins took over at Monroe to replace interim coach Brett Stubbs in December. The first-time head coach inherits a team that went 2-8 last year and is trying to get the Hornets back on track for their first winning season since 2015.

Cox landed at Talawanda after a year away from coaching. He replaced J.D. Vonderheide, who was forced out after going 17-54 over seven seasons, including a 2-8 finish last fall.

4. New Miami looks to keep climbing

Jessie Hubbard turned some heads last year when he guided New Miami to its first Miami Valley Conference championship since 1988 in his first season as head coach. The Vikings made the playoffs for just the second time in school history with the previous appearance coming in 2008, and Hubbard sees no reason why they can’t keep building.

Excitement continues to surround the program now, and numbers have grown the roster from 24 players to 33. Hubbard returned all of his skill players and 10 starters on defense who saw significant playing time last year.

5. More big things to come for McClain, Fairfield

JuTahn McClain had a record-setting season last year as a junior, and Fairfield coach Jason Krause expects even more big things for the Kentucky-bound running back.

»RELATED: Fairfield first team in Ohio to wear Army-themed jerseys

McClain rushed for 1,754 yards and 25 touchdowns and posted a single-season record for all-purpose touchdowns with 31 last year, but injured his hand on the first drive of a playoff loss at Milford and now is even more motivated to lead the Indians to their first playoff win since 2000. Fairfield had that game seemingly wrapped up with a 35-7 lead in the third quarter and let it slip away.


All games 7 p.m.

Hamilton at West Clermont

Middletown at Western Hills

Centerville at Fairfield

Ross at Badin

Franklin at Madison

Monroe at Edgewood

Fenwick at Anna

Preble Shawnee at Talawanda

Lakota West at La Salle

Gamble Montessori at New Miami

CHCA at Carlisle

Springboro at Mason

Kings at Lebanon

Turpin at Lakota East

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