The preseason was a smooth ride for Fairfield High School’s football team. Now it’s time to do it for real.
The Indians, highly regarded and Division I playoff qualifiers four of the last five years, will kick off the 2018 campaign Friday night at Centerville.
“We open up with a returning playoff team from last year and we’ve got to go there, so we don’t want to think too highly of our hopes,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “But we’re very happy with the way we came out of the three scrimmages. We were able to evaluate a lot of kids and actually found some depth that we were not sure we’d have.”
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Junior defensive lineman Malachi Sanders and senior linebacker Jordan Jones have been among the preseason standouts for the Indians. They’ve helped create some of that depth at their respective positions.
Krause said the big-name skill guys — senior quarterback Jeff Tyus, junior running back JuTahn McClain and senior tight end Erick All — are all performing at a high level.
“We really wanted to focus on doing little things well in the scrimmages,” Krause said. “Our thought was, ‘Let’s try to do less stuff better and really execute our fundamentals, the bread and butter of our offense.’ I felt like we did that.”
The FHS coach also likes his offensive line of junior center Kody Hawkins, senior tackles Jacob Hensley and Nabiel Shteiwi, and senior guards Derrick Benford and Wade Bullock. Hensley was slated to be the center before moving out to the left.
“Kody’s been a center his entire life. We were trying to turn Jacob into a center,” Krause said. “Kody’s snaps are a little bit more consistent, and I think Jacob’s more comfortable at tackle. It allows him to play a little faster.”
Centerville only has one returning starter on the O-line, senior guard Jakob Appley.
“We graduated a lot of guys, but we return a lot of guys who have some experience,” Elks coach Brent Ullery said. “I think we have great ability, and these kids show up every day ready to work and do whatever’s asked of them.”
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Is Centerville a big, physical team or more of a quick, athletic squad?
“I would just classify us as gritty,” Ullery said. “They’re not afraid of work. They’re not afraid of sweat.”
Senior Tyler King is the Centerville quarterback, having completed 8-of-17 passes for 131 yards in limited play behind All-Ohio QB Alec Grandin last year. King is the team’s leading returning rusher — he ran three times for 38 yards in 2017.
Junior Bryce McMahon is expected to be the workhorse running back in the spread offense.
“We’ve got a couple running backs we’ll rotate in, but he’s the primary guy,” Ullery said. “He’s the short-yardage guy. He’s the pass-pro guy. Sometimes he runs pass routes. He does it all.
“I don’t know if you hear this very often, but if I could run the ball every single play and be guaranteed 5, 10 yards a play, I would never put the ball in the air. But sometimes you’ve got to take what the defense gives you, and if they’re going to give you a pass, then you have to throw it. And Fairfield’s very, very stout against the run.”
Directing the Elks’ defense are senior linebackers Max Wynn and Dylan Hiltbrunner, along with senior safety Kyle Moyer.
Centerville advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season, defeating Hilliard Darby 35-0 and losing to Pickerington North 42-12.
Asked if this year’s crew has the potential to live up to the program’s tradition, Ullery replied, “I don’t think they have the option. They have to. The expectation around here is that you carry on the tradition. The expectation is that you win regardless of how good the opponent is across from you.”
What: Fairfield (6-5 in 2017) at Centerville (10-2 in 2017), 7 p.m.
Where: Centerville Stadium, 500 E. Franklin St., Centerville
Series: Centerville leads 5-2 and won 30-23 last year