By Mark Huber
It does seem a bit cliché but football games, regardless of the level, are impacted greatly by the play along the line of scrimmage.
On Friday night in Morrow, the Wilmington Hurryin’ Hurricane will put that notion to the test when they open the season against the Little Miami Panthers.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., a time change from what was originally scheduled.
Wilmington was 8-2 a year ago and opened the season with a 49-19 win over Little Miami in a game played at Wilmington College’s Townsend Field.
The Hurricane defeated the Panthers 50-6 in 2012, 43-14 in 2011, 13-6 in 2010 and 51-48 in 2009. Little Miami’s last win in the series was in 2008, 64-27.
Second-year WHS head coach Scott Killen like his offensive linemen. He believes they can be a very good group.
But will they be good enough come Friday night?
“What still concerns me is the lack of ‘under the lights’ experience the offensive line has,” said Killen, who led the Hurricane to an 8-2 record in 2014. “We have found a core group of players that are starting to gel together on the O-line.”
Killen said Zane Stevens and Connor Barton have shown to be clear leaders along the offensive line but it takes five, or six or more, to make a strong unit.
Wilmington wrapped up its scrimmage schedule against Dayton Stebbins.
“We played well at times but still had assignment breakdowns that need to be cleaned up,” said Killen.
Beyond the scrimmages, Killen sees improvement in his squad’s practice habits.
“We have really improved on our consistency,” he said. “At the beginning we were such a roller coaster ride and now we are starting to level out the hills and valleys.”
Still the goals remain the same.
“Our expectations for the season are to win the league and make a run in the playoffs,” said Killen, who helped Clinton-Massie win two straight state titles as the defensive coordinator.
That trek all begins Friday night in Warren County, when the Hurricane visits former Fort Ancient Valley Conference rival Little Miami. Traveling along SR 22/US 3 a few miles will seem much longer on the way home if Wilmington doesn’t open the year 1-0.
“Little Miami’s offense is very fundamental and very run oriented,” Killen said. “They will line up in double tights and run right at you. They play a 4-4 defense and their two interior defensive lineman are very good and get off the ball quickly. We are going to have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and be aggressive in all three phases Friday night.”
Little Miami is coached by Ben Hubbard, who helped resurrect the Blanchester High School football program in the early 1960s as the school’s head coach.