Prep Football Week 1: 2017 season kicks off Friday

Unseasonably cool weather will be waiting high school football teams Friday night as they open the 2017 regular season.

For the first time, all four county football teams are in the same league, although different divisions based on school size. Wilmington and Clinton-Massie are in the Southern Buckeye Athletic & Academic Conference American Division while Blanchester and East Clinton are in the SBAAC National Division.

All four schools open Friday night. All games are scheduled to kick-off at 7 p.m. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 60s, low 70s as the games begin.

Wilmington at Valley View

In his fourth season as head coach, Scott Killen is still seeking his first playoff berth at WHS. To help meet that goal, Killen has ramped up the schedule. Tough opponents begins Week 1 with 2016 playoff qualifier Valley View.

“Valley View is a very good, veteran football team,” said Killen. “They are led on offense by Colin Genslinger at running back and he is probably one of the best backs we will see this year. The defense is very aggressive and flies to the football.”

The Spartans return 9 starters on offense and 8 on defense from a team that went 10-2 last season. Genslinger accounted for more than 2,000 yards of total offense in 2016. Genslinger (RB, Sr.), Stone Day (DL, Sr.) and Adam Valenti (OL, Sr.) were all named second team All-Ohio in 2016.

Killen said his senior class “has done a great job of stepping up and becoming leaders and making sure the intensity at practice is where it needs to be.” With the stone sharpens stone theory in hand, Killen said his squad has continued to improve each and “push each other to get better.”

The offensive line will be one of the WHS keys. Killen said that group is getting better with every practice. Ryan Camp and Cam Coomer “are playing very well right now on both sides of the ball.”

East Clinton at Clinton-Massie

This annual county rivalry remains but moves from Week 10 to Week 1. East Clinton last defeated Clinton-Massie in 2001.

The Falcons are loaded with seniors, 18 of them on the opening day roster. The Astros, at the other end of the spectrum, have just six seniors among the 31 total players on their roster.

“We have a strong group of seniors, the most I’ve had in over 22 years,” veteran CM coach Dan McSurley said. “This group could potentially be really special.

“Right now, we are fielding a complete two-platoon system, which hopefully will pay off throughout the season with injuries and freshness.”

Despite the low numbers, EC head coach Jeremy Yankey likes “the attitude that our team is developing. We are starting to see some leadership from some younger players who are taking ownership of our team.” Of the 31 players on the roster, 18 are either freshmen or sophomores.

“Although (Patrick) Dotson is only a sophomore he is a great leader in the weight room and on the practice field,” Yankey said. “He simply outworks everyone. Junior Cameron Yankey is an emotional leader while seniors (Wyatt) Floyd, Brendan Jenkins and Nick Mess provide experience for an otherwise young team.”

Yankey likes his receiver group (Floyd, Dotson, Austin Rolf, Daulton Wilson and Tristan Burkitt) but knows gaining yards offensively against the vaunted Massie defense will be a tough task.

“We will have to execute very well in order to move the ball against them,” said Yankey.

Massie will continue to have a weapon on special teams. This year, Derek Carlisle takes over a long line of strong-legged kickers who will make extra points and pin teams with their long and accurate kick-offs.

“He’s been behind Chris Demler the last couple of years and now has his shot,” McSurley said.

Blanchester at Washington CH

Blanchester is the first of the county schools to reach back into the “old South Central Ohio League” by visiting Fayette County’s Gardner Park to open the year.

“​WCH is a big and fast football team,” BHS coach Brandon Sammons said. “They have some fantastic athletes on offense and have some big physical kids on defense. We know we have our hands full with this team on Friday night, but know that we will learn a lot about our team in the process.​”

The Blue Lions return 22 letterwinners from a 7-3 team in 2016.

The Wildcats, on the other hand, had a huge senior class graduate. Just three starters return from a team that earned a playoff berth, an SBAAC National Division title and a 7-4 record in 2016.

“We are a young team and we knew that coming in and know we have a lot of growing up to do on the field,” said Sammons.

Freshman quarterback Brayden Sipple has been a consistent bright spot for the offense, Sammons said.

“He has grasped the concepts and is getting more and more comfortable,” the coach noted. “His precision and calm demeanor are highly impressive for a young man in his spot.”

Despite the youthful roster, Sammons said leaders are emerging that will carry the Wildcats into the future.

“(Sipple) is emerging as a quiet leader in his play,” said Sammons. “Our returning starters, James Peters, Brent Hopkins and Matthew Grogg, are looked to for leadership as guys who have been there and we have a few seniors who are starting to emerge.​”

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On the eve of the first Friday night of the high school football season, Blanchester practices for its opener against Washington Senior at Gardner Park. the eve of the first Friday night of the high school football season, Blanchester practices for its opener against Washington Senior at Gardner Park. Elizabeth Clark | News Journal

By Mark Huber

Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email or on Twitter @wnjsports