Schedule: Aug. 26 — Carlisle, 7 p.m.; Sept. 2 — at Edgewood, 7 p.m.; Sept. 9 — Piqua, 7 p.m.; Sept. 16 — at Eaton, 7 p.m.; Sept. 23 — Valley View, 7 p.m.; Sept. 30 — Waynesville, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7 — at Bellbrook, 7 p.m.; Oct. 14 — Monroe, 7 p.m.; Oct. 21 — Oakwood, 7 p.m.; Oct. 28 — at Brookville, 7 p.m.
The Trenchmen may not be part of the X-Men yet, but Franklin High School football coach Brad Childers knows they are the X-factor.
The Wildcats boss walked away from a 5-5 2015 campaign, which saw the Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division squad finish tied for third, and knew one thing.
“We’ve got to run the ball, and like at any level, it comes down to the line of scrimmage,” Childers said. “And I think we have a chance to do that this year.”
The Wildcats get a boost with a trio of returners in the trenches in Wyatt Hillard (5-foot-11, 225 pounds), Kevin Banks (6-0, 220) and T.J. Kepler (6-1, 215), who have taken the challenge personally.
Strong line play equates to being able to break Ryan Montgomery (6-0, 190) free, whether he is behind center or lined up as a running back.
Montgomery finished his sophomore season with 887 yards on the ground and 682 through the air while accounting for 14 touchdowns.
“They know we’ve got to get him the ball,” Childers said of Montgomery. “And we need to be able to control the line of scrimmage in order to be successful. Since last year, we have been creating a mentality of getting off the ball and blocking people and taking care of the ball.”
Who exactly will be taking the snap is a bigger question.
Montgomery did a bit of both for Franklin last season, but Childers is still weighing all three options at quarterback.
Edgewood transfer Braden White (6-2, 185) completed the only pass he threw for the Cougars in 2015 for a touchdown. Matt Spurlock (6-0, 155) is also in the QB mix for the Wildcats.
“I am not ready to have an answer for that question yet,” Childers said of his starting signal-caller. “All three of them have done well in the preseason, so we haven’t been able to make a decision.”
Whoever wins the quarterback battle will have plenty of talent at the skill positions to keep the offense balanced.
Franklin was 13th in the 14-team SWBL in total offense in 2015, churning out just 235.8 yards per game as they averaged a league-worst 17.2 points per game.
The passing attack looks to be more lethal this time around with Noah Kremer, Braxton Rodenberger, Austin Gilbert, Gavin Etter and Jared Kinzer in the receiving corps.
“We have a few starters back that know the system,” Childers said. “I think we have the skill players to create some excitement this year, but for us it’s going to come down to being able to challenge to win the line of scrimmage every week.”
Defensively, Childers was pleased in the opening scrimmage Tuesday against Lebanon with the way the unit flew to the ball.
In other words, the Wildcats picked up where they left off. Franklin forced 22 turnovers and allowed just over three scores a game (23.3).
Second-team All-Ohio selection Trenten Scott (5-8, 145) returns, as do Eric Robinson (6-3, 150), Matt Centers (5-11, 170), Ryan Knipper (5-10, 195) and Nate Glossip (6-1, 210).
“Those five guys really get it,” Childers said. “We are really lucky that we have those main pieces in place that we can build around.”
Franklin lost its last three SWBL games in 2015, and Childers knows the road to reclaiming the Southwestern crown they last won in 2013 is not going to be easy.
“The teams in our division are all very equal this year,” Childers said. ”I think the team that is able to stay healthy and hold on to the football is going to be the team with the best shot.
“You have to respect Brookville because they won it last year, but they lost a lot of seniors. We have as good a chance as anybody to get the title back.”