“People want to play their best game against you,” Trotwood coach Jeff Graham said. “The last couple years we had to learn that and now they understand what we’ve been preaching to them.”
The teams will open the season once again Friday night games when Troy visits Trotwood.
Like last season, Trotwood must rebuild its offensive line and replace most of a shut-down defense that performed so well in last year’s postseason. Rams quarterback Markell Stephens-Peppers is a three-year starter. Senior linebacker James Parker also is a proven defender. And in the backfield is senior Ra’veion “Shocka” Hargrove, who owns 5,000-plus career rushing yards and has committed to Bowling Green State University.
Troy returns at least 16 key players, including receiver/defensive back Zach Boyer. But finding capable replacements for record-setting QB Hayden Kotwica and running back Josh Browder, who both graduated, will be key.
Troy won the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title last season, its first since 2000. That also was the last time the Trojans had won a playoff game.
“You gotta give a lot of credit to them and their program and everything they’ve established,” said Graham.
• GWOC commissioner Eric Spahr issued a statement Wednesday concerning two separate incidents that occurred during scrimmages last week. Fights broke out at both the Xenia-Faimont and Springfield-Winton Woods scrimmages.
Players apparently were ejected from both matchups by game officials. Per Ohio High School Athletic Association rules, there is no appeals process and a one-game suspension will have to be served by those players, meaning they’ll miss the season opener.
“We realize that almost all of our actions in the GWOC are (recorded) and shared given today’s technology and social media reaches,” Spahr said by email. “We will deal with the consequences, learn from it and move forward. The GWOC will continue to work on promoting good sportsmanship at all times.”
• Neighboring rivals Alter and Fairmont resume their season-opening series in one of three Thursday games.
Alter is coming off a 13-1 season that ended in the D-IV state semifinals with a 14-7 loss to eventual D-IV state champion Columbus Bishop Hartley at London. Alter also went 14-1 in the 2014 season that ended with a 21-14 loss to Cleveland Benedictine in another D-IV state final.
Fairmont last beat Alter in a season opener in 2004 when Brian Blevins was the Firebirds’ coach. Blevins became Wayne’s offensive coordinator the next season, just in time for a D-I state runner-up season with Warriors senior quarterback Braxton Miller.
Youthful Fairmont was 1-9 last season, Dave Miller’s first as coach after leaving an outstanding run at Covington.
• Xenia hosts Beavercreek in the Backyard Battle at Doug Adams Stadium/Veterans Field on Thursday. Also longtime Greene County rivals, the Beavers won 37-20 last season. Neither team has ever qualified for the postseason, although Beavercreek nearly did so at least twice in recent seasons.
Xenia has been rebooted with Trace Smitherman succeeding Bob DeLong as coach. Smitherman resigned from Stebbins to take over at Xenia.
• Old-school country station HANK-FM (101.5) will air 10 live GWOC games with Justin Kinner and Keith Byars providing commentary. First up is Alter at Fairmont on Thursday. A sister station to WING-AM (1410), this will be the first season for HANK-FM to carry high school football games.
FACEBOOK: For more high school sports you should like Marc Pendleton
WEEK 1 GWOC GAMES
Thursday, 7 p.m.
Alter at Fairmont
Beavercreek at Xenia
Friday, 7 p.m.
Centerville at Fairfield
Mason at Springboro
Kings at Lebanon
Stebbins at Carroll
West Carrollton at Little Miami
Northwest at Miamisburg
Tecumseh at Fairborn
Troy at Trotwood-Madison
Massillon Perry at Butler
Eaton at Greenville
Piqua at Meadowdale
St. Marys Memorial at Sidney
Tippecanoe at Bellbrook
Northmont at Winton Woods
Springfield at Lancaster
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Wayne at Pine-Richland (Pa.)