McNicholas High School’s goal is to close the door on the Greater Catholic League Coed Central Division with yet another football title.
The Rockets have won six straight Central championships, and they’ve been voted preseason favorites by the GCLC coaches to do it again in 2018.
“Just like any preseason or postseason award, we appreciate that, but we take what happens on the field as trump,” eighth-year McNick coach Mike Orlando said. “It’ll be interesting to see how it all comes together. We’ll try like heck to get things done.”
McNick and Badin will join GCLC North schools Alter, Fenwick, Chaminade Julienne and Carroll in a six-team Coed Division next year. Bacon and Purcell are headed to the Miami Valley Conference.
“That sounds about right,” Badin coach Nick Yordy said of the voting. “Until somebody knocks McNick off, that’s my opinion of the whole thing. Until somebody knocks you off, it’s your league. That’s going to be our mentality going in.”
Purcell took a pair of one-point losses last year and figures to take a step forward under Dave Wirth, who has a track record of winning at multiple schools. Mike Blaut’s Bacon squad has the Central’s top returning rusher in sophomore Corey Kiner (209 carries, 1,226 yards).
McNick will have a lot of familiar faces on the field, though many of them weren’t year-long factors in 2017.
“We had about 10 kids — actually, it was probably more than that — with season-ending injuries last year that didn’t allow them to finish out their junior year,” Orlando said. “So we have a lot of seniors that are going to be playing, but they’re young in a sense.”
Senior running back Jake Watford is among the players returning from injury, and he’ll have a couple veteran linemen to run behind. Sophomore quarterback Clay Badylak is slated to direct the spread offense.
Senior linebackers Jason Fehr and Kody Stein return to lead the defense. End Jackson Gear was lost to graduation, and Orlando described him as “probably the best defensive player that I’ve coached since I’ve been here.”
“From what I’ve gathered in the offseason, it’s a group that really likes one another,” Orlando said. “They appreciate and love their teammates. If you can get them to do that and play hard, you’re halfway there.”
The Rockets will open the season in historic fashion Aug. 24 when they host Goshen. It will be the first night game under the new lights at Penn Station Stadium.
McNick has reeled off six consecutive wins over Badin since the Rams won 31-8 in 2011.
“There’s a few teams I think we’re getting tired of losing to,” said Yordy, starting his second year at the BHS helm. “That’s on us to take care of it.”
Badin will continue to be a run-first team this year, yet Yordy said junior Zach Switzer and sophomore Bobby Young — who are vying for the No. 1 quarterback spot — are both capable throwers.
The Rams return a number of key linemen and are hoping for a healthy year for senior halfback/cornerback Davon Starks, who had 1,165 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns last season before missing the last two games with a broken collarbone.
“We’re obviously going to keep running the ball. That’s what made Badin successful in the past, and we’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” Yordy said.