New looks add excitement to start of prep football season

The start of the local prep football season always brings a sense of anticipation and excitement for players, coaches, parents and fans.

I also look forward to the start of each fall campaign as there is always a long list of storylines to watch. Here are some of those to look out for this fall.

New coaches: Two of our local prep football programs have new head coaches this fall.

Ridgemont welcomes back Ernie Simpson, who coached the Gophers in 1999 and also spent time at Triad and Waynesfield-Goshen among many other coaching stops.

At the other end of the spectrum is Riverside’s Tim Doty, who makes his head coaching debut tonight against Benjamin Logan. Doty served a couple of seasons on Bill Pizzino’s staff before moving up to the top spot this fall.

Another new coach familiar to the area is Bellefontaine assistant Jon McCumber. A BHS graduate, McCumber was the head coach at Ft. Loramie and brings a great deal of offensive coaching experience to his new job of leading the Chieftain offense.

New look offenses: Several area squads are changing their style offensively. Some are doing a complete overhaul — Ben Logan is going to a triple option — as others are tweaking their attacks. Bellefontaine is going from a spread look to more of a traditional, groundoriented attack and Riverside is opening up its offense, which has relied heavily on the ground game under Pizzino.

Playoff picture: The Logan County area has developed a long tradition of sending its teams to the postseason.

West Liberty-Salem was the lone local team to get to the playoffs a year ago, but several squads have the potential to earn spots this fall. WL-Salem, Indian Lake and Bellefontaine seem to have the best chance with a wealth of experienced players returning, but the other four squads cannot be ruled out either.

Now on to my picks for the opening night of the season:

BHS at Wapakoneta
Although it was an up and down year last season for the Chiefs, they gained some valuable experience. They will begin reaping the rewards of that experience tonight.

Bellefontaine returns most of its offense from a year ago and has standout quarterback Brandon Winter back under center for the first time since the third game of the 2008 season. That bodes well for the hopes of a big season and a win in the opener tonight. BHS 28, Wapakoneta 13.

Ben Logan at Riverside
Both the Raiders and Pirates are doing some rebuilding and Riverside also has a new coach. Ben Logan is going to an entirely new offense this season and Riverside is adjusting its offense as well. Those factors make it difficult to predict what is going to happen tonight.

Ben Logan plans to ride senior fullback Eric Bayliss, a 230-pound bruiser who gets tougher to tackle as the game wears on. I expect that to be the difference in this one. Ben Logan 20, Riverside 14.

Indian Lake over Spencerville
The Lakers suffered a close loss to Spencerville last year. Look for Indian Lake to get revenge tonight.

Indian Lake has some holes to fill on its lines, but the Lakers have a host of talented skill players that will make big plays all season. Indian Lake 27, Spencerville 14.

Arcanum at WL-Salem
West Liberty-Salem welcomes a new opponent in Arcanum in tonight’s season opener.

Arcanum is coming off a 6- 4 season. The Trojans have been competitive in the Cross County Conference, but they don’t often face teams of WL-Salem’s caliber. WL-Salem 21, Arcanum 6.

Triad at W-Goshen
Triad and Waynesfield-Goshen are also going through rebuilding mode as both squads lost several key players from last season.

I give W-Goshen the edge in tonight’s matchup because the Tigers did not lose quite as much to graduation as the Cardinals. W-Goshen 33, Triad 27.

Ridgemont at Vanlue
Ridgemont and Vanlue each had 2008 seasons they want to forget. Both schools went winless last season. However, one of two is going to get this season off to a winning start.

Ernie Simpson is back in charge at Ridgemont. He has a knack of getting downtrodden programs turned around. I see his second stint at the helm of the Gophers beginning with a victory. Ridgemont 14, Vanlue 7.

Around the horn
Mechanicsburg slips past West Jefferson in a close battle, 27-20 ... Kenton outlasts Coldwater, 41-35.