That can only mean one thing. Ah, yes, another season of Ohio high school football is set to begin.
With the season just hours from starting at this point, we will provide you with a look at some of the key games on the schedule in this first weekend of preps action. Plus, we will examine some of the key candidates for the state's Mr. Football award (and Ohio High's Man of the Year) for 2006.
And, we'll share our picks for the six divisional state championships, as published in the July preview edition of Ohio High.
So let's get it started – and best of luck to your favorite team in 2006!
Games To Watch
There are a number of big events planned for the opening weekend, including the Crosstown Showdown Aug. 24-26 in the Cincinnati area. The festivities begin Aug. 24 as Wilmington meets Winton Woods (with RB Hosea Simpson) at 6 p.m. and Trenton Edgewood tackles Lebanon at 8:15 p.m. at Princeton.
The scene shifts to Miami's Yager Stadium in Oxford Aug. 25 as West Chester Lakota West (with DL Solomon Thomas) meets Cincinnati Moeller at 6 p.m. and Cincinnati Colerain (with DB Eugene Clifford) meets Mason at 8:15 p.m. This doubleheader will be webcast live by Press Box Productions. (Check JJHuddle.com Friday for a link to all of the action.)
Finally, Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium will host games on Saturday: Glen Este-Ryle, Ky., 11 a.m.; Liberty Twp. Lakota East-Cincinnati LaSalle (with DE Ben Martin), 1:45 p.m.; Covington (Ky.) Catholic-Cincinnati Elder, 4:30 p.m.
Cincinnati St. Xavier and Huber Heights Wayne were to meet in this event, but the game has been moved to Thursday at St. X because of a possible labor dispute in the Wayne district. ,The St. X-Wayne game is a rematch from the regional finals, won by the eventual state champion Bombers 42-7.
In other action Thursday, Akron Buchtel travels to defending Division III state champion Steubenville and Clayton Northmont (with QB Clay Belton) visits Dayton Chaminade-Julienne.
On Friday, new Hamilton coach Jim Place, formerly of Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, will debut as Hamilton visits Xenia. Also: Toledo St. Francis at Columbus DeSales, Youngstown Mooney at Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit (Mooney won 22-10 last year), Amherst Steele at Macedonia Nordonia, Middletown at Hilliard Davidson, Chillicothe at Columbus Brookhaven, Dayton Meadowdale at Trotwood-Madison (with LB C.J. Peake facing his former school), Cleveland JFK at Warren Harding (with OSU verbal RB Daniel "Boom" Herron) and Piqua (with OSU verbal RB Brandon Saine) at Grove City (Piqua won 27-14 last year).
Defending Division II state champion Toledo Central Catholic (with OSU verbal WR Dane Sanzenbacher) hosts Detroit Catholic Central. Defending Division IV state champion Coldwater travels to Kenton. Defending Division V state champion Hamler Patrick Henry travels to Leipsic.
In a David-vs.-Goliath game, defending Division VI state champion Delphos St. John's travels to perennial Division I contender Worthington Kilbourne. This game will be shown via tape delay on Ohio News Network at 9:30 p.m. Friday night.
On Saturday, ONN will show Cleveland Benedictine's game at Lakewood St. Edward (with OSU verbal DB Nate Oliver and others) via tape delay at 9 p.m. Last year, St. Ed won 41-38 in overtime.
Fox Sports Net Ohio will show the Charity Game doubleheader from Cleveland Browns Stadium. That twin-bill features Cleveland Glenville (with QB-LB Jermale Hines and others) against Mentor at 1 p.m. and Solon against Strongsville at 5 p.m. (Note: The FSN Ohio broadcasts will only be shown in the northeast portion of the state.)
Also on Saturday: Amanda-Clearcreek at Newark Catholic and Norwalk St. Paul at Sandusky St. Mary's (St. Paul swept a pair of games last year, winning 31-28 in the regular season and 23-14 in the Division VI playoffs).
Mr. Football Candidates
Here is a preseason look at candidates for the 2006 Mr. Football award as well as Ohio High's Man of the Year honor (all players seniors unless noted):
* Eugene Clifford, running back/safety, Cincinnati Colerain -- Rated as state's No. 2 overall prospect by Ohio High, Clifford will have a chance to star on offense and defense for the Cardinals.
* Brandon Saine, running back, Piqua -- Ohio State verbal had over 1,300 yards and 21 TDs last year and his name is out there after winning two events at the state track meet for the second year in a row. Rated as state's No. 3 prospect.
* Devon Torrence, athlete, Canton South -- Torrence should be an offensive weapon and also could star on defense. Rated as state's No. 4 prospect.
* Clay Belton, quarterback, Clayton Northmont -- Belton, the state's No. 5 prospect, threw for 2,700 yards and 30 TDs as a junior. Can he hit the 3,000-yard mark and lead Northmont into the playoffs this year?
* Jermale Hines, athlete, Cleveland Glenville -- Hines, rated No. 7 in Ohio, figures to get some time at quarterback. He is a star at LB for the Tarblooders.
* Daniel Herron, running back, Warren Harding -- Herron had 1,500 yards and 17 TDs as a junior. Early verbal to Ohio State puts him on everybody's radar.
* Brian Gamble, running back/cornerback, Massillon Washington -- Great two-way player wants to help lead Tigers back to Division I state title game. He had 90 tackles on defense and 1,512 yards and 17 TDs on offense.
* Morgan Williams, running back, Canton McKinley -- Williams rushed for over 2,400 yards and scored 27 TDs as the guiding force behind McKinley's strong team.
* Hosea Simpson, running back, Winton Woods -- Rushed for 1,675 yards and scored 25 TDs as a junior.
* Jordan Mabin, tailback/cornerback, Macedonia Nordonia -- Mabin has rushed for over 3,200 yards over the last two years.
* Darius Ashley, junior, running back, Cincinnati St. Xavier -- Had 1,653 yards and 26 TDs as a junior for the Division I state champions.
State Championship Picks
The first ONN/Ohio High Power Poll will be released on the Sports Site Preview show Wednesday night at 8 p.m.
However, in the July edition of Ohio High magazine, our editorial staff picked the state final four and champions in all six divisions. These picks may not reflect what is announced when the first Power Poll is released, but reflects what we saw after compiling our 2006 preview for that edition of the magazine.
Here are division-by-division picks for the 2006 Ohio high school season (bookmark this and see how we do):
* Division I -- Final four: Lakewood St. Edward, Massillon Washington, Hilliard Davidson, Cincinnati St. Xavier. Championship game: Lakewood St. Edward over Cincinnati St. Xavier.
* Division II -- Final four: Macedonia Nordonia, Piqua, Canfield, Trotwood-Madison. Championship game: Canfield over Piqua.
* Division III -- Final four: Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, Kettering Alter, Steubenville, New Albany. Championship game: Steubenville over New Albany.
* Division IV -- Final four: Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, West Milton-Milton Union, Bellaire, Monroe Lemon-Monoe. Championship game: Youngstown Cardinal Mooney over West Milton-Milton Union.
* Division V -- Final four: West Salem Northwestern, Bucyrus Wynford, Centerburg, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Championship game: Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy over Bucyrus Wynford.
* Division VI -- Final four: Cuyahoga Heights, Bascom Hopewell-Loudon, Shadyside, Dola Hardin Northern. Championship game: Bascom Hopewell-Loudon over Dola Hardin Northern.