By Bryant Billing
ANNA — Nick Marino was elated to watch Anna score touchdown after touchdown in a 41-6 win over Covington in a scrimmage last week. But Marino, who’s entering his third season as the Rockets coach, said that doesn’t guarantee success when the team opens the season at home against Arlington on Friday.
“Obviously games are a whole different thing than a scrimmage, and with the competition we play, we can’t assume we’ll do well,” Marino said. “We’ve got to focus on preparing well each week if we want to be successful like that… We don’t have any gimme games, so we’ve got to work on being consistent.”
The Rockets have several starters back from last season, including three who earned all-Midwest Athletic Conference honors last year: linebacker Ethan Burd, cornerback Caleb Kauffman and running back Aidan Endsley.
Endsley rushed for 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns last year and played well against Covington last Friday according to Marino.
“He had a pretty good game,” Marino said. “Our offensive line did a real nice job of blocking up front, and that made it easy for him. But we expect him to be able to run like that with what he’s done in previous seasons. He’s really developed, and the offensive line has, too, and I think that’s been a big part of our success running.”
Marino said the whole team has developed a lot over preseason practice and is more ready for Week 1 than in the previous two years.
“We did the first part in improving in preseason, and now we have to keep that up and prepare each week through the next 10 weeks,” Marino said. “It’s a challenge to make gains every single week… We’ve made some gains with our culture. The kids have started to embrace the culture a little bit more, and I think our coaching staff has done a better job this preseason as well.”
Anna beat Arlington 28-0 last year. The Red Devils won their next three games and finished 8-4 overall. They return a host of players, including senior receiver Caleb Price.
“They’ve got some good athletes,” Marino said. “I like their tailback, and they’ve got one receiver who’s a really good ball player… They do some things that we’ve got make sure we stay disciplined on, as far as our assignments go.”
Lehman Catholic at Fort Recovery
Lehman lost to the Indians by one point last year and will try to start with a victory this year. Though the Cavaliers return many players, Fort Recovery has most of its starters back, including senior running back Will Homan, who rushed for 1,805 yards and 24 touchdowns last season.
Bradford at New Bremen
New Bremen beat the Railroaders 37-13 in Week 1 a year ago and will try for another lopsided victory this year. The Cardinals have a host of players back from last season, including sophomore quarterback Nolan Bornhorst and senior lineman Logan Dicke.
The Railroaders have 27 players on their roster and a new head coach in Chris Hawk. Hawk is the fifth coach at Bradford in the last five years.
Celina at Versailles
Versailles has a host of returning players from last season’s 5-5 squad and is looking to contend for the MAC title and earn a playoff berth. The Tigers start the season with a tough opponent in Celina, which has 25 letterman back from last season’s 11-3 campaign.
Riverside at Ansonia
The Pirates will have a new look this year with only five returning starters. Two key players are back in quarterback Caleb Stevens and running back Gaven Anderson. Stevens was a running back last year and had over 1,200 yards of total offense with 19 touchdowns.
Ansonia returns all but one player from last year’s team and boasts a roster of over 40 players.