As summer begins to wind down and give way to fall, high school football teams across northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan are set to kick off their new season.
We start our 23rd season of Big Board Friday at WTOL with three early games that could have season long implications.
St. Francis de Sales will travel up the road to Bedford for our Game of the Week. St. Francis finished last year with a 3-6 record, however two of those wins were over Bedford High.
This year, the Knights will play several key seniors, who hope to turn the program back to its winning tradition.
Senior defensive lineman Christopher Hack says “Tradition, pride- that’s what we stand on, and we’re going to bring it back to St. Francis.
Meanwhile, Bedford is coming off a 6-4 season, finishing in third place in the Southeastern Red Division. The Kicking Mules will also bring back several key seniors to lead them back to prominence. One of those is running back Brady Nowak.
"We all know each other, we've all been with each other for the last four years, and we're all just ready” said Nowak.
Bedford and St. Francis kick off Friday night at 7:00 p.m.
Napoleon and Defiance renew one of the oldest rivalries in the state, stretching all the back in 1917. The teams played each sporadically until 1932, when they began their annual rivalry.
This year, it’s Napoleon’s turn to host the big game.
The Wildcats lost a heart breaking 2014 game to their rivals last year to open the season. However, they rebounded to win six of their next seven games.
Two losses at the tail end of the season kept Napoleon out of the playoffs.
In their 2016 campaign, Napoleon plans to use last season’s heartache to propel them to the playoffs.
“I think it gives us that extra edge going into the season to make sure that we get the close games this year and advance us into the postseason,” said junior running back Dylan Unverferth.
Meanwhile, Defiance is looking to rebound after their disappointing 2-8 season last year.
The Bulldogs welcome new head coach Kevin Kline from Bryan High School to lead them in their 2016 season.
"Coach Buti has done a tremendous job here for 23 years,” said Kline. “But, for these guys that’s all they really know. So, sometimes for these guys it’s just doing things a bit of a different way.”
Napoleon and Bedford renew their rivalry for the 84th consecutive year Thursday night at 7:00 p.m.
Whitmer High welcomes Walsh Jesuit for their opening night matchup.
Whitmer finished last year’s campaign with a 9-3 record that included a trip to playoffs for the seventh consecutive year. This year, the Panthers are poised to extend the streak, and go all the way to a state title.
They were a tantalizing one yard from defeating Olentangy in the second round of the playoffs. Longtime assistant and new head Coach Kevin Winters has defined the off season with the simple phrase “one more yard.”
"We’re just trying for one more yard this year," said senior Zach Kubicki.
Walsh Jesuit comes into the season after a 3-7 record, including a 40-27 loss to Whitmer last year.
This year, the WTOL sports team is launching the Big Board Friday app - download it here.
Be sure to watch the highlight’s from all the best games in our area on Dunn Chevy Buick Big Board Friday at 11:00 p.m.