MANSFIELD, OH- Area football teams will kick off the new season beginning a week from Thursday. The Mansfield Tygers who finished at 6-4 a season ago will open at home against a new opponent in Columbus Northland. The Vikings were also 6-4 in 2016. The Tygers under coach Chioke Bradley will try to rebuild the running game with the graduation of Brian Benson. But Senior High does return Minnesota commit Jornell Manns.
Madison will open at home against rival Shelby. The Rams will look to improve on last season's 2-8 finish. Madison will find out where they are in a hurry as they face a Whippets team that went 11-2 a season ago. The equalizer might be the fact that the Whippets will be without four starters for the first three games QB Brennan Armstrong, RB Devon Brooks, DB Riley Place and Dane Biglin. Shelby put it on the Rams a year ago 49-7.
Ontario who finished at 4-6 a season ago starts up year two under coach Chris Hawkins. The Warriors will be on the road at rival Lexington who finished 9-4 last year but lost 18 seniors off a regional runner-up team in 2016. Lex does have Division I recruit Cade Stover returning who will play on both sides of the ball. The Minutemen handled Ontario last year 24-6.
Ashland at 7-4 advanced to the post season for the ninth time since 2003 under coach Scott Valentine and shared an OCC championship with Lexington in 2016. The Arrows have their quarterback returning in Kegan Armitage to lead the offense. Ashland will open at home against Green High School. The Bulldogs finished at 2-8 in 2016 and have lost six straight.
After a 7-3 finish, the Crestview Cougars hope this season they are able to push the door open to a Firelands Conference championship and a trip to the post-season. Coach Dan Mager has a squad of 84 players, 22 of them seniors. The Cougars will open with Northmor a team they defeated last season 27-5. The Knights were 1-9 in 2016.
After finishing 7-4 last year the Lucas Cubs will try to make it four straight trips to the postseason when they open on the road with another playoff team, East Canton. The Hornets were 6-5 in 2016. The Cubs return 19 lettermen from a season ago and beat East Canton in the opener last year 49-27.
Colonel Crawford who was 8-3 last season will try to advance to the post season for the third straight year. The Eagles like last season are trying to rebuild their offensive line as they only have one returning starter up front from last season. CC will open at home against Mt. Gilead a team they beat 46-26 in 2016.
And the Wynford Royals who finished at 11-1 in 2016 will look to make their fourth straight playoff appearance and 16th overall trip to the playoffs as they start up 2017 on the road at one of the best small school programs in Ohio in Liberty-Benton. The Royals got their first win in four tries against the Eagles last year winning 41-14 at home. Wynford has also won the N-10 three straight years.