The high school football season kicks off today north of the border with five local southeast Michigan teams taking the field.
Reigning Southeastern Conference Red Division champion Bedford, which ended the 2013 season at 11-1 overall (5-0 Red), will travel to Wayne State University’s Tom Adams Field in Detroit to face Dearborn Fordson (6-4) at 4 p.m. as part of the eight-game Detroit Sports Commission Prep Kickoff Classic. There are three games today and Friday and two more on Saturday.
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The Kicking Mules, coached by Jeff Wood, reached the Division 1 regional finals last season before falling 34-33 to perennial Michigan power Detroit Catholic Central, which scored the go-ahead touchdown during the final minute at Bedford.
The Mules will have to rebuild from that successful run, which matched the best season in school history. A total of 38 seniors graduated from the 2013 squad, including starters at all 22 offensive and defensive positions.
Elsewhere today, Blissfield plays at Whiteford, and Erie Mason travels to Summerfield. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.
The season gets into full swing Friday, when most Ohio teams begin their seasons.
The marquee matchup Friday sends defending Northern Lakes League champion Perrysburg (9-3, 7-0 NLL) to preseason Three Rivers Athletic Conference co-favorite Whitmer (6-5, 5-2).
Perrysburg’s Yellow Jackets, favored to repeat their NLL title, return eight offensive starters and six more on defense from a team that last year won the first playoff game in school history, 28-21 against Akron Ellet in Division II.
Whitmer was ousted in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, but the Panthers were Division I state runners-up the year before when they finished 14-1.
Another intriguing opener has 2013 TRAC runner-up St. Francis de Sales (8-3, 6-1) visiting last year’s NLL runner-up Southview (7-3, 6-1) for the inaugural on-campus home game at the Cougars’ new Mel Nusbaum Stadium.
Reigning TRAC champion Central Catholic (12-1, 7-0), the conference co-favorite with Whitmer this year, plays host to Warren (Mich.) DeLaSalle at Gallagher Stadium.
Bowsher (8-2, 5-0), the two-time defending City League champ, kicks off its season by hosting Maumee (2-8, 1-6) of the NLL.
Genoa (10-1, 7-0), winners of the last two Northern Buckeye Conference titles, opens on the road against City League foe Waite (2-8, 2-3) at historic, 80-year-old Mollenkopf Stadium.
Three-time defending Toledo Area Athletic Conference champion Northwood (8-3, 7-0) kicks things off against visiting Ayersville, which beat the Rangers 42-34 in last year’s opening game. Northwood has won 10 of 13 titles since joining the TAAC.
In the Northwest Ohio Athletic League, two-time reigning champion Bryan (12-1, 8-0) starts the season on the road at Van Wert (1-9). The Golden Bears are riding a 22-game regular-season winnings streak, and they have won 18 straight NWOAL contests.
Bryan’s 2013 season ended with a heart-breaking, last-minute 46-43 loss to top-ranked Kenton in a Division IV regional final.
VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT: A prestigious eight-team field will be at St. Ursula Academy on Saturday for the host Arrows’ Best of Ohio volleyball invitational, which this year includes all four of last season’s Division I state semifinalists.
Competing in the event will be defending state champion Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, which last year went 26-3 and defeated top-ranked, 29-1 St. Ursula 25-27, 25-23, 25-19, 26-24 in a superb D-I title match.
Also playing will be the other two D-I state semifinalists — Columbus DeSales (27-1), which was ranked No. 4 in the final 2013 state poll, and Hudson (21-6).
Rounding out the field are Strongsville (23-3, ranked No. 7), which lost to St. Ursula in a regional final; the Arrows’ TRAC rival, Central Catholic (17-9), which advanced to the Division II regional finals a year ago and was the 2007 D-II state champion; Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, which was D-II state runner-up in 2005 and 2006; and Columbus Watterson.
The Arrows open against Walsh Jesuit, and Hudson faces Watterson, both at 9 a.m. At 10:15 a.m., Central battles Mount Notre Dame, and DeSales takes on Strongsville.
All teams play three games. Winners advance to play winners, and losers drop out of contention for the title but continue to play in a consolation bracket.