FAIRMONT - Adjusting to life after the graduation of record-setting quarterbacks and receivers.
Sixth-year Fairmont mentor Mat Mahoney and third-year Worthington head coach Brad Grimmius each will face that conundrum when the Class 3A state runner-up Cardinals kick off the football season against the hometown Trojans at 7 p.m. Friday night in Worthington.
"We (coaching staff) had to take a good hard look at our offense over the offseason," said Grimmius. "When you lose the program's all-time leading passer (quarterback Lucas Henning) and No. 1 receiver (6-foot-8 end Mitch Weg) to graduation, you have to make your offense more user friendly and that's what we've done.
"We plan to run the ball a lot more this season and try to take time off the clock."
Will Dudley, a 6-2, 180-pound junior, will step into the Trojans' starting quarterback role, and put the new two-tight end, three-running back base offense in motion.
Troy Ektnitphong, a 5-11, 160-pound sophomore, will be flanked by senior Alex Hayenga and junior Marcus Potter in the backfield, and will look to move the chains via the ground game.
"There's a bit of an adjustment period in switching offensive schemes. You're not only running the ball more, but you have to change the way you block and how the linemen come off the ball," said Grimmius. "Last year, we spread defenses sideline-to-sideline, but that probably won't be the case this season."
Morgan Traylor, a 6-5, 240-pound senior, returns to his tackle position to anchor the red-and-black's offensive line and will look to create running room in the Cardinals' defense during Friday night's opener.
"We know that he's a very good athlete with good size, and will be a big key to what Worthington wants to do offensively," Mahoney said in reference to Morgan Traylor. "Since they've put in a new offense, you really don't know exactly what to expect until you face it.
"Defensively, their 3-5 (scheme) gave us fits in the first half last year before we made some adjustments in the second half to break the game open."
Indeed. The Cardinals only held a 6-0 lead at halftime before erupting for 20 fourth-quarter points to cap a 40-7 triumph during the 2011 kickoff showdown.
While Worthington lost Henning and Weg to graduation, Fairmont did likewise in record-setting quarterback and all-state honorable mention selection Ben Kain and Outstate All-Star receiver Adam Schultz.
But Grimmius is not feeling too badly for Mahoney this season.
"I've heard Mat has to decide between two good quarterbacks. That's a dilemma that most coaches don't mind facing," Grimmius said with a chuckle.
"To be honest, both guys (senior Luke Hested and junior Mitch Pfingsten) are fairly even right now. Ted (Hested) is going to start for us. He really put a lot of time into the position this summer," said Mahoney. "We plan to give both guys an equal opportunity to play in the first half, and take it from there."
While Kain and Schultz exited due to graduation, the Trojans' 3-5 defense still will have to contend with the Cardinals' Prep Bowl record-setting receiver Bryce Holm and all-South Central Conference running back Brandon Martin.
Holm made 55 receptions for 884 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago, while the 220-pound Martin steamrolled to 1,339 yards and 22 TDs on the ground.
"I still think that Fairmont will try to run the ball right at us and make us stop that part of their game. They're always big upfront and play a physical brand of football," said Grimmius. "Defensively, we have to make our reads and wrap up. If we do that, we'll be OK."
Mahoney agreed with his coaching counterpart, and added two other elements to the equation.
"I know it's cliche, but it holds true - you can't turn the ball over and you have to minimize your penalties in the opener. If you don't, it can be a tough first game," said Mahoney.