PARKERSBURG - Parkersburg Catholic opens its second season under head football coach Jeff Campbell on the road tonight, facing what always is a tough battle against Buffalo at 7:30 p.m.
The Bison, 7-4 last season, finished 12th in the Class A ratings, but lost to No. 5 East Hardy 48-15 in the first round of the Class A playoffs. The first of Buffalo's 2011 wins came in a close 20-12 game over PCHS in last year's season-opener at Stadium Field.
''And they have a real nice team again this year,'' said Campbell.''Their quarterback, before he's even played his senior season, has already thrown for 4,000 yards. They've got a lot of skill, some decent size, and have almost as many seniors as I have players (20).''
But Campbell's Crusaders made the 'A' playoffs last year too, at No. 16 with a 6-4 mark. However, they also suffered a first-round departure after losing to eventual state champion Wheeling Central, 39-14
For Catholic in the offensive backfield, junior Payton Sturm takes over at quarterback from graduated two-year starter Daniel Collie, who's off to play basketball at NCAA Division II Wright State.
The running backs are seniors Charles Schriner and Mitch Davis, moving in from his wide receiver slot. But Schriner, said Campbell, ''is a little dinged up right now, so we're having some issues there, but (sophomore) Jake Boice is back there, and we've rotated a few other people back there.''
Plus, soph Ryan Schriner ''has got a few looks back there, and is also at tight end for us,'' said Campbell, while still another Schriner brother, freshman Neal, has been used in the backfield as well.
Davis, PCHS's leading receiver last year, will still be catching passes, though, this fall, ''as in our spread formations, he'll be spread out a fair amount.'' said Campbell.
As for Sturm's development as a quarterback, ''Payton's doing better throwing, and is really doing better understanding that he doesn't have a 50- or 60-yard arm,'' said Campbell. ''But he's really smart, and sees a lot of things out there (on the field)."
In addition, with only four juniors and four seniors on this year's team, Campbell knows he's going to have to use his freshmen and sophomores a lot more this season than in past campaigns.
Soph wide receiver Nick Roedersheimer is ''starting to come along, as far as catching the ball and taking care of it,'' said Campbell.
Up front on the offensive line, besides seniors Joe Welch and Garet Leisure leading the way on the left side at tackle and guard respectively, soph Evan Summers mans the center post while on the right side are soph guard Evan Dexter and freshman tackle Evan Owens.
Summers got some experience last year on the line, ''where he played a fair amount of center,'' said Campbell. ''So he knows what's going on, is able to communicate and even as a sophomore is making most of our line calls.''
One of Campbell's concerns heading into the season was ''the line communicating up front, but they're all doing a lot better job of talking to each other. When everybody knows where everybody's going, then you've got a chance, a shot.''
On defense, ''we probably have a little bit more speed team-wise this year,'' noted Campbell.
But with lineman Aaron Boso out with a wrist injury and Charles Schriner probably also not playing tonight, ''we've had to run a few more young kids in there, but they've done well,'' said Campbell.
Whereas Belpre had to travel all the way to Bainbridge, Ohio, to open last season's 0-10 campaign only to suffer a 39-0 loss, the shoe is on the other foot tonight as Paint Valley has to come east all the way to Belpre for the Golden Eagles' 7:30 p.m. season-opener at Ralph Holder Stadium.
Freshman Tavian Miller will start at quarterback for Belpre tonight as the Golden Eagles' starting lineup is peppered throughout with a number of freshmen and sophomores in an effort to turn things around.