Monarch defenders Cameron Jones (4) and Christian McCartney (34) stop a Pickerington North ball carrier. Marysville will travel to Hilliard Bradley on Friday. Tune into the Journal-Tribune podcasts discussing the local high school football games. The podcasts are on Spotify or other podcast platforms. (Journal-Tribune photo by Chad Williamson)
When one talks to Marysville High School head football coach Brent Johnson these days, you hear a guy who is happy his team is undefeated.
As a caution, however, he says, “there is still a lot of work to do.”
The Monarchs have gotten off to a 2-0 start, but Johnson knows there are quality opponents ahead.
The next few teams on MHS’ schedule have combined for a 10-4 record.
The trek starts with Friday’s road battle at Hilliard Bradley.
The Jaguars will operate out of a spread offense that can move the ball through the air and on the ground.
The unit is led by sophomore quarterback Preston Wolfe.
“He’s a good athlete who can throw the ball,” said Johnson. “He’s also got a very good receiver in Tayshaun Mayfield.”
Bradley, which is guided by former North Union head coach Mike LoParo, will give a gifted MHS defense plenty of things about which to think.
“We’ll see 3 x 1 and 2 x 2 receiver looks and also an empty backfield,” said Johnson. “They’re going to make you cover the field 52 yards wide and however many yards are in front of you.”
The Jaguars’ skill position people operate behind a solid line.
They will more than likely put the ball in the air more often than Marysville’s two previous opponents, Lancaster and Pickerington North.
“We know they want to throw the ball,” said Johnson. “The big question will be can we defend in space against the pass?
“We had to do that a little bit against Pickerington North and I was happy with what we did,” he said, adding the Monarch defensive secondary could very well be tested even more by the Jaguars.
“We will have to play both zone and man-to-man coverages, depending on what situations we’re in,” said Johnson. “Up front, we’re going to have to pressure their quarterback and see how he, as a sophomore, reacts to it.”
Although the Monarchs have worked some more passing plays into their offensive package, opponents have known for years what they first want to do on offense.
MHS teams have always wanted to first establish the ground game.
As such, Bradley will look to negate that part of the Monarchs’ game plans.
“They line up in a three-man front,” said Johnson. “However, we expect them to walk up linebackers in order to give us a 52 look.”
The Jaguars will crowd the box to take away the MHS running attack that has gained more than 400 yards over the past two weeks.
With that in mind, Marysville continues to work on its passing game.
“I like where we are passing the ball so far,” said Johnson. “Brady (Seger) is something like eight-for-nine after a couple of games and Ethan (Musel) has also attempted five passes.
“We’re averaging seven attempts per game,” he said. “I’d like to see a few more each game, but we’re not going to pass the ball all over the field just for the sake of doing so.”
Johnson said the key to a successful air attack is taking what an opposing defense gives the Monarchs and working on high-percentage passes.
The Monarch boss feels Friday’s game will be a test between two talented teams.
“Hilliard Bradley has good skill guys, just like we do,’ he said. “Mike (LoParo) has built a great program and his guys are well-coached.”
The Monarchs have shown the ability to run the football with guys such as Jeremiah McNeil and Colton Powers.
The passing attack should come around with more experience.
Another area that still needs work, but one that has also shown improvement is on the offensive line.
“Our line is young, but we’re being patient with them,” said Johnson. “We’ve got some good running backs who sometimes have to make our linemen look good.”
The Monarch coach, however, feels the O line will continue to get better as they “grow more whiskers.
“We’re going to be fine,” he said
The key to beating the 2-1 Jaguars will be in time of possession and field position.
“We will have to get our defensive unit off the field on third down,” said Johnson. “We also have to make Hilliard Bradley work hard for everything it gets.”
The same philosophy will apply, only in reverse, for the MHS offense.
The Monarchs will have to sustain drives, move the sticks and keep the Jaguars’ defense on the field for extended periods of time.
In order to do that, the Monarchs must eliminate turnovers.
They put the ball on the ground four times and lost three fumbles against Pickerington North.
Fortunately, those turnovers didn’t hamper MHS’ offense all that much.
It’s just that Johnson wants to make sure slippery fingers don’t come back and bite the Monarchs at some point down the road.