The mantra may be true that defense wins championships, but for Harrisburg head coach Jason Roper, he's just hoping to get a win Week 1.
After a semifinal performance in the IHSA Class 4A playoffs a year ago, Roper lost nearly all of that roster.
However, he's counting on a handful of seniors on defense, along with some depth at nearly every spot, to put himself in position for a victory Friday at the Snake Pit in Mt. Carmel.
The Bulldogs have had the Aces' number the past couple of years and looks to keep the streak intact for a third year in a row.
"I hope we can play good defense early on," Roper said. "The one thing about this team is we do have some depth, we're not overly talented in one position or the other, but there is depth as far as a kid getting injured, we have someone to replace him.
"I think for the most part we can back up positions with guys who are getting quite of bit of reps in practice. So we feel pretty good about our depth, hopefully we will be able to use that to our advantage with Mt. Carmel's no-huddle offense and playing fast and the fatigue factor."
Mt. Carmel quarterback Reece Metcalf is back for his senior year. Last year, Metcalf tossed for 2,489 yards and 22 touchdowns in Darren Peach's high-octane offense. Four of Metcalf's top five receivers from a year ago also return, including junior Levi Laws who came away with 1,100 yards in catches last year.
"I think for the most part we can back up positions with guys who are getting quite of bit of reps in practice," Roper said. "So we feel pretty good about our depth, hopefully we will be able to use that to our advantage with Mt. Carmel's no-huddle offense and playing fast and the fatigue factor.
On defense, five of the Aces' six top tacklers return, and would appear to be where Mt. Carmel continues to hang its hat.
"I think they've very talented," Roper said of Mt. Carmel. "I know they played a bunch of young kids against us last year. It's really hard to tell Week 1 cause there are a lot of factors. Turnovers, penalties, fatigue, depth, how good someone is going to be opening night. We have some kids on defense that are seniors. We are senior-led there. We feel like that those kids are fairly quick and aggressive and can tackle well. Come Friday night I could be completely wrong depending on how good Mt. Carmel is, they could take advantage of some of our weaknesses, but for the most part, we feel like our defense has a chance to be good if we stay healthy."
Page 2 of 2 - Michael Dann can be reached at mdann@dailyregister.