DELPHOS — It’s almost a 10-mile straight shot from Elida to Delphos.
So one might think that Elida has a rich history of football with Delphos St. John’s.
But that’s not the case.
Going back to 1931, the teams have only met 11 times. Elida leads the series, 8-3.
And before last year’s St. Johns-Elida game, St. John’s hadn’t played Elida since 1981, when the Blue Jays were in the Western Buckeye League.
The two began playing each again other last year, as part of the opening week, round-robin with Delphos St. John’s, Bath, Elida and Lima Central Catholic.
Elida will travel to Delphos on Friday for the opening game at 7:30 p.m. at Stadium Park.
“We know they (the Blue Jays) will be well coached and play hard,” Elida coach Jason Carpenter said. “They make the playoffs almost every year. We’re trying to emulate what they do.”
Last year at Elida’s Kraft Stadium, Elida rolled to a 20-0 victory over the Blue Jays. Elida held the St. John’s running game, with all-everything Tyler Jettinghoff, to 91 yards rushing.
Elida forced St. John’s into four turnovers, two on fumbles and two on interceptions.
Elida quarterback Logan Alexander completed 7 of 15 for 218 yards with three TDs. He had TD throws of 64, 75 and 15 yards. Alexander threw a 64-yard TD to Clark Etzler and a 75-yard TD to Christian Moran.
The junior Alexander is back after throwing for 1,450 yards and eight TDs. Also back are his top targets, Etzler (45 receptions, 532 yards, nine TDs) and Moran, who missed four games because of an injury last year. Moran finished with 25 receptions for 466 yards and four TDs.
“Elida is very athletic and that’s a concern for us,” Delphos St. John’s coach Todd Schulte said. “The quarterback has started 25 games in his career so we know that he is the guy that we need to control.”
Not only do the Bulldogs have their quarterback and top receivers back, they also return the nucleus of the offensive line from a team that went 5-5 last year.
Elida will stick with its spread offense, but also wants to run. Desmend White will see plenty of carries at tailback.
The Bulldogs’ defense will have to replace defensive lineman Chance Weitz, who is now playing at Bowling Green State. He was a big reason the Blue Jays looked like they were running in quicksand last year.
St. John’s not only graduated tailback Jettinghoff (1,620 yards), it also lost fullback Luke MacLennan (908 yards), the two two offensive threats from a team that went 9-5 and reached the state semifinals.
With that, Schulte has scaled back the power-I game and plans to run more option with only one back in the backfield.
“We had to make some tweaks to fit our personnel,” Schulte said. “I don’t know if there’s a word power in our dictionary right now.”
Quarterback Nick Martz is back to trigger the option. He threw for 633 yards and ran for 615 last year.
“You can tell he’s their best athlete and we have to stop him,” Carpenter said. “We have to be very sound, defensively.”
The St. John’s running game looks to be split between junior Evan Mohler (5-8, 160) and senior James Harrison (5-11, 188).
Schulte likes the match-up with Elida for Week 1.
“This will be a good test to see where we are,” Schulte said. “Our non-league games fit right into what we will see in our league. Being so close to each other, it adds excitement to the game.”