Dixon head coach Dave Smith compares Monmouth-Roseville star running back Martel Hunter to former Ottawa standout and current professional baseball player Michael Hermosillo.
Smith and company hope to have more success against the all-state Hunter and the Titans in Friday's season opener than the Dukes did against Hermosillo in Week 7 last season.
Hermosillo, a former University of Illinois football recruit now in the Los Angeles Angels' minor league system, piled up 133 yards and five touchdowns on just nine carries in Ottawa's 51-14 win over Dixon.
"We're a different team," Smith said. "It's a different season, but he has that type of athleticism and speed. He's going to be one of the best backs we've seen."
Monmouth-Roseville went 8-3 a year ago and is ranked sixth in Class 3A in the Associated Press preseason poll. Dixon, 0-9 in 2012, is a 5A program with an enrollment of 802, compared to the Titans' 533.
Hunter rushed for over 1,700 yards and scored 23 touchdowns last season. The senior is the Class 1A state track champion in the 200 and 400 meters, and was second in the 100. He's also a standout in basketball.
Hunter was bottled up by Newman in the Comets' 26-14 3A second-round playoff win last season. Newman limited Hunter to 72 yards on 27 carries.
Smith and many of the Dukes were there to see it.
"We've seen a team stop him. We've been studying up on it," said senior linebacker Dane Schielein, Dixon's top returning tackler with 44.5 a year ago. "The whole thing is to tackle him behind the line of scrimmage and make sure he doesn't get his confidence going."
"We plan on playing on their side of the ball," junior defensive lineman Alex Helander said. "We aren't going to wait for him to come to us. If we play our gap responsibilities, he's not going to have anywhere to run."
Smith knows that Hunter is far from a one-man show.
"The problem is that they have a 6-foot-7 tight end in Trayvon Smith, and their quarterback [Dillon Frieden] is back too," Smith said. "We can't just say we're going to stop Martel. Obviously, if you don't, you're going to be in trouble and it's going to be a long night."
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Where: at Monmouth-Roseville
Radio: 1460 AM