In many cases a coach would likely be a little worried with a banged up secondary heading into Week 1.

And knowing that first-week opponent put up 273 yards through the air last season could crank up the anxiety a touch.

But Meadville coach Mike Pendolino isn’t sweating too much heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. road matchup with Oil City.

The injuries aren’t terribly serious, and the defensive backfield has some depth.

“We have had a couple injuries ... we will have to let it come down to (Thursday) night and see what happens,” he said. “I think it’s a concern regardless, any time you have injuries, but we have other kids that are working hard to fill those positions. I think we’ll be ready to step in and fill shoes.”

As all the starters may be ready to go regardless, Pendolino declined to name the injured players.

But the Bulldogs secondary rotation utilizes DeAirius Goodrum and Max Berkstresser at safety, and Terence Goodrum, Chris Heaney and Artrel Foster at defensive halfback.

Senior DeAirius Goodrum is the only returning player among the d-backs. Berkstresser is a junior in the backup spot.

Heaney is a senior, Terence Goodrum a sophomore and Foster a freshman.

Oil City returns Stephen May and Mark Kulinski at the QB position. May threw for 249 yards in the opener against Meadville last season.

The duo combined for 2,032 yards in 2008 and both will likely see time tonight.

“We’re still looking at a tandem,” Oil City coach Matt Laverde said. “Both rotated quarterly (in the preseason) and both played pretty well.”

The Oilers pro style split back offense is an effective set for throwing, but Laverde would like to carry the ball more often coming off a record-setting passing season.

“We were behind a lot last year, so we threw a lot for that reason,” Laverde said. “We are trying to be balanced. Everybody knows to win in northwestern Pa. football you’ve got to be able to run and stop the run.”

Senior running back Cody Johnson has the bulk of the experience in the backfield for the Oilers. Bouncing around from halfback to fullback, Johnson covered 267 yards in ’08.

Joining Johnson will be junior Sam Heasley and senior Logan Carson.

In contrast, Meadville’s offense is a grinding ground game with the Wing-T.

The Bulldog’s key returners from last year’s meeting are Jarrod Kilburn and fullback Tyler Banks.

Banks led all Meadville rusher with 12 carries for 136 yards and one touchdown in last year’s showdown with the Oilers.

Laverde is aware of the threats Kilburn and Banks pose.

“(Meadville) are very physical and have a great fullback and a couple good running backs to complement him. Their quarterback returns and he’s looked good on film.”

Joining Banks in the backfield is DeAirius Goodrum.

Both teams have young lines which are progressing pretty quickly according to the coaches.

Meadville returns just two starters in Matt Pfeifer and Dan Nelson.

“I think we’re starting to make some pretty good progress there,” Pendolino said. “We are young in some places. We do have some shoes that have to be filled in some places with graduation.”

Defensively the ’Dogs will be looking to get pressure and disrupt the pass with Joe Keenan and Logan Hinderliter at end, and a rotation of James Andrews, James Payne and Brandon Hassett at tackle.

Both teams run a base 4-4 defense.

Oil City’s biggest offensive weapon, literally, is junior tight end Ben Koyack.

Standing at 6-foot-5, 228 pounds with 4.59 speed, he’s already received offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Boston College, Maryland, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Akron and Florida. Several others have been in contact as well.

He is a single-season school recordholder with 800 receiving yards and 10 TDs, and will be complemented by wideout Logan Lantz who had a school record 55 catches last year.

Meadville has been working hard to simulate in practice what Koyack may do in certain situations to keep players aware of how to keep him in check.

Overall the Bulldogs would love to come out with a win to start the season on the right foot. And coach Pendolino believes they can do so by playing to their abilities.

“I think we are looking to make a statement as a team as a whole,” he said. “All our kids are looking to get on the field and play ball. We have to assert ourselves and play the football that we are capable of playing.”

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