2023 HS Football Preview: Xenia looks to build off undefeated run


XENIA — The weight of Xenia’s historic 2022 season, producing an undefeated mark in the regular season for the first recognized time in school history, had robustly been carried by the members of last year’s Buccaneers squad as they crept closer to the achievement.

While there may be a lingering burden to try and repeat the feat, this year’s team doesn’t want to shy away from the challenge of completing that task.

“We know that’s what we did and that we’re capable of doing that again,” Trenton Lee said. “But it’s a new season. We have new guys at new positions, but the expectation and the goal hasn’t changed.”

Xenia heads into 2023 having positioned itself as one of the top programs in the Miami Valley League. The Buccaneers also find themselves needing to replace several record setting talents on both side of the ball.

Gone are Trei’Shaun Sanders, Jamell Smith, and Tremell Wright, who together led the team in rushing, receiving, and numerous defensive categories. Taking over will be numerous players looking to step into their roles. Lee should play a role in the team’s success, along with Elijah Johnson, Louis Freeman, and Juan Underwood to just name a few from both sides of the ball.

“We lost some great players from last year,” Gavin McManus said, who will start at quarterback for a third straight season. “That motivates us to show everyone that team was them and this team is us. It’s our job to show people how good this team is and not be last year’s.”

One mindset that seems to be shared by everyone in the Xenia program is how they believe they win: Playing together.

McManus said the outside noise of expectations is tough to block, but he feels the team has already done a good job focusing on becoming its own group in preseason practices and not letting it be on their mind.

“If we don’t take a selflessness approach to what we do on a consistent basis and put in the work that’s required to have success, that’s where we’ll struggle,” head coach Maurice Harden said.

“Work together, come together, also work hard,” Lee said.

Xenia will open its season against Beavercreek with a bit of grandeur as the new grandstand and lighting fixtures at Doug Adams Stadium are experienced as part of the offseason renovations at the facility. The road to potentially another MVL title sees Xenia only host one team (Troy) which finished above .500 record in league play a year ago.

Harden said he feels the team was blessed to have its 2022 campaign play out as it did but didn’t feel it ended the way everyone wanted and it’s a feeling which can’t help but stick around in the back of his mind. For the 2023 Buccaneers to be successful and not look back at its 10-0 mark as their culmination, he said the team will need to accept the challenge it faces of playing with the target on its back instead of having a chip on its shoulder.

“We don’t want to finish our season here in Xenia, we want to finish it in Canton,” Harden said. “In order to do that, you have to make sure you continue to stay process driven, not focus on the results, let last year be last year and be present on what you’re doing right now.”


Xenia Buccaneers

Coach: Maurice Harden (3rd year, 16-6)

2022 record: 10-1 (MVL champions, first round D-II playoffs); Points Per Game: 40.5 (Off.) 12.7 (Def.)

What to expect: Xenia is transitioning from the role of the hunter to being targeted each week and expecting to get every opponent’s best game. That will happen after going undefeated and running through your league the season prior. Xenia will try to win consecutive league titles for the first time since 2018-19 during its final GWOC season before the latter came as a member of the reformed MVL.

Key Players: Ronnie Butler, Jr., LB (108 tkls, 46 solo, 5 sacks, 11.5 TFL, 1 FF); Gabe Funk, Sr., OL (Appalachian State commit); Elijah Johnson, Sr., RB (73 car., 543 yards, 6 TD); Trenton Lee, Sr., DB (46 tkls, 24 solo, .5 sacks, .5 TFL, 1 INT, 6 deflections); Gavin McManus, Jr., QB (123-177 passing, 1,740 yards, 20 TD, 7 INT); Juan Underwood, Sr., WR (20 rec. 181 yards)

Captains: Ronnie Butler, Louis Freeman, Gavin McManus, Kaleb Martin, Gunnar Stephan


Aug. 17 — BEAVERCREEK — 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 — at West Carrollton — 7 p.m.

Sept. 1 — SIDNEY — 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 — at Stebbins — 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — BUTLER — 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — at Fairborn — 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 — TROY — 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 — at Piqua — 7 p.m.

Oct. 13 — GREENVILLE — 7 p.m.

Oct. 20 — at Tippecanoe — 7 p.m.

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.

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