SOUTH ORANGE/MAPLEWOOD, NJ -- Despite considerable struggles against a rigorous schedule the last couple of seasons, Columbia High School football head coach Gary Mobley is hopeful that the Cougars will be able to improve upon the 1-8 record they posted last season.

Columbia's 2019 season starts on the road against Newark Central this Saturday at 1 p.m.

Junior Nick Aaron will take over at quarterback in the team's I offense this season. Aaron will have one of the better wideouts in Essex County at his disposal in Abdoul Kone, a senior who also plays outside linebacker on defense. Kone has been recruited by Towson University and the University of Albany.

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Junior flanker Michael Caines will also be a target for Aaron, who will try to establish the ground game with sophomore tailback Stephen Henry.

Senior Bernie Mercier, at one guard spot, and junior tackle Justin Anderson are the most seasoned blockers offering protection for Aaron and holes for Henry.

Despite the presence of a new varsity quarterback operating the attack, Mobley nonetheless has said, "Experience is one of our strengths this season."

Junior WR/DB Kai Arrington, senior TE/DE Hudson Grumieaux and junior WR/DB Owen McGuffey are other players on whom Mobley will be counting. Most of these players will be asked to play both offense and defense. While there is talent on the roster, Mobley admits that depth is a concern.

Columbia's last winning season was nine years ago, although the Cougars posted a 5-5 record in 2015. Mobley is hopeful the team can at least approach that level again this season.

"I am optimisitic that we will be highly competitive," said Mobley, whose goal of competitiveness will be more attainable with improved special teams play.

Sept. 7: at Newark Central, 1
Sept. 13: (H) Memorial, 7
Sept. 20: at Bloomfield, 7
Sept. 27: (H) West Orange, 7
Oct. 5: at Montclair, 2:30
Oct. 11: (H) Newark East Side, 7
Oct. 18: at Bayonne, 7
Oct. 25: at East Orange, 7
Nov. 1: (H) Livingston, 7