The Dublin Jerome and Olentangy high school football teams will play Friday at Olentangy in a key OCC-Cardinal Division game.

Both lost last Friday - Jerome to Westerville South 54-28 and Olentangy to Olentangy Liberty 21-6 - to drop to 2-1, so a win Friday is vital to keeping alive in the league title race. South is 3-0.
Overall, Jerome is 3-3 and Olentangy is 5-1.

"Other than Westerville South, and even they have some vulnerability, it's going to be hard for anybody to get through our conference without a loss," Jerome coach Mark Hundley said. "We told them if we go out and win the rest of our games, we still have a shot."

"We still have four weeks of football left," Braves coach Ed Terwilliger said. "Things could change plus-minus for a lot of people in the next four weeks."

Before last week, Jerome's 4-4 defense had been able to contain opposing offenses. Hundley is hoping that unit will return to form against Olentangy's spread offense.

Senior quarterback Justin Johnson is the architect behind the Olentangy offense.

He has completed 70 of 133 passes for 1,101 yards and eight touchdowns. Johnson is second on the team in rushing with 232 yards and three touchdowns on 113 carries.

"Jerome looks pretty solid," Johnson said. "They beat Liberty (14-10 on Sept. 19), so we know it's going to be a good game."

Junior Joe Eschenbach leads the Braves in rushing with 448 yards and a touchdown on 113 attempts.

Junior Ben-Michael Welch tops Olentangy in receiving with 16 receptions for 247 yards and a touchdown.

"They're a spread offense," Hundley said. "Their quarterback is a very good runner and probably an even better thrower. They have a couple of running backs that look like they can take it at any moment. They're big up front."

Olentangy, which also features a 4-4 base defense, is preparing to face a diversified Jerome offense.

"Defensively, Olentangy has good size all-around," Hundley said. "They just fly to the football. When there's one guy there, there are probably going to be another seven or eight right behind him."
The Celtics will utilize their tight formation run offense and can also burn opponents with a dangerous spread attack.

Hundley was hoping that senior Cody Burris, who was expected to be the team's leading ground gainer this season, will return to the lineup Friday. He has been out with a broken collarbone since a 42-28 loss to Hilliard Darby on Aug. 29.

Senior quarterback Kevin Jackson has completed 62 of 121 passes for 878 yards and five touchdowns.

"We know that Olentangy is 5-1 and they're a good team," Jackson said. "We know that Olentangy is always good and we're going to have to play our best game to win."

Junior Steve Mehrer has emerged as the Celtics' leading rusher in place of Burris, rushing for 285 yards and six touchdowns on 69 carries.

"I know (Jerome is) very physical," Terwilliger said. "They play a real physical brand of football. They want to come up there and hit you and attack. They attack you on the offensive side and the defensive side. They give you two different offenses that you have to prepare for. Their muddle run game and then they kick it out to spread. You better come ready to play Friday night."

Injuries continue to hit Jerome hard as Hundley noted that at least 15 players could miss Friday's game.

"If we don't get some of these guys back we're going to have to have a lot of young guys stepping up and playing hard," Hundley said.

"We've been practicing those guys all year, so this will be their shot to show what they can do."