The Big Walnut High School football team opens the Division III playoffs against an opponent that it faced last year in the postseason.

The Golden Eagles, who are seeded seventh in Region 10, play at 7 p.m. Saturday at second-seeded Clyde. They defeated the Fliers 21-14 in a regional final last season en route to winning the state championship.

Big Walnut is making its third consecutive playoff appearance. It closed the regular season with a 48-7 win over Franklin Heights last Friday to improve to 8-2 overall and earn the OCC-Capital Division title at 6-0. It has won seven in a row.

Clyde, which is a member of the Sandusky Bay Conference, improved to 9-1 with a 67-0 win over Oak Harbor last Friday and also has won seven in a row. Its only loss was to Bellevue 36-20 on Sept. 5. Bellevue is the fourth seed in Region 10.

"It should be an interesting game," Golden Eagles coach Scott Wetzel said. "There's a lot of tradition at both schools as far as football goes, so it ought to be a good game. We're not the same teams. We lost 20 seniors from last year and I know they lost a lot, too. They lost a lot of skill players."

Clyde lost eight starters on defense from a year ago to graduation as well as its top six receivers, which included its tight end and some running backs. But the Fliers returned quarterback Alex Gillett, who threw for more than 2,700 yards last season and was named Division III Offensive co-Player of the Year.

This season, Gillett has thrown for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns and has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 27 touchdowns. In last season's playoff matchup, Gillett, who has received a scholarship offer from
Toledo, completed 13 of 36 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown and rushed for only 14 yards on 10 carries.

"He's a nice athlete," Wetzel said. "He's put up some impressive numbers. He runs a lot more than he did last year. We thought last year he was far and away the best quarterback we saw all year long, and now he's brought another dimension to his game with his running attack. He's pretty fast.

"They're a fundamentally sound football team and their quarterback is obviously their centerpiece. He's the real deal. If we don't stop him, we're in for a long night."

Clyde coach Marc Gibson switched from the pro-style offense he employed last year to a spread offense this season to utilize Gillett's athleticism.

"He's as real a deal as you're going to get," Gibson said. "Last year he became the school's single-season passing leader and this year he became the single-season rushing leader. He's always been a very good athlete, but he's gotten faster over the last year. And being the best athlete, we changed our offense because we wanted the ball in his hands as much as possible. I believe you should base your offense on the personnel you have."

Other key players on the Fliers' offense, which is averaging 44.4 points per game, are running back Kade Kramer, wide receivers Kyle Smetzler and Jeremy Hohenstein and lineman Jarad Branski, who made first-team all-state last year. Kramer has rushed for more than 800 yards and Smetzler and Hohenstein have more than 20 receptions.

"Our best defense is to have their offense off the field," Wetzel said. "If we can do that, we should be OK."

Clyde is the highest-scoring team Big Walnut has faced. The Golden Eagles' defense, which is led by linebacker Will Studlien, strong safety Nick Heiden and linemen Kalven Baer and Colton Griffis, is allowing an average of 11.2 points per game.

Opponents are averaging 14.7 points against Clyde's defense, which includes Branski at end, Gillett at cornerback, linebacker Drew Beebe and safety Tyler Ludrowsky. Branski leads the team in tackles and sacks and Gillett has a team-high four interceptions.

"They are the defending state champions, but they aren't the same team," Gibson said of Big Walnut. "But I'm sure they have something to prove and want to defend their title the best they can. I told our kids that we have to be cautious of that."