The Granville High School football team's opening opponent in the Division III playoffs is one which hasn't been throw on or against much this season.

The sixth-seeded Blue Aces play Saturday in a Region 11 quarterfinal at third-seeded Poland Seminary, which allowed an average of 76 yards passing as it went 8-2 in the regular season. Opposing quarterbacks completed just 46 combined passes but threw only about 12 to 15 times on average against the Bulldogs, who like Granville are making a second consecutive postseason appearance.
"They haven't given much of anything," Granville coach Mike Hensley said.

In fact, the Bulldogs gave up an average of 9.6 points, and only one opponent scored more than 14 points against their defense. Undefeated Steubenville, which is the top seed in Division IV, Region 13, won 39-20 on Oct. 10. The Bulldogs have posted three shutouts.

Like Granville, which also is 8-2, the Bulldogs seemed to have rebounded from two consecutive losses. They also lost to playoff-qualifier Warren Howland 10-7 on Oct. 3 before winning their final two games. That included stopping Canfield's 30-game home winning streak in the regular-season finale Oct. 24 with a 14-7 triumph.

The Blue Aces have won three in a row since losses to playoff-bound Bexley (20-17 on Sept. 26) and Licking Valley (48-28 on Oct. 3). A 35-20 win Oct. 17 at Heath kept those Bulldogs out of the playoffs, continuing Licking County's longest postseason drought (18 seasons).

A big reason for the late charge was running back Tyler Link, who accounted for nine touchdowns and rushed for more than 350 yards in the three victories. That included 154 yards and four touchdowns as the Blue Aces topped Lakewood 36-20 in their finale Oct. 24, when he also had three receptions out of the backfield totaling 64 yards. For the season, he has rushed for 631 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 31 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns.

Link started in the secondary his first three seasons while backing up Zac Lemon, a four-year starter who graduated last year, as the lone running back in the spread offense. Quarterback Cory Becher has thrown for a single-season program-record 2,577 yards and 31 touchdowns. He'll be more effective against a stout defense if Link is able to move the ball on the ground, especially early.

"We basically went to the spread so we could run the ball better. We've always been able to throw it," said Hensley, whose team is looking to win a playoff game for the first time. "We struggled a little early on with consistency but Tyler's been coming on strong here the past few weeks."

The winner advances to a regional semifinal Nov. 8 against Licking Valley or Rayland Buckeye Local, meaning a fourth meeting in two seasons between the Blue Aces and Panthers is possible. The Panthers have won the other three, including 49-21 in a regional quarterfinal last year, and have won six consecutive games in the series overall dating to 2003.