As the coaches for the Brookhaven and Worthington Kilbourne high school football teams reflected back on the regular season, pride was an underlying theme.

For Brookhaven's Anthony Thornton, he was proud his team "bought into what we've been selling" regarding its ability to reestablish its identity centered around defense and physical and intense play.

For Kilbourne's Vince Trombetti, he was proud of his team's unselfishness.

"We didn't have any issues like someone being upset they're not getting the ball more," Trombetti said. "The kids are playing for each other and that's very satisfying."

Brookhaven plays host to Kilbourne at 7 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.

Kilbourne's last playoff appearance was 2005 when the Wolves reached a regional final before losing to Hilliard Davidson 21-14. Brookhaven qualified for the playoffs last season but lost the opener to Groveport 41-27. It won
the Division II state title in 2004.

Last year's finale was the final game at Brookhaven for coach Tom Blake, who retired after five seasons with the Bearcats. Not only was Thornton, a former quarterback and later an assistant to Blake, Brookhaven's new
coach, but the Bearcats started the season with new players in all but three positions on offense and three on defense.

"The kids have bought into our style of play and they've done it with not a lot of questions asked right from day one," Thornton said. "We have a young and inexperienced group but they really want a shot at it."

Brookhaven's defense has allowed the Bearcats a "shot at it" as they've posted shutouts in four of their last five games. Brookhaven plays a 4-3 defense led by linebackers Galvin Bonner (5-8, 200), Anthony Johnson (6-0,
185) and Demetrus Johnson (5-11, 225) and defensive back Ryland Ward. Yet it was Brookhaven's defensive line, which averages 221 pounds, that has impressed Trombetti.

"They really come off the ball and get up the field," said Trombetti of the Bearcats defensive line of Derrick Bryant, D.J. Greggs, Karlonte Hagens and Chris Thigpen.

"We're going to have to pull and trap and try misdirection a little bit. We have to be patient. The big thing is to continue to pop out three to four yards a play and keep the ball out of their hands."

Kilbourne's offense is similar to Davidson as both teams run the triple option. Unlike Davidson, Kilbourne has shown its ability to throw the ball with quarterback Aaron Kingcade. In a 30-20 win over Dublin Coffman Oct. 17,
Kingcade had touchdown passes of 78 and 59 yards, both to Alan Tobey.

Kilbourne's running game is led by Kingcade. Last Friday, he rushed for three touchdowns in a 43-3 win over Thomas Worthington. For the season, the Wolves' three-year starter at quarterback has 561 yards rushing and 12
touchdowns on 121 carries.

"We want to stop their running game," Thornton said. "We've got to start with that first. From that standpoint, we can force them to be one-dimensional and that will play into our favor. We've got to stop the run first."

Brookhaven's offense is also predicated on the run, led by quarterback Cameron Brown and running back Andrew Herrell.

"It starts with their quarterback," Trombetti said. "One thing that's surprised me about Brookhaven is how much they're throwing the ball. He can get back and unload the ball down the field. When they are handing off, their
running back goes east-west then sees a hole and takes it north-south. They have a lot of speed."

Kilbourne employs a 6-1 defensive front with Cincinnati verbal commitment Dan Sprague (6-3, 255) at linebacker and Josh Buda (5-11, 222) and Luke Bott (6-0, 183) leading the defensive line.

"I can't wait for (Saturday)," Buda said. "This is what I've worked for for the last four years, and I'm excited."

Buda and his fellow defensive players will have to prepare to not only face an offense that has speed, but can play power football, too.

"(Opposing) defenses have a lot to prepare for and we take real pleasure in that," Thornton said. "Our quarterback is our trigger man and we've been able to run the ball very well. We proved that (last Friday) when our
second-string running back (Antwonne White) had 118 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries."

In that 38-0 win over Mifflin last Friday, Brown threw two touchdown passes and Hassan Coleman showcased the Bearcats' speed as he returned the opening kickoff 71 yards for a score.

Since a 24-21 loss to Hilliard Davidson on Aug. 29, Brookhaven has won eight consecutive games. Kilbourne has won three in a row after losing two of three games in the middle of the season to Upper Arlington (34-9 loss on
Sept. 19) and Davidson (17-10 on Oct. 3). Last season, the Wolves were also 6-2 entering the final two weeks, but lost both games and missed the playoffs.

"We plateaued at the end of last season," Trombetti said. "This year we haven't done that and we continue to get better every week. Hopefully, we can ride that into the playoffs."