Even a down year for Worthington's two high school football teams hasn't taken the luster off this matchup.
Worthington Kilbourne, 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the OCC-Central Division, looks to extend its winning streak over Thomas Worthington to three games when the two teams meet Friday at Dow Nelson Field.
"It's kind of like our Ohio State-Michigan game," Kilbourne coach Vince Trombetti said. "Anytime you're playing a rival, you throw out the records and you know you're going to get your opponent's best shot."
After posting their first non-losing season since 1999 last year, Thomas has struggled with injuries and is 3-6 and 1-5. The Cardinals hope to gain some momentum heading into the offseason.
"Winning that last game of the year changes the dynamic," Thomas coach Scott Gordon said. "It keeps the team excited and adds that feeling of accomplishment that players can build on going forward."
Gordon said quarterback John Chadwell will play Friday. The senior is recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in a 34-27 win over Westland two weeks ago.
The Thomas offense has had more success with the return of running back Eric Monfort, who missed the first six games with a broken collarbone. The Cardinals are averaging 15 more points per game and are 2-1 when he starts, including a 38-13 victory over Central Crossing last Friday.
"They're a totally different team with him in there," Trombetti said. "He's very explosive and can hurt you if you let him out in space."
Trombetti compared Thomas' wildcat formation to Dublin Coffman's offense. Kilbourne lost to the Shamrocks 38-14 last Friday.
The Wolves' option offense could be without fullback Sheldon Tillman. He was held out of the Coffman game with a shin injury and is still dealing with stiffness.
Quarterbacks Brian Miller and Brandon Randolph have led Kilbourne to 118 points in three wins, but just 72 in six losses.
"Whenever you go up against the option you have to stick to assignment football," Gordon said. "We've got to be selective in the schemes we're running and make sure we apply pressure in their backfield."
Kilbourne won the series' only two meetings - 28-13 last year and 48-3 in 2008.
"There will be a lot of emotion, no question," Gordon said. "A lot of these seniors played against each other or together in the Worthington Youth Booster League and they're looking forward to facing each other one last time."
Thomas' Eric Monfort (27) is congratulated by Eric Sutton last Friday after scoring a touchdown during a 38-13 victory over Central Crossing.
Kilbourne's Chad Ellwood drags down Dublin Coffman quarterback Cole Stoudt last Friday during the Wolves' 38-14 loss.
Despite what the OHSAA calendar may dictate, the postseason actually begins this week for several teams throughout central Ohio.
Just as in playoff football, many teams with postseason aspirations will be one-and-done with a loss during this final week of the regular season.
One coach adopting this philosophy is Groveport High School's Tim Brown. If the Cruisers beat Gahanna on Friday, they will live to play another week. In this case, that would be the opening round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs. A loss would have his players turning in their pads and helmets soon after the game.
"Pretty much you could call this our playoff game to win," Brown said. "We win and we're in. We were in this situation last year and missed the playoffs by two-tenths of a point. But this year we're at home, so we hope that makes a difference."
Last year, the Cruisers finished 6-4 after losing to Gahanna 35-28 in week 10. This season, they are 6-3 and sit ninth in the region after losing to Lancaster 41-14 last Friday. Pickerington North (6-3) is eighth.
The top eight teams in each region make the playoffs.
"In our conference (OCC-Ohio Division), if you get a couple of injuries, it can really take a toll on you," Brown said. "We're not as beaten up as we were last year when we had a lot of linemen hurt. We've just gotten all-league safety Curtis Paige back and we have had some injuries to some of our receivers.
"But when you play tough teams like we have with the Pickerington Centrals, the Lancasters and the Westerville Souths, it's difficult to stay healthy and on track."
Another key matchup is the battle of Hilliard for the OCC-Central title with Darby visiting Davidson. The Panthers are 8-1 with their only loss coming to Dublin Coffman 20-19 in overtime on Oct. 8. Davidson is unbeaten and has won 16 consecutive games going back to a 10-7 loss to Coffman last season.
"This is game 10 with OCC championship implications and playoff implications, but basically if we win, we're in," Darby coach John Santagata said. "If we lose, we need some things to happen in a bunch of different scenarios for us to get in. I'm not familiar with all of those."
The Panthers are sixth in Region 3 with Davidson in second. A victory would bring numerous points their way as well as a likely first-round playoff game at home.
"I really haven't looked into what has to happen," Santagata said. "Pretty much, we're keeping it going one day at a time and one game at a time. We take care of what we can control. That's all we can do."
St. Charles is 5-3 and has lost three consecutive games, but still sits in position to have a home game in the first round. That's only if the Cardinals can stop their slide and defeat Jonathan Alder, which is 8-1, on Friday.
"I think we win and we're in, but weird things happen when you're figuring up playoff spots," said St. Charles coach Jeff Pharion, whose team is fourth in Division II, Region 7. "Right now, we're focusing on playing Jonathan Alder and just let the chips fall where they may."
Last year, the Cardinals were in position to reach their first postseason since 2002, but they traveled to Jonathan Alder and returned home with a 21-10 loss. They finished ninth in Region 7, the same position they held after the 2006 season.
"We have kind of developed a rivalry with (Jonathan Alder) over the past few years, especially when they beat us last year in a game we know we should have won," Pharion said. "We have a lot of players back from last year and they remember that game. Plus, we get to play at home and that helps a lot."
Grandview is 6-3 and still has a chance to reach its first postseason since 2005 despite being 15th in Division V, Region 20. The Bobcats play at home Friday against Harvest Prep, which is 5-4.
"We're not eliminated," Grandview coach Jason Peters said. "We need to win and a whole lot of teams need to lose. At this point, we tell the kids that we have a chance to win seven games, and that's all we can do is win. Whatever happens after that will happen, and that's where we're at."