A 1986 St. Charles Preparatory School graduate who has been on the football staff at his alma mater since 2000, coach Jeff Pharion remembers well the only time his program faced Pickerington North.

A 1986 St. Charles Preparatory School graduate who has been on the football staff at his alma mater since 2000, coach Jeff Pharion remembers well the only time his program faced Pickerington North.

"We played them in 2003, and they won it in the fourth quarter," Pharion said.

North, which was tied at 8 with the Cardinals heading into the fourth quarter before winning 20-8 in week seven of its inaugural 2003 season, travels to St. Charles on Friday, Aug. 24.

Since the teams met nine years ago, both have made one playoff appearance but neither has a postseason win. North, which went 8-2 a year ago to finish ninth in Division I, Region 3 -- one spot from the postseason -- has a roster that features three Division I recruits.

Jake Butt (TE/DL) has verbally committed to Michigan, Chris Huhn (OL) will play for Western Kentucky and Godwin Igwebuike (RB/DB) will play for Northwestern.

Pharion expects that trio, along with a roster that includes returnees such as senior Roland Ladipo (RB), junior Dylan Weigel (RB/LB) and senior Warren Stoddard (LB), to provide a tough matchup.

"We're happy with the progress we've made on offense and defense so far," said Pharion, whose team went 4-6 a year ago. "We've got a very positive spirit. I've seen Pickerington North and they're a talented team. We're going to have to play our best to beat them."

According to Pharion, the Cardinals will lean on a running game that includes seniors Sean Fitzmartin and John Radney. Fitzmartin rushed for 795 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

Junior Ryan Bailey has taken over full time at quarterback after starting two games a year ago and will run the Cardinals' spread offense.

St. Charles has three returning starters on defense, led by linebacker Phil LaFleur.

Igwebuike rushed for 1,046 yards and Butt had 27 catches and scored seven touchdowns to lead North last season. Senior Mason Olszewski is the Panthers' new quarterback.

"I feel great about our team," Huhn said. "We've had high-intensity reps. Everybody knows about Jake and Godwin, but Mason is going to be a great quarterback and Roland Ladipo is going to be a factor."