The Canal Winchester High School football team faces its toughest test to date when it plays host to Amanda-Clearceek in a MSL-Buckeye Division contest Friday.

The Canal Winchester High School football team faces its toughest test to date when it plays host to Amanda-Clearceek in a MSL-Buckeye Division contest Friday.

"We've seen a lot of good teams, but all the way around, they're going to be the best team we've seen to date," said coach Phil Mauro, whose team improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the league with a 27-10 win over Fairfield Union last Friday.

A traditionally strong program, Amanda-Clearcreek combined to go 9-11 the last two seasons, including two losses to the Indians. But it appears as though the Aces have returned to prominence as they are 5-0 and 2-0 after defeating Circleville 36-0 last Friday.

The winner of Friday's game will hold an early advantage in the race for the MSL-Buckeye title.

Though Canal Winchester has held that advantage the last two seasons, the Indians know they can't take Amanda-Clearcreek lightly.

"This game means a lot to us," Indians wide receiver Tyler Thompson said. "Amanda-Clearcreek is coming in pretty big at 5-0, and we're trying to win the league this year. Hopefully this will be the next step for us."

Speed and solid tackling have been major factors for Canal Winchester's defense. The Indians are allowing an average of 10.8 points per game.

The primary challenge for the Indians' defense, which is led by linebackers Zack Hitchens and Ryan Rose, will be trying to stop Amanda-Clearcreek's Garren Dilley, a 240-pound running back who had 675yards rushing through four games.

"Everything starts with Garren Dilley. He's a real quality back for them," Mauro said. "You just need to get hats to the ball. He's very powerful, but also he's deceptively fast, so you have to make sure you do a good job and be sound in your defensive scheme. They can also hurt you with the play-action because of how good Dilley is."

"I think it's pretty obvious why they're so good," Thompson said, referring to Dilley. "Their running game is excellent this year. And the rest of the team has really good size, too."

The best way to contain Dilley is to keep him off the field. Canal Winchester's offense, led by Thompson and running back Mike Mainella, is being counted on to keep the Aces' offense on the sideline with long, time-consuming drives.

Thompson and Mainella combined for 186 yards rushing in the victory over Fairfield Union.

Even though the strength of Canal Winchester's offense is its running game, the Indians have been strong in the passing game as well.

Against Fairfield Union, quarterback Justin Whitlatch completed 64.2 percent of his pass attempts and connected with Cody Ferguson on an 11-yard touchdown strike.

"We want to take care of the football, and that's critical," Mauro said. "Especially in a game like this, we need to take care of our possessions. We need to do a good job up front and sustain our blocks."

Canal Winchester defeated Amanda-Clearcreek 21-7 last season and 27-22 in 2007.

"I think they want some revenge," Thompson said. "We've been in their way the past few years, so they want to get a win against us at our home field."

Next game

AMANDA-CLEARCREEK

at CANAL WINCHESTER

•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

•Last meeting: 2008, Canal Winchester 21-7

•Amanda-Clearcreek (5-0, 2-0 MSL-Buckeye Division) to date: Defeated Newark Catholic 14-0; def. Chillicothe Zane Trace 47-0; def. Liberty Union 16-10; def. Logan Elm 37-6; def. Circleville 36-0

•Canal Winchester (4-1, 2-0 MSL-Buckeye Division) to date: Def. Bexley 43-0; def. Jonathan Alder 49-14; lost to Westerville Central 17-13; def. Circleville 38-13; def. Fairfield Union 27-10.

•Top Aces: Jarrad Bennett (QB), Caleb Carpenter (K), Max Corcoran (DB), Garren Dilley (RB), Tyler Genders (LB) and Tyler Gierhart (RB)

•Top Indians: Drew Black (DB), Zack Hitchens (LB), Mike Mainella (RB), Conrad Rosch (CB), Ryan Rose (LB), Tyler Thompson (WR), Justin Whitlatch (QB) and Michael Young (OL)