Two tough challenges stand between the Dublin Coffman High School football team and its goal of a fifth consecutive postseason appearance, and seventh in eight seasons.
The Shamrocks are 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Central Division entering a home game Friday, Oct. 25, against Olentangy Liberty, which is 4-4 and 3-2.
Coffman has won four games in a row.
"We're getting a little healthier and I think our kids are starting to grasp the schemes that we are trying to implement," said coach Mark Crabtree, whose team finishes the regular season Nov. 1 at Upper Arlington, which is 4-4 and 3-2. "I think we can improve from each game out, which is what you want to do anyway."
Coffman was projected to be 16th in Division I, Region 2 in this week's computer ratings. The top 16 teams qualify for the playoffs.
The Patriots, who have not made the playoffs the past three seasons, lost 28-7 on Oct. 18 to unbeaten Hilliard Davidson, which leads the OCC-Central at 5-0 and is ranked sixth in the Division I state poll.
"Hopefully we learned about how to play at a high level for four quarters from the Davidson game," Liberty coach Steve Hale said.
Senior running back Daryian Davies rushed for 112 yards and one touchdown. Senior quarterback Matt Kessler was 15 of 28 passing for 192 yards and senior wide receiver Dan Rhinehart had five receptions for 98 yards.
"(The Patriots) run their scheme pretty efficiently," Crabtree said. "Their scheme is simple as far as what they are doing and the volume of plays, but they are tough to defend because of their high level of execution.
"They also run a 3-5-3 defense with some big guys up front and some really good athletes in the secondary. They have a good, solid team."
The Shamrocks are coming off a 52-0 rout of Westland on Oct. 18, as senior running back Aaron Pape rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and junior running back Dre Kendrick had 90 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Junior quarterback Ben Beckett was 6-for-8 passing for 88 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver C.J. Saunders. Sophomore quarterback Gunnar Hoak was 7-for-9 for 116 yards with a 28-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Chase Granlund.
Junior wide receiver Kyle Marcinick had three catches for 72 yards and sophomore running back Stephen Headings ran for 61 yards on five carries, including a 56-yard touchdown.
"Coffman is a very good team and ... solid in the running and passing games," Hale said. "Kendrick is very good at running back and we'll need to keep him under control."
Jerome set to battle Wildcats
Jerome coach Mark Hundley believes the record of his team's next opponent, Westerville South, is deceiving.
South, which plays host to the Celtics on Friday, Oct. 25, in an OCC-Cardinal game, is 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the league. The Wildcats, who have lost their last four games, are averaging 31.6 points but are allowing an average of 31.8. They have given up an average of 47.3 points during their losing streak.
In a 54-35 loss to Westerville Central on Oct. 18, South's defense allowed 584 total yards, including 429 rushing, which seems to bode well for the Celtics' wing-T, power ground attack.
"Even though Westerville South's record is not as it usually is, they are very athletic and dangerous," Hundley said. "They have two or three players that can take it all the way at any moment. Their quarterback (Timmy Bates) throws the ball well."
Bates leads the Wildcats' spread offense, having completed 112 of 206 passes for 1,576 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Running back Darien Miller has rushed for 1,032 yards and 20 touchdowns on 173 carries and Torrodd Carter is South's top receiver with 54 receptions for 841 yards and six touchdowns.
Jerome improved to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Cardinal with a 30-13 win over Canal Winchester on Oct. 18.
The Celtics amassed 369 total yards against the Indians, including 264 on the ground.
Running back Steve Kidwell, who missed the previous three games because of a high ankle sprain, returned to the lineup and rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Kidwell leads the team in rushing with 534 yards and six touchdowns on 82 carries.
Quarterback Alex Cline completed eight of 16 passes for 105 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against the Indians. He connected with running back Ian Beith on a 25-yard touchdown pass and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nate Szekely, who had five catches for 66 yards.
Jerome is 2-5 all-time against South, but the teams have split the past two meetings. The Wildcats won 21-20 in overtime last season after the Celtics won 34-31 in double overtime in 2011.
Irish brace for Darby's running game
Scioto not only will be facing its second consecutive opponent from Hilliard when it travels to Bradley on Friday, Oct. 25, but for the second time in as many weeks, it will be going against an opponent that features a strong running game.
Bradley, which defeated Westerville North 21-20 on Oct. 18 to improve to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Cardinal, boasts an offense that is averaging 271.9 yards rushing and 30.6 points.
The Jaguars' option attack includes three running threats in quarterback Tommy Horn (650 yards on 116 carries, 7 TDs) and running backs T.J. Martin (556 yards on 114 carries, 6 TDs) and Trey Anderson (554 yards on 34 carries, 5 TDs).
Horn also can hurt opposing defenses with his arm, as he threw two touchdown passes against North.
Scioto allowed 238 yards rushing in a 28-17 loss to Hilliard Darby on Oct. 18 and is allowing an average of 25 points.
The Irish, who are 5-3 and 3-2, enter the game against Bradley averaging 31.1 points. Senior quarterback Nathan Densel leads their offense with 1,970 total yards. He has completed 144 of 231 passes for 1,603 yards and 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions and has rushed for 367 yards on 90 carries.
Darius McDonald, who has a split role as a wide receiver and running back, has rushed for 367 yards on 90 carries and has caught 43 passes for 409 yards.
He scored on a 90-yard kickoff return against Darby.
Bradley is allowing 24.8 points per game.
Scioto survived a wild finish in last year's meeting, as Horn scored on a 16-yard run as time expired to pull the Jaguars within one point. But instead of attempting the extra point to force overtime, Bradley coach Mike LaParo decided to go for the two-point conversion and the victory.
However, Horn's pass fell incomplete, giving the Irish a 28-27 win.
Scioto was projected to be sixth in the Division II, Region 5 computer ratings released by the OHSAA on Oct. 22. The top eight teams in the region qualify for the playoffs.