Olentangy Liberty High School football coach Steve Hale and his staff prepared this week for what they realize is an improving Central Crossing team.
When the Patriots play host to the Comets on Friday, Sept. 20, in the OCC-Central Division opener for both teams, they also will be looking to get back to .500 by bouncing back from a 31-14 loss Sept. 13 to visiting Uniontown Lake.
Both the Patriots and Comets are 1-2.
"Central Crossing is a spread team," Hale said. "They're doing a nice job, they keep getting better. They're going to move the ball around and do some things. Their quarterback (Luke Duncan) runs the ball real well. The defense will get after you a little bit. They've gotten considerably better."
Central Crossing earned its first win by defeating host Brookhaven 10-7 on Sept. 13.
"That was probably one of the bigger wins in school history," coach Chris Harr said. "You walk in there (at Brookhaven) and you look over and, like all good programs, they have the big board with the (2004 Division II) state championship and all their playoff years and all those titles. It's just great for our kids to get a signature win."
Last season, Liberty defeated Central Crossing 56-34.
Central Crossing is running a spread offense for the second consecutive season, and it has led to an average of 22.3 points in the first three games. Last season, the Comets averaged a program-best 21.4 points.
Duncan has completed 40 of 72 passes for 501 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The senior also leads the team in rushing with 353 yards and three touchdowns on 61 carries.
Duncan's top targets have been Noah Stephens, who has 12 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns and Michael Traversa, who has nine catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Shane Maxey (DL) leads the team in tackles with 21.
For Liberty, senior quarterback Matt Kessler, a first-year starter, has completed 45 of 76 passes for 448 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Running back Nick Durtschi has 11 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns, and Daryian Davies (196 yards) and Durtschi (195) lead a balanced rushing game.
"(Davies is) pretty good," Harr said. "We're definitely going to have to contain him. Offensively, they're similar to us."
Against Lake, the Patriots fell behind 28-7 in the third quarter. After losing two consecutive games, Hale said his team is looking forward to league play.
"It's going to be a challenging league," he said. "There's obviously some really good teams in there and we're going to have to go out and be ready to compete every week."
Harr said his team also is preparing for a challenging league schedule.
"After beating a good program like Brookhaven, our team realizes the sky is the limit if you work hard," he said.