Heading into its regular-season finale Friday at Darby, the Hilliard Davidson High School football team is looking to keep its momentum going in the right direction as it returns to the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.

Heading into its regular-season finale Friday at Darby, the Hilliard Davidson High School football team is looking to keep its momentum going in the right direction as it returns to the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.

The Wildcats beat Upper Arlington 19-0 last Friday to improve to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Central Division. They could win a share of the league title with a victory over Darby if Upper Arlington upsets Dublin Coffman on Friday.

Darby lost to Pickerington Central 48-0 last Friday to drop to 3-5 overall and is 0-4 in the OCC-Central.

But even though the Panthers have lost four consecutive games and are out of the hunt for a Region 3 playoff spot and the OCC-Central title, Davidson quarterback/tailback Jake Trubiano said his team understands that Darby will be motivated to play hard.

"Our coaches keep telling us that we'll need to be ready to play hard because this game could make Darby's season, and we know they're going to play hard," Trubiano said. "This is definitely an important game to both of us, no matter what our records are, because it's a rivalry game."

Although Davidson running backs Spencer Delande (back) and Rico Butler (ankle) were unable to play because of injuries and Trubiano played sparingly at running back with flu-like symptoms last Friday, the option offense still managed to rush for 237 yards.

Jimmy Curtis made his third start at quarterback and sophomore running back Tyler Talbott took on a bigger role, rushing for 101 yards on 25 carries.

Trubiano is expected to be back close to full strength, but coach Brian White said the return of Butler and Delande is questionable.

If both Butler and Delande are healthy, Trubiano will return to the quarterback position.

Regardless of who plays in the backfield, Trubiano said the Wildcats will rely on their offensive linemen to dominate the line of scrimmage against Darby's 4-3 defense.

"Our whole offensive line has done a great job of getting a big surge and making holes for our running backs all season," Trubiano said. "We want to set the tone by being physical and running the ball on them."

Darby's defense is looking to bounce back after giving up a season-high 563 yards last Friday.

Defensively, the Panthers are led by linebacker Dennis Coyne (61 tackles), linebacker Matt Keller (47 tackles), end Nate Bucci (37 tackles, four sacks), linebacker Eric Hajjar (36 tackles), cornerback Alex Day (38 tackles, three interceptions) and end Haroon Quadri (25 tackles, 3.5 sacks).

"They run the option, but they also have a good power running game and they have thrown the ball well when they've needed to," Darby coach John Santagata said of the Wildcats. "We have to stop their option first, which is easier said than done. Their offensive line is good, so we've got to be physical at the line of scrimmage and stop them from moving the chains in chunks."

Santagata said he is looking to revive his multiple-slot back offense with a more balanced attack after the Panthers rushed for 39 yards on 28 carries and passed for only 19 yards last Friday.

Darby has averaged only 5.3 points over its past four games.

Fullback Matt Cyrus has rushed for 600 yards and 11 touchdowns on 126 carries, slotback John Casey has netted 260 yards and two scores on 33 carries, and slotback Elijah Tavera has totaled 203 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries.

Quarterback Matt Allen is 50-for-101 passing for 615 yards, with five touchdowns and four interceptions. Allen has rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 63 carries.

Darby's leading receivers are Tyler Ison (11 catches, 136 yards), Seth Fisher (11 catches, 118 yards) and Marcus Ewald (10 catches, 155 yards, three touchdowns).

"I would compare Davidson's defense to the best we've seen all year, including Dublin Coffman," Santagata said. "They line up in a 4-3 just like us and they're extremely sound. We have to do a variety of things, throwing and running, to move the ball on them. To have any chance of being successful in this game, we have to play mistake-free football. We can't afford turnovers."

Davidson's defense has been tough all season, giving up an average of 9.8 points per game and producing two shutouts.

Led by linebackers Kenny Klatt and Justin Schick, and defensive end Sky Strahler, the Wildcats held UA to minus-1 yard rushing and 98 total yards last Friday.

Aware that Darby is 3-0 when Cyrus has rushed for more than 100 yards, the Wildcats' first priority is to shut down the Panthers' running game.

"We feel like if we can make teams one-dimensional, whether it's having to throw or pass, it's better for us," White said. "They have a great weapon in Cyrus and they have a good slotback (Tavera) and a good quarterback, too, so we'll do our best to defend the entire field."