In the battle for first place in the OCC-Cardinal Division, there is a distinct difference in the way the Dublin Scioto and Hilliard Darby high school football teams go about putting up points.
The no-huddle, hurry-up offense for the Irish, under the direction of senior quarterback Evan DeMars, has kept defenses on their heels while averaging 266.7 yards passing per game.
The Panthers' rushing attack, led by senior quarterback Chase Longwell, is equally as potent in averaging 296.3 yards.
Scioto is averaging 39.4 points per game and Darby is scoring 38.7 per contest.
"We like to run the football, control the clock as much as possible and limit how much their offense is out there on the field," said Darby coach John Santagata, whose team plays host to Scioto on Friday, Oct. 12. "They're going to try and keep our offense off the field. They've got a quarterback who has the ability to scramble and make a throw and they back that up with a good running back in (Will) Houston."
The matchup brings together two teams in the top five in the Division I, Region 3 computer rankings; the top eight qualify for the playoffs.
Darby, at 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Cardinal, is fourth in Region 3 and Scioto (6-1, 4-0) is fifth.
The Panthers last reached the postseason in 2010, when they lost to Springfield 22-7 in a first-round game. The Irish last appeared in the playoffs in 2005, when they were defeated by Louisville 28-23 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal.
"I think we're a confident team right now that feels like the only thing that can stop us right now is ourselves," said Scioto receiver Tim Shadoan, who has caught 51 passes for 640 yards and seven touchdowns. "Darby is very good with a bunch of athletes, but we've got to rise up to the challenge."
Darby remained unbeaten with a 28-14 victory over Westerville South on Oct. 5.
Longwell rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. For the season, he's rushed 88 times for 601 yards and eight touchdowns and completed 35 of 56 passes for 634 yards and seven touchdowns.
"Last week was definitely a big win for us and I think it proved that we could come ready to play with the same dedication that we've had this season," Longwell said. "This week we're going to try and come in with a game plan and stick to it."
Houston was the star in Scioto's 42-23 win over Dublin Jerome on Oct. 5 with 144 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 24 carries. He's totaled 764 yards and 11 touchdowns on 154 carries.
DeMars has completed 158 of 221 passes for 1,861 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.
"Our kids have a good confidence right now," said Scioto coach Karl Johnson, whose team's only loss is to undefeated Dublin Coffman (34-14 on Aug. 31). "We've played some good teams and we've been up and down, but we haven't panicked."
Like Scioto, Darby isn't short on talent at the skill positions.
Senior slotback/wide receiver Caleb Day is a University of Illinois recruit who has rushed for 302 yards and six touchdowns on 32 carries. He also has caught 21 passes for 350 yards and five touchdowns.
Scioto also must worry about fullbacks Hayden VanKirk (365 yards, 70 carries, 5 touchdowns) and Cameron Kohl (156 yards, 21 carries, 4 touchdowns). DeMars' other top receivers are Darius McDonald (37 catches, 336 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Mason Matheny (27 catches, 323 yards, 1 touchdown).