Olentangy High School football coach Ed Terwilliger wants his team to mimic its opponent this weekend.
The Braves will face a hard-nosed, hard-driving Hilliard Davidson team and its option offense in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal Saturday, Nov. 10, at Upper Arlington. Terwilliger said his team must beat the Wildcats at their own game.
Seeded third in the region, Olentangy opened the playoffs with a 21-17 win over sixth-seeded Dublin Scioto on Nov. 3 to improve to 10-1. Davidson, the seventh seed, upset second-seeded Dublin Coffman 17-14 in the first round Nov. 3 to improve to 9-2.
The Wildcats have won seven consecutive games.
"We have to match them," Terwilliger said. "We have to control the ball and score points, just like they do. We all know what their offense is all about, but their defense is tough, too. Their offense always gets the publicity because of its eight-minute, 15-to-20-play drives.
"The first thing we need to do is match their toughness. From what we have watched on film, we have to match their fundamental skills and techniques as well. If we don't do those two things, we don't have a chance."
Davidson has averaged 31.4 points during its winning streak. Senior E.J. Jennings has rushed for 1,437 yards and 22 touchdowns on 266 carries and junior D.D. Clark has 697 yards rushing and five scores on 116 carries.
"I don't think we did a good job of getting better every day in (preseason) two-a-days," Davidson coach Brian White said. "After the fourth-week (loss to Coffman, 33-10 on Sept. 14), I think we started to understand the importance of practice and getting better each day and each week. The hard work in practice then carried over to Friday nights."
The Wildcats redeemed themselves against Coffman. Jennings rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries and threw a 4-yard halfback pass for a touchdown to tight end Alex Blackenstoe. Davidson's defense also turned in a strong performance, forcing four turnovers, including interceptions by Markus Bailey, Travis Brown and Nick Stull, and holding Coffman to nearly 30 points below its average.
"I don't know if we won as much as we just survived," White said. "We have had to survive and persevere through tough times. I know that when the clock hit zero, we happened to be in front."
Olentangy needed last-second heroics to edge Scioto for its first playoff victory in 13 years. On fourth-and-goal from the Braves' 18-yard line, Scioto wide receiver Mason Matheny caught a pass from quarterback Evan DeMars and was tackled by senior defensive back Ramal Iverson inside the 1 with 12 seconds remaining.
The Braves slowed Scioto's spread offense, limiting the Irish to less than half of their 35.2-point scoring average.
"Obviously, we're excited about the win over a good Scioto team," Terwilliger said. "We can enjoy it while we can, but then reality sets in and we have to get back to work (for Davidson)."
The victory was Olentangy's first in the playoffs in Division I. Its other two playoff wins came in Division II in 1999. That season, the Braves defeated Brookhaven 21-20 in the opening round and Independence 35-21 in a regional semifinal before losing to Uniontown Lake 42-14 in a regional final.
Andrew Horstman leads the Olentangy offense, having completed 80 of 152 passes for 1,346 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. The senior also leads the team in rushing with 975 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Against Scioto, Horstman rushed for 101 yards and one score on 13 carries and was 5-for-13 passing for 162 yards and two scores. Senior Christian Brett had three catches for 140 yards, including touchdowns of 70 and 36 yards.
Iverson added 54 yards on 12 carries and has 432 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the season. Senior Luke Hartline has 226 yards rushing with 10 scores on 61 carries.
"They are definitely the biggest team we have played this season," White said. "And they match that size with athleticism at their skill positions."
Olentangy is averaging 31.4 points and allowing 13.8. The Braves are allowing 92.6 yards rushing and are averaging 209 yards on the ground.
Davidson is averaging 272.5 yards rushing and 24.8 points. The Wildcats are allowing an average of 13.9 points.
"It's well documented who they are and what they do," Terwilliger said of Davidson, which won state titles in 2006 and 2009. "It took them a couple of weeks to get things going, but they are the same team that they always are."
The winner will play top-seeded Hilliard Darby (11-0) or fourth-seeded Pickerington North (10-1) in the regional final Nov. 17.