The New Albany High School football team lost three times last season, but if it had to point to one that hurt the most, the one that kept the Eagles from making the playoffs, it could be Olentangy Orange.

The New Albany High School football team lost three times last season, but if it had to point to one that hurt the most, the one that kept the Eagles from making the playoffs, it could be Olentangy Orange.

The Eagles play host to Orange on Friday in the third OCC-Capital Division game for both schools.

"That was a game we let get away from us last year," quarterback Bryant Bednarek said of the Eagles' 37-22 loss to Orange. "Our purpose this year is we made a point of trying to get back to the playoffs and that game was one that kept us out of the playoffs."

The Eagles and Orange both went 5-1 in league play last year to share the title. However, the Eagles were left outside the playoff picture, finishing 10th (17.35 points) in the Division II, Region 7 computer ratings. Orange was fourth (21.9) as the top eight teams qualified.

The Eagles have not reached the playoffs since 2006 when they won the Division III, Region 12 championship before losing to Kettering Alter 31-7 in a state semifinal. Making it back has been the focus, and to hammer home the goal of ending the playoff drought, everyone wears a No. 11 practice jersey.

"We want to be playing that 11th week," linebacker Sylvester Hagan said. "We haven't made the playoffs in four years. It's a little reminder of what we're working for."

What made last season's loss to Orange difficult to handle was the fact that the Eagles led late in the game, but hurt themselves with mistakes. Orange took a 24-22 lead with 10 minutes left on a drive sustained by a roughing the punter penalty. The Pioneers scored on their next possession after New Albany fumbled on a punt return deep in its own territory.

"Last year I felt like we worked hard and I felt like they took something away from us," Hagan said. "This is such a big game, especially with it being our homecoming. They're trying to beat us on our homecoming."

The Eagles have won nine consecutive games since losing to Orange. They closed last season with four wins and have opened this year 5-0. The last time New Albany won its first five games was 2005. That season, the Eagles won their first nine games before falling to DeSales 35-14 in a regional semifinal to finish 10-2.

As was the case last season, Orange, which is 2-3, is coming off a loss to Big Walnut, as it lost 23-21 last Friday.

New Albany and Big Walnut lead the OCC-Capital at 2-0, and will meet Oct. 15 at New Albany. Orange, Delaware, Hilliard Bradley and Mount Vernon are 1-1. Franklin Heights and Watkins Memorial are 0-2.

New Albany has been winning with an efficient offense and stout defense. The Eagles have allowed just 46 points, an average of 9.2 per game. Watkins Memorial quarterback Devante Marable, who has rushed for more than 100 yards three times this season, was held to 40 yards in the Eagles' 35-8 win last Friday.

"All we do is fly to the football," said Hagan, who had 12 tackles last Friday. "Every time we make tackles we have a party at the football."