Worthington Kilbourne High School football coach Vince Trombetti barely had begun his postgame speech after a 33-0 win over visiting Olentangy on Oct. 18 when he turned to what already was on his players' minds.
"You sent the message loud and clear that we are ready to play for a league championship," Trombetti said. "This is the next step up the mountain."
"This" is a showdown Friday, Oct. 25, between Kilbourne, which has won seven consecutive games after a season-opening 22-21 loss to Dublin Scioto, and undefeated and host New Albany. The winner will have sole possession of first place in the OCC-Capital Division with one game remaining, and the game also will factor into playoff positioning in Division II, Region 5.
Both teams are 5-0 in the OCC-Capital. New Albany, the four-time defending league champion, is 8-0 overall.
"We knew we had a special group of seniors this year and I kind of figured in the back of my mind that if things went the way I thought they could go, we would have a shot at getting in the playoffs and a shot at a league championship," Trombetti said. "New Albany is very good. They're doing their thing and running that wing-T with a lot of success. From what I've seen, they're very impressive."
New Albany, which was No. 1 in last week's Division II state poll but needed a late touchdown to edge winless Big Walnut 13-10 on Oct. 18, was projected to be third in Region 5 this week, one spot ahead of Kilbourne. The top eight teams make the playoffs and the top four play host to first-round games.
Kilbourne is seeking its first postseason berth since 2008 and eighth in the program's 23-season history.
Hampered by three lost fumbles against Big Walnut, New Albany scored fewer than 31 points for only the second time this season. Senior receiver/defensive back Joe Siegenthaler had a 90-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but the Eagles trailed for much of the second half before senior running back Leslie Anokye scored the winning touchdown on a 17-yard run with 3 minutes, 28 seconds to play.
"We had plans to control the clock and slow the game down, but you can't turn the ball over three times," New Albany coach Pat Samanich said. "To win with that kind of performance is very rare. We're going to make sure this week that we learned our lesson."
Anokye has played sparingly because of a nagging ankle injury, paving the way for an array of running backs to amass 2,463 yards on the ground. The Eagles are averaging 35.6 points and allowing 17.
Led by junior quarterback Griffin Dahn and senior running backs Seth Hill and Justin Stoner, Kilbourne is scoring 36.1 points on average from its triple-option offense and giving up just 11.1.
Senior running back/defensive back Chandler Bridges caught a touchdown pass and returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown to spark the Wolves against Olentangy.
"Dahn's a big, 6-(foot-) 4 kid who throws a nice ball," Samanich said. "We're going to have to know our assignments and not let the big play happen."