The players and coaching staffs for the Brookhaven and Marion-Franklin high school football teams know what to expect when they meet in a Division III, Region 9 semifinal Friday, Nov. 15, at DeSales.
The teams met Sept. 6, with the Red Devils winning 27-2, and have faced each other seven times over the last five seasons, with Marion-Franklin winning six. Both squads enter this matchup on an eight-game winning streak.
"Honestly, there's not going to be a lot of surprises," said Brookhaven coach Trevor White, whose team lost to the Red Devils 34-28 in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs in 2011 in its previous postseason appearance. "As far as our team is concerned, we've come a long way. (Marion-Franklin) is throwing the ball a lot better and (Brookhaven quarterback) Macyah (Fleming) has come a long way from the time we started until now.
"Marion-Franklin's a great team that is huge, fast, deep and experienced. Looking back at the first game, we made too many turnovers. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot and we've finally got to be able to match their physicality up front."
Seeded second in the region, Marion-Franklin, which is 10-1 and in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season, opened the postseason with a 34-14 win over seventh-seeded Dover on Nov. 8 at home.
Quarterback Justin Tyler completed 12 of 17 passes for 212 yards, including an 83-yard touchdown to wide receiver Shannon Royster, and rushed for touchdowns of 4, 10 and 51 yards.
Tyler has thrown for about 1,000 yards and has 13 touchdowns passes.
Wide receivers Landon Yeartie and Omar Alfred and running back Jhulyis Monroe have been other key contributors to an offense that features one of the state's top junior recruits on its line in 6-foot-5, 299-pound Martesse Patterson.
Third-seeded Brookhaven escaped with a 29-27 win over sixth-seeded Chillicothe in its playoff opener Nov. 8 and is 9-2.
The Bearcats' defense, which is led by linemen Ne'Tronne Backus and Stefen Banks, has allowed an average of 12.4 points over the last eight games.
"It's a playoff game, so everything is different," Marion-Franklin coach Brian Haffele said. "There will be different emotions. I know they've made some personnel changes like we have."
Fleming has become the leader of the Bearcats' offense since taking over at quarterback in late-September and has completed 41 of 87 passes for 913 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also has rushed for 328 yards and five scores.
Running back David Peoples is Brookhaven's leading rusher with 926 yards and nine touchdowns.
Marion-Franklin's defense includes Alfred, Monroe and Royster in the secondary, Thomas James and David Welborn at linebacker and Devante Collins, Ricky Jackson and Shemar Moss on the line.
The winner between Brook-haven and Marion-Franklin will face top-seeded Athens or fourth-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in a regional final Nov. 22 at a site to be determined.
Vikings' season ends with loss to Eagles
The Northland football team's second appearance in the postseason again ended with a first-round loss, but the Vikings were much more competitive in their second playoff game than they were in their first.
Seeded eighth, Northland lost to top-seeded New Albany 35-21 in a Division II, Region 5 first-round game Nov. 8 to finish 7-3 overall. The Vikings lost 47-6 to Hilliard Davidson in a Division I, Region 3 first-round game in 2010.
Against New Albany, Northland fell behind 28-0 early in the second half but got a boost from a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by senior James Williams and scored 21 consecutive points in the third quarter to pull within seven points.
"Our kids have pride," coach Kevin Tooson said. "You can call it Viking pride or whatever you want, but we challenged them at halftime to come out and be the team they've been all year."
Northland went 5-2 in the City League-North Division to tie Beechcroft for second, behind Brookhaven (7-0). The Vikings lost their league opener to the Bearcats 29-28 in overtime Sept. 20 but won their next five before closing the regular season with a 17-14 loss to Beechcroft on Nov. 1.
Northland loses 12 seniors, including Corbin Bannister (WR/DB), Jhustus Cornley (RB/WR/DB), Mike Kambwanya (OL/DL), Malcolm Marshall (RB/DB) and Adrion Taylor (OL/LB).
Cornley rushed for 475 yards, had 13 catches for 269 yards and made first-team all-league. Kambwanya, Taylor and Bannister also were first-team all-league.
Junior quarterback Nick Fischer was 71-for-134 passing for 1,358 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Junior Nateshawn Hargrove (RB/LB), who finished with more than 700 yards rushing, and junior Michael Kyle (OL/DL) were first-team all-league and juniors Glenn Smith (WR/DB) and Abu Turay (WR/DB) both were second team.
Junior Sherman Watson (WR/DB) should be another key returnee.
Cougars look to build on strong finish
After back-to-back seasons in the playoffs, the Beechcroft football team finished 6-4 overall and 10th in Division III, Region 9 this fall, falling two places shy of a return to the postseason.
Sitting home during the playoffs is not something the Cougars plan on making into a habit.
"We're not happy with 6-4," coach Bruce Ward said. "The way we started and the way we finished we're happy about. We lose a lot, but we've got a good core coming back that we can build with."
The Cougars opened with a 14-0 win over Dayton Dunbar on Aug. 30 but followed with back-to-back losses to Dublin Jerome (26-14 on Sept. 6) and Walnut Ridge (24-0 on Sept. 13).
The biggest hit to Beech-croft's playoff hopes came Oct. 3 when it lost 21-20 at Mifflin, which finished 5-5.
The Cougars closed the season by beating Centennial 36-7 on Oct. 25 and Northland 17-14 on Nov. 1 to tie the Vikings for second in the league after winning at least a share of the past three titles.
Beechcroft loses 15 seniors, including first-team all-league players in Adonis Davis (RB/LB), Khalor Franklin (RB/LB) and L.J. Cox (WR/DB). Davis rushed for a team-best 503 yards with six touchdowns, Franklin rushed for 415 yards and four touchdowns and Cox had 412 yards rushing and four scores.
Senior wide receiver Darius Ford had a team-high 19 receptions for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, Franklin had a team-high 77 tackles, Cox had 68 tackles and Davis had five tackles for loss.
Sophomore Mike Powers took over at quarterback at midseason and completed 17 of 39 passes for 312 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
Other key players expected back include juniors Tyree Dukes (OL/DL), Chaquez Fair (OL/DL), Rayshawn Norah (WR/DB), Christian Scase (OL/DL), Scott Scase (QB/LB/DB) and Zack Stewart (OL/DL).
Fair was first-team all-league.