Since watching a high-school football game in Crew Stadium a few years ago, Corey Joe has imagined what it would be like to play on that field.

Since watching a high-school football game in Crew Stadium a few years ago, Corey Joe has imagined what it would be like to play on that field.

The quarterback for the Olentangy Orange High School football team will find out at 6 p.m. Friday when he and his teammates play New Albany there in an OCC-Capital Division game.

"It's probably one of the best experiences of our lives, at least in our high-school football careers," Joe said.

For many, if not most, of the New Albany players, playing in Crew Stadium will not be a new experience. The Eagles have played a game there each of the last three seasons, including a 16-10 win over Westerville North last year.

"It's a nice facility," Eagles coach Mark Mueller said. "It's a great venue to play a football game."

It looked as though Joe may have to miss his opportunity to play in Crew Stadium after injuring his right knee in the fourth quarter of a 28-7 loss to Big Walnut last Friday. He spent the remainder of the game on the sideline, but expects to play against the Eagles.

"All the muscles in my knee tightened up," Joe said.

"It scared me. I thought I tore something because I felt a sharp pain, but I just pulled muscles in my knee."

The loss to Big Walnut was Orange's third in a row and dropped the Pioneers to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Capital. New Albany has won two in a row, including a 20-6 decision over Watkins Memorial last Friday, and is 3-2 and 1-0.

"I think we're getting better each week even though it doesn't show up on the scoreboard," Joe said. "The things that are costing us are mental mistakes -- missed assignments or not making the right read, stuff like that."

Mueller said the Pioneers' improvement is evident on videotape.

"In the game tapes we've seen, they're getting better each week," he said. "They will be a strong test on Friday."

The player who stood out to Mueller the most was Joe, who can hurt a defense with his legs as much as his arm. Against Big Walnut, he completed three of 10 passes for 56 yards and rushed for 61 yards on 19 carries.

The Eagles' defense, which includes linemen Nathan Howard and Andy Schubert, linebackers John Korth and Weston McKeever and backs Ryan Priddy and Jacob Sullivan, has allowed just 19 points over the last two games.

"Our defense is playing a lot better," Mueller said. "We're getting after the ball and we're tackling a lot better, which is key."

The game against Big Walnut marked the first in which Orange has fully utilized the spread offense.

"We had been tinkering with it all season," Pioneers coach Brian Cross said. "We felt we weren't moving the ball well enough or putting enough points on the board running out of the I formation, so we decided to implement it full-time.

"We'll still run the I formation in power situations."

Cross, who typically has employed the wing-T offense, said his team still is learning the spread offense.

"As a coaching staff, we've got to learn more about it, and we will," he said. "But we did some good things with it (against Big Walnut). We missed some wide-open receivers and we didn't read some blitzes, but we'll work on those things.

"It's a work in progress. It's going to take some time, but I think that we're definitely headed in the right direction. I've seen a tremendous amount of improvement from the very beginning until right now."

The Pioneers' defense, which includes linemen Tyler Hughes and Chaz Weisenstein, linebackers Alex Chekanoff and Jacob Harris and backs Jalen Davis and Ross Smith, surely will be tested by the Eagles' wing-T offense.

Eagles running back David Sharpe rushed for 148 yards on 13 carries in a 35-13 win over Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin on Sept. 13 and for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries against Watkins Memorial.

"We've got a lot of seniors with not much experience," Mueller said. "They're finally getting more experience.

"We have a lot of first-year starters on our offensive line and our quarterback (Joe Morlan) is still learning some things, but we're slowly coming together."

Orange lineman Alec Bartz sat out the last two games with a sore knee but may play Friday, Cross said. However, Pioneers tight end Andy Ebersbach, who has two touchdown receptions, likely will miss his second consecutive game, though Cross did not want to disclose the nature or extent of the injury.

Next game

ORANGE vs. NEW ALBANY

•When: 6 p.m. Friday

•Where: Crew Stadium

•New Albany (3-2 overall, 1-0 OCC-Capital) to date: Lost to Westerville North 34-17; defeated Westerville Central 21-0; lost to DeSales 28-7; def. Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin 35-13; def. Watkins Memorial 20-6

•Top Eagles: Nathan Howard, John Korth, Weston McKeever, Ryan Priddy, Andy Schubert, David Sharpe and Jacob Sullivan

Last game

BIG WALNUT 28, ORANGE 7

•Star: Big Walnut's Cody Leitner, who ran for 120 yards and three touchdowns

•Key play: On the first play of the fourth quarter, Blake Joe fumbled a lateral and Jacob Deltesdesco recovered at the Big Walnut 31. The Golden Eagles scored on the ensuing possession to take a 28-7 lead.

•Key stat: The Pioneers had three turnovers.