As of late Oct. 4, the elephant in the room vanished for both the New Albany and Olentangy high school football teams.
The Eagles and Braves finally were free to look forward to their Friday, Oct. 11, meeting that will hand one team its first loss and, at least for now, have some say in determining both teams' chances at an OCC-Capital Division championship and their standing in Division II, Region 5. Both teams are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the league.
"One of our coaches brought up the other day that we're 28-2 in our last 30 league games, and that was something we hadn't really thought about," New Albany coach Pat Samanich said. "We truly do take a one-game-at-a-time approach around here. We have a bit of a bull's-eye on our back now, and that's a credit to the hard work our coaching staff and kids put in."
Seniors Wyatt Johnston and Trey Quillin continued to pace the Eagles' ground game in a 31-9 win over Delaware on Oct. 4. Quillin rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries, and Johnston added 126 yards and a score on 12 carries.
Quillin has rushed for 493 yards and 11 touchdowns on 63 carries. Johnston has 335 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries.
Senior Joe Siegenthaler (20 catches, 409 yards, 4 touchdowns) is the top target for New Albany senior quarterback Tanner Cline, who is 38-for-72 passing for 632 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
Olentangy remained unbeaten by routing Franklin Heights 49-7 on Oct. 4. Sophomore quarterback Deeb Haber was 10-for-15 passing for 135 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a 7-yard score. Senior linebacker Tim Feasel and senior defensive back Jarren Williams also recovered fumbles in the end zone for touchdowns.
Haber, who replaced injured senior Noah Durst in mid-September, is 39-for-49 passing for 541 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Senior J.T. Grega (24 catches, 315 yards, 5 touchdowns) has emerged as his top receiver with seniors Anthony Allocco and Victor Elmurr.
"He has tremendous poise in the pocket," Braves coach Mark Solis said of Haber. "He has some good poise with some wide bodies around him. He's a good athlete. He can beat you with his feet. He's smart and he makes good decisions. He has to continue to get better, and he will."
Senior Hayden Hunter (60 carries, 399 yards, 4 touchdowns) paces Olentangy's ground game.
New Albany, which was ranked second in last week's state poll, is seeking its fifth consecutive OCC-Capital championship. Olentangy never has a won a league title.
As for Region 5, the Eagles were first and Braves seventh last week. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
"We definitely know all the implications," Olentangy senior linebacker Kevin Sherry said. "Being undefeated now, they're our biggest competition. They're one of the top-ranked teams in the state and everybody knows who New Albany is. I'm not sure people know much about Olentangy, but we want to change that."