Two tough challenges stand between the Dublin Coffman High School football team and its goal of a fifth consecutive postseason appearance, and seventh in eight seasons.
The Shamrocks are 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Central Division entering a home game Friday, Oct. 25, against Olentangy Liberty, which is 4-4 and 3-2.
Coffman has won four games in a row.
"We're getting a little healthier and I think our kids are starting to grasp the schemes that we are trying to implement," said coach Mark Crabtree, whose team finishes the regular season Nov. 1 at Upper Arlington, which is 4-4 and 3-2. "I think we can improve from each game out, which is what you want to do anyway."
Coffman was projected to be 16th in Division I, Region 2 in this week's computer ratings. The top 16 teams qualify for the playoffs.
The Patriots, who have not made the playoffs the past three seasons, lost 28-7 on Oct. 18 to unbeaten Hilliard Davidson, which leads the OCC-Central at 5-0 and is ranked sixth in the Division I state poll.
"Hopefully we learned about how to play at a high level for four quarters from the Davidson game," Liberty coach Steve Hale said.
Senior running back Daryian Davies rushed for 112 yards and one touchdown. Senior quarterback Matt Kessler was 15 of 28 passing for 192 yards and senior wide receiver Dan Rhinehart had five receptions for 98 yards.
"(The Patriots) run their scheme pretty efficiently," Crabtree said. "Their scheme is simple as far as what they are doing and the volume of plays, but they are tough to defend because of their high level of execution.
"They also run a 3-5-3 defense with some big guys up front and some really good athletes in the secondary. They have a good, solid team."
The Shamrocks are coming off a 52-0 rout of Westland on Oct. 18, as senior running back Aaron Pape rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and junior running back Dre Kendrick had 90 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Junior quarterback Ben Beckett was 6-for-8 passing for 88 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver C.J. Saunders. Sophomore quarterback Gunnar Hoak was 7-for-9 for 116 yards with a 28-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Chase Granlund.
Junior wide receiver Kyle Marcinick had three catches for 72 yards and sophomore running back Stephen Headings ran for 61 yards on five carries, including a 56-yard touchdown.
"Coffman is a very good team and ... solid in the running and passing games," Hale said. "Kendrick is very good at running back and we'll need to keep him under control."
Pioneers getting set for Big Walnut
After picking up its first win, Orange will go up against a winless rival Friday, Oct. 25, at home.
The Pioneers improved to 1-7 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Capital by defeating Franklin Heights 33-10 on Oct. 18. Now they turn their focus to Big Walnut, which fell to 0-8 overall and 0-5 in league play after taking unbeaten New Albany to the limit in a 13-10 loss Oct. 18.
"It feels great to finally come out with a win," said junior quarterback C.J. Stablein, who rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. "All of the hard work that we have been putting in has finally paid off."
Stablein also was 10-for-16 passing for 137 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His touchdown was a 35-yard "Hail Mary" to sophomore wide receiver Matthew Collins, who pulled down the ball between two defenders as time expired in the first half.
"It really boosts our morale," said Collins, who caught two passes for 47 yards. "We have been working our butts off, so it's great to get that first win."
Senior running back Jake Bobrowski had 113 yards rushing on 10 carries and sophomore running back Tyler Lichter had 18 yards rushing and two touchdowns on eight carries.
Senior linebacker Jake Lewis had 7.5 tackles and a fumble recovery. Sophomore defensive back Connor Ryan had five tackles and senior linebacker Justin Gels had four.
"We battled for four quarters, but we still made a lot of mistakes," coach Brian Cross said. "We won, but we still have a lot of work to do. It's good for the kids to get this win."
Against New Albany, Big Walnut junior running back Blake Marioth rushed for 57 yards on 14 carries and senior running back Alec Eisnnicher added 38 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries.
Last year, Orange beat Big Walnut 10-0 for its first win in the series after four losses from 2008-11.
Olentangy trying to snap losing streak
Instead of fighting for the OCC-Capital title with two weeks to go in the regular season, Olentangy and Mount Vernon will meet Friday, Oct. 25, trying to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Olentangy enters at 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the league, with a 33-0 loss at Worthington Kilbourne on Oct. 18 being the Braves' second consecutive setback after a 6-0 start. Mount Vernon also is 6-2 overall but 4-1 in the OCC-Capital, with its only league loss coming to Kilbourne, 41-14 on Sept. 27.
Kilbourne and New Albany, both of which are 5-0 in the OCC-Capital, face off Friday, Oct. 25, at New Albany.
Mount Vernon and Olentangy both need help to make the playoffs in Division II, Region 5. Mount Vernon was projected to be 11th and Olentangy 15th in this week's computer ratings. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
The Braves' offense is run by sophomore quarterback Deeb Haber, who has thrown four interceptions the past two weeks and is 82-for-130 passing for 895 yards with seven touchdowns overall. His deep corps of receivers includes seniors Anthony Allocco, Victor Elmurr, J.T. Grega and Hayden Hunter, who is primarily a running back.
Mount Vernon clinched its first winning season since 2010 and its second since 2003 with a 42-28 win over Delaware on Oct. 18. Junior running back J.D. Orr rushed for 214 yards on 33 carries, with 173 of those yards coming in a 28-point fourth quarter in which he had touchdowns of 50 and 1 yard. The shorter scoring run iced the win with 1 minute, 29 seconds to play. Orr earlier had scored from 17 yards.
An experienced offensive line led by juniors Jeep Cochran, Alec Curts and Kyle Stump has paved the way for the Yellow Jackets to average 35.9 points. The quarterback is junior Ryan Fitzgerald, who previously played at Newark Catholic but transferred to his hometown school before this season.
Dave Purpura also contributed to this story.