A year ago, the first meeting between the Watterson and Hartley high school football teams since 1996 produced drama on and off the field.
On the same night a portion of the visiting bleachers at Hartley collapsed and a referee was taken away in an ambulance after collapsing on the field, the Hawks improved to 4-29 in the all-time series with a 28-14 win.
The game featured a clash of Hartley's speed and power running game against a physical defensive style by the Eagles, and the teams bring the same strengths into this year's matchup Friday, Oct. 4, at Watterson.
During a 2-3 start that included a 23-20 overtime win Sept. 27 over Cincinnati LaSalle, the Eagles averaged just 10.8 points. A defense featuring senior linemen Kyle Fada and John Bogue, senior linebackers Patrick Roark and Eli Kirk and senior backs Cody Calhoun and Ryan Urquhart has kept the Eagles in games.
Hartley beat Pittsburgh Perry 62-7 on Sept. 27 to improve to 4-1. Senior running back Sam Mackowiak has led the offense with 682 yards and six touchdowns rushing.
"I just think our team plays hard," junior Cavell Bennett said. "None of us are Ja'Wuan Woodley (a running back and linebacker who was the 2012 ThisWeek Super 25 captain), but we definitely do it as a team this year."
Bennett has become one of the team's top athletes on both sides of the ball.
He had three receptions for 70 yards through five games and had a fumble recovery and two tackles for loss during a 20-7 win over St. Charles on Sept. 20.
Senior quarterback Jared Brandewie has rushed for 281 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 647 yards and seven scores.
Bennett, senior defensive back Alonzo Saxton and junior linebackers Jack Zang and Patrick Heinmiller will be among those trying to limit a Watterson rushing attack that has struggled.
Eagles senior running back Walter Green has rushed for a team-best 143 yards, junior quarterback Sam Maglicic has rushed for 86 yards and senior running back Cody Calhoun has 95 yards rushing.
Against LaSalle, Green ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 5 minutes, 50 seconds remaining to make it 20-17 before the Lancers sent it to overtime with a 25-yard field goal by Nick Veite with 1:25 to go.
Watterson kicker Michael Harper made a 32-yard field goal for the winner in overtime.
"I guess we're not meshing right now (offensively), but as the season goes on we will get better," Green said. "It's going to look like a well-oiled machine."
Green believes a schedule that also included a 17-0 loss Sept. 20 to visiting Cincinnati Winton Woods should prepare his team for the first of three consecutive games against CCL teams.
Watterson is off during the second weekend of October before playing Oct. 18 at DeSales and Oct. 25 against visiting St. Charles.
"Me and a few of the guys have been saying that it's not that the schedule is going to get easier, but the teams we have played have studs at every position," Green said.