Separated by less than six miles and in the same division of the OCC for the last eight seasons, the annual matchup between Dublin Coffman and Hilliard Davidson has turned into one of the must-see events of the high school football season.

Separated by less than six miles and in the same division of the OCC for the last eight seasons, the annual matchup between Dublin Coffman and Hilliard Davidson has turned into one of the must-see events of the high school football season.

Those associated with both programs know that regarding this year's game Friday, Oct. 14, at Davidson, focus during practice will be better, hits will be harder and the atmosphere will be hotter than at any other point during their respective schedules.

It hasn't always been that way.

A recent history of success by both teams, combined with socioeconomic changes throughout their suburbs and a series of close games between the programs over a short period of time has birthed one of central Ohio's greatest rivalries.

"Dublin started playing football in (the late 1940s) and the two communities are side by side, so you'd have thought that it's a rivalry that would have been played every single year," Coffman coach Mark Crabtree said. "Dublin was more of a farming community for a long time, and when Dublin exploded in population and then when Muirfield hit, Hilliard became the natural rivalry. Then when you add in the modern era and the playoff system, it's amped it up even more."

Some of central Ohio's biggest rivalry games still are to be held over the coming weeks.

In addition to Davidson-Coffman, the annual battle for the CCL-Silver Division championship pits Watterson at DeSales on Friday, Oct. 14.

Also on the same night, another of central Ohio's longest-running rivalries will be held when Westerville North travels to Westerville South.

Perhaps the biggest rivalry game in the City League will take place Oct. 21 when Brookhaven plays at Beechcroft.

The two teams in the CCL-Gold Division meet during the final week of the regular season Oct. 28 when Ready plays host to Hartley at Dublin Scioto.

Each of those matchups has what could be the biggest factors that can feed a rivalry: Proximity in terms of location, history between the programs and a track record of wins on the field.

Although the open enrollment policy instituted throughout Columbus City Schools has hurt some of its neighborhood rivalries, most of the ingredients have remained in place for Brookhaven and Beechcroft to continue one of central Ohio's most hotly contested annual matchups.

Their game usually has implications for both teams in terms of competing for a league title and advancing to the playoffs, and their 3.5 mile distance also helps fuel what annually is a late-season meeting. Brookhaven leads the series 16-13.

"Usually whoever wins that game either wins or shares the City, and they're usually in the playoffs," Cougars coach Bruce Ward said. "That's the game you circle."

UNIQUE TRADITION

There isn't a more revered rivalry game in central Ohio than the annual matchup between Watterson and DeSales.

Since 1997, the Stallions have celebrated their regular-season wins over the Eagles as one might expect - with a flow of purple in commemoration of their school colors.

Because DeSales defeated St. Charles 27-10 on Sept. 30 for its 35th consecutive win in that series, a victory over the Eagles would give the Stallions the title in the three-team CCL-Silver Division.

If it wins the league title, DeSales players and coaches will go to the school cafeteria and enjoy a purple-colored drink from its "Winner's Cup".

The Stallions' last regular-season victory over Watterson came in 2009 (17-10).

During the offseason, the "cup" portion, according to senior Jalen Noble remains in the coach's office while the bottom section of the trophy is passed to an expected returning player. Noble was entrusted with that part of the "Winner's Cup" by 2011 graduate Evan Kendrick.

The teams first began meeting in 1963, and the Eagles hold a 34-20-1 advantage in the series.

"They get grape pop and we go around and say our names and celebrate, and the whole crowd watches us," Noble said. "The last time we did that was my sophomore year. I think it was a couple months old, but the Fanta that we drank never tasted any better."

Although the Eagles try to prepare for their annual matchup with the Stallions with the same routine as with each of their other games, senior Jack Gammon has watched enough of the series to experience how special it is.

Gammon's father began taking him to Watterson games when he was pre-school aged and he estimates that he's been to about 170 consecutive Eagles games including numerous DeSales-Watterson matchups since the mid-1990s.

Among Gammon's closest friends is DeSales senior Alex Washington, whose brother, Al, is a 2002 Watterson graduate and former CFL player.

Because the schools are separated by less than three miles, it isn't uncommon for students to attend the same elementary but end up in opposite high schools.

"There are a lot of things that are special about it," Gammon said. "I've seen the highs and the lows of the Watterson-DeSales game. We won the state championship last year but we as seniors want to make our own mark."

"It's such a great high school rivalry," DeSales coach Ryan Wiggins said. "It's hard hitting and intense, but it's also clean. We all put a lot of time into high school football and when you can be involved in a game like that, it's something you remember forever."

Although Hartley and Ready aren't as close to each other in proximity, their annual regular-season finale meeting has provided its share of memories as well.

The Silver Knights earned one of their most lopsided wins in the series in 2008 with a 52-6 decision, but losses to Hartley in both 2004 and '06 kept them from making the playoffs.

Ready has moved up from Division V to Division IV this season and is in the same Region 14 as the defending state-champion Hawks.

"I've been at Ready for three years now and I noticed all of the tension between the schools right after I came here," said senior Trey Thatcher, who transferred to the school after attending Westland as a freshman. "There's a lot of emotion and everybody is just extra focused and comes out and wants it more than any other game."

COMMUNITY FLAVOR

When an OCC bylaw restricting sister schools from being placed in the same division was struck down for the 2008-09 season, the potential for a series of natural rivalries budded.

One of the matchups that is beginning to set itself apart is between Pickerington Central and Pickerington North, which met Sept. 23.

Although the Tigers have won all five meetings against their local foe, the 2009 season featured a 7-6 victory by Central during the regular season in Crew Stadium and a 14-12 win by the Tigers in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs on their home field. It represents North's only playoff appearance.

Central entered this year's matchup with just a 1-2 record but defeated North 24-21 on a last-minute touchdown pass to drop the Panthers' record to 4-1.

Tigers coach Jay Sharrett has been associated with Pickerington football since the early 1990s and still marvels at the growth that he's seen throughout the community since the district split into two schools for the 2003-04 season.

"I think it would be a scary thing if we were still one school," Sharrett said.

"It's always a big-hype game," Central quarterback Nick Jensen-Clagg said. "It's kind of a trash-talking game because we're big rivals."

The same year Central and North began to meet, Worthington Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington played for the first time in the Wo-Town Showdown. The Wolves hold a 3-0 lead in the series, but after winning the inaugural 2008 matchup 43-3, they have won by scores of 28-13 in 2009 and just 13-7 a year ago. The teams meet Oct. 28 at Kilbourne.

Another game of importance to the Wolves is their annual meeting with Dublin Scioto, a series the Wolves lead 10-6. The winner earns the Hard Road Trophy, and the Irish won this year's matchup 34-19 on Sept. 9.

Columbus Academy earned the Mayor-Headmaster Trophy when it beat Bexley 42-14 on Oct. 6. The trophy first was awarded to the winner in 1983.

After each won five times during the 1990s, the Vikings have won eight of the past 12 meetings.

"Everyone gets hyped up for the Bexley-Academy game," Vikings running back R.J. Watters said. "They had a chip on their shoulder and we had a chip on ours. I am so happy for our guys that we got it done."

FANNING THE FLAME

The weight room provides multiple sources of motivation for Coffman.

In addition to the workout facility that has helped the Shamrocks make eight playoff appearances since 2001, there are two countdown clocks.

One includes the days, hours and minutes until Coffman's next game. The other says "Beat Davidson" and lists the time until the Shamrocks' next meeting with the Wildcats.

Although the Davidson clock has been out of commission for a few weeks according to Crabtree, it provides a subtle reminder of the importance of their coming matchup.

The Wildcats lead the series 14-8, but the teams have split four playoff games since 2001.

The teams weren't in the same division of the OCC in 2002 and '03, but Coffman beat Davidson 40-21 in a Division I regional semifinal in 2003.

In 2009, the Shamrocks defeated Davidson 10-7 during the regular season but lost 22-7 in a Region 3 final for their only loss of a 12-1 season.

"It's always in the back of everyone's mind," Coffman offensive lineman Joe Hackett said.

"There seems to be so much more community support when you play rivalry games like this one," Davidson coach Brian White said. "Davidson and Coffman is that one game where the community gets on board. While we might not like each other, it's developed into a mutual respect."

According to White, Westland was among Davidson's biggest rivalry games before the growth of its matchup with Coffman.

Westland and Davidson are within 10 miles of one another, but the Cougars' struggles on the field combined with the Wildcats' development into a perennial power has taken much of the luster from the matchup.

Upper Arlington earned a 28-17 win Sept. 9 over Gahanna after not playing the Lions the last two seasons.

That the teams would take any hiatus from one another would have seemed unfathomable three decades ago.

According to former Gahanna coach Phil Koppel, the Lions and Bears met several times during the 1980s to create one of central Ohio's most heated rivalries.

"It seemed like every game was close," Koppel said. "In 1981 we were 9-1 and (Upper Arlington) was our only loss. In 1982 we were 9-1 and that was our only loss, but we came back and beat them 13-7 in the playoffs. In a great rivalry like that there's a mutual respect by a coach for each other that's passed on to the players. When both teams have a winning tradition, I think that helps."

Although the Gahanna-UA rivalry might not hold as much magnitude as it did during Koppel's time, one matchup that Bears coach Mike Golden hopes will endure at his school is against Thomas Worthington.

UA first played the school formerly known as Worthington in 1926, and the teams have met 57 times since then, with the Bears dominating the series 46-10-1.

The Cardinals, who haven't had a winning season since going 7-3 in 1999 and went 0-10 in 2003, beat UA 17-9 in 2009 for their first victory in the series since 1986.

While that lack of success by Thomas has hindered its rivalry with the Bears, Wiggins believes the matchup between DeSales and Watterson is one that will withstand the struggles of one or both teams involved in it.

Last season, DeSales finished with a 5-6 record that represented its first losing season since 1974. Two of those losses came to the eventual Division III state-champion Eagles, however, including a tight matchup in the playoffs.

In 2008, it was Watterson that lost to the Stallions twice on the way to a 5-6 finish.

Neither team will take a winning record into their matchup this season, meaning that the game could make or break both teams' playoff hopes as well as CCL-Silver title aspirations.

Both teams usually have something on the line when they meet, a factor that continues to heat central Ohio's premier rivalry.

"Last year is a good example because they were 9-1 and we were 5-5 when we played in the playoffs, and they only beat us 14-7," Wiggins said. "It's just a big game. Not that there hasn't been a few blowouts, but by and large it's a good football game. The records sort of get thrown out the window. We're both excited about playing each other."